Monday, July 30, 2018

Only one way to handle disappointment

Parent help is one of the highlights of my week. I love going into my son’s class to assist his teacher and other school staff. I love working in another school environment as a chaplain. And I loved helping in my daughters’ classes when they were children too.
It strikes me, the more I’m involved in school environments, just how holistic education is. It’s not just about the academic work or the ‘formative’ years. There is very much a social dimension to education that carries through beyond school, even, hesitant as I say this, into life as a 50-year-old. We’re always learning.
I was reminded of this as I watched my child interact in a class session on the mat. He wasn’t chosen to do something, and I glimpsed something remarkably human in his disappointment. I saw myself in his disappointment. And, thank God, not one iota of me sought to defend him.
‘It is what it is, son.
Acknowledge it and move on.’
That’s what I felt I heard God say to my spirit. It was both a personal Word from my God to me, His child, in my disappointments, and from me to my son, as I agreed fully with the truth God showed me in his disappointment.
Life is littered with disappointment. It’s inescapable. And we always feel as if we’ve been hard-done-by. If we’re not careful disappointment grows legs and runs full tilt toward bitterness and headlong into the eventual ‘prize’ of resentment.
As a five-year-old the disappointment seems obvious on the face, a heart that is momentarily rejected, but they seem quickly to get over it. But on a fifty-year-old that disappointment is often concealed in an ‘Oh, I’ll be fine… it’s really okay…’ when at times my soul is actually saying, ‘Gee, that hurt!’ And, ‘If I’m honest, I’m stunned!’
The point is disappointment stings. We don’t expect to not get our way. And it reinforces feelings of injustice (‘it’s not fair!’) or residual feelings of inadequacy (‘these things always happen to me’, and ‘why am I always the target?’) or one of a range of other not-so-good feelings and attributions.
Two things we can do about disappointment: 1) acknowledge it happened; that we felt the sting of disappointment, and that that is okay, without judging it, and 2) move on. That’s right, we just move on. We don’t give the disappointment that emerges any more attention than it deserves.
I didn’t like it when it happened,
but I’m not going to let it define me.
Hard as it is,
when disappointment happens,
it’s best to acknowledge it hurts,
take courage to feel it,
learn what you can,
then let go and move on.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

In every grief there is a grace

On this day four years ago, my Facebook memories tell me, I added 17 new friends. That wouldn’t be anything to write home about apart from the fact that each of the 17 people have something rare in common. They each have a child with Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS).
Instantly we discovered that our Nathanael Marcus had this rare syndrome (around only 300 people in the world have it) I made a search of the Internet, and within a day had made online contact with not only a global group, but the local Foundation as well. We had actually met the President of the PKS Foundation of Australia and his family face-to-face within a week. So, within 10 days of having had our brutal diagnosis, we were in the lap of God’s support; the very people who would become a cherished community for us.
As we prepare to publish our memoir of Nathanael’s life, we are caused to reflect deeply. We still pinch ourselves as to how well we were carried by the prayers of the many in those times. That, and the faith we deployed accepting our lot, whatever was to come. Our prayers didn’t deliver our baby from his peril, and that is okay, because we prayed that God’s will would be done. Our hope is to see him soon, according to His will.
This is a hard thing for many to understand; our will did not initially line with what God had ultimately in mind, but we did pray ultimately, ‘Your will be done, Lord, and not our own.’ It is still a hard thing for many to understand. But we understand prayer, whilst it’s the most powerful thing we could ever do, to be God’s prerogative and not our shopping list.
Stepping through those days, one tumultuous day at a time, wasn’t that hard; faith really isn’t that hard. Because faith is trust, it’s pretty simple. As we walked, step-by-step each day, doing what we felt was God’s will for the moment, we tried not to overthink our situation, and just be a support to each other.
And yet as we stepped the days between July 18 and July 28 of 2014, God was adding a grace that somehow compensated for our grief. For what was being taken away from us, a baby we so desperately loved already, there were things being added, like fellowship with a group of very special people. Although Nathanael passed away nearly four years ago, we’re still embraced. The PKS Foundation of Australia even invited me to join them on the Board, and we’re personal friends with a few of them.
For many this would seem hardly a worthy comparison, but it isn’t about comparisons at all — it’s all about accepting the inexplicable and inscrutable will of the Father. Again, faith accepts. Were there tears? Many of them. But, even in that, brutal as it was, our minds were grounded in acceptance for whatever our reality had in store for us. Still, some moments floored us. And not always what we expected would upset us.
Grief, as it is, is hard enough, but if we will look back over the journey and notice the blessings that God was doing even at that time of our loss, gratitude fills our hearts with His Presence.
For everything life takes away there is something added. The heart that insists on believing this will find what it is that God has stowed already as the very means of hope to get through the grief of loss to the only prosperity that means anything.
True prosperity is the comprehensive spiritual blessing that says we overcome through suffering.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Becoming and Being Spirit Sensitive


Recently the Lord has reminded me of the wisdom in being and remaining Spirit sensitive; to not just assume I know what God is saying, but to deliberately wait on Him in the mood of the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
If we are God-pleasing disciples, if we have agreed with ourselves that we’re on the Lord’s side, and if discerning correctly is of primary importance to us, then we’ll exercise great care to continually check in with God, to be continually submitted to His Spirit — even if and when He causes us to reverse our direction for discerning wrongly.
From time to time, we will discern wrongly.
We’ll take responsibility for our discernment, accepting divergence from the ancient path as inevitable, but repenting of it as soon as God makes us aware. God often speaks through our relationships to this extent.
If we have agreed that we are on the Lord’s side, we are against ourselves to the point that we believe we can easily be and often are deceived. We don’t trust in our own contemptible resources. We must always bear in mind, when we’re on the Lord’s side, that the Spirit desires to crucify our flesh; it feels like our whole world is caving in when this happens, if we are being honest. But we realise in trust that we surrender before the Spirit for our own good.
The confirmation of our surrender to the Spirit
is our humility in our relationships.
The nature of discernment is tried and tested in the realm of relationships; rarely, if ever, can we discern properly in isolation.
A common trick of pride is a person believes they’re so in touch with the Holy Spirit they don’t need others. Do you worry about it, I’ve been there! That place of spiritual superiority, having such a ‘close’ relationship with God that ‘He told me’ things that were contrary to His will.
Of course, it is a self-protecting delusion to imagine up a relationship with God that spurns our godly human relationships. It is a key deception. And for anyone reading these words, and feeling angry about them, what do you now say that the Spirit is saying to you? Is it not the height of spiritual arrogance to self-defend in the name of indignation?
No, discernment is often tried and tested in the realm of relationships; in a somewhat common agreement, with trusted wise advisors, that confirms the Spirit’s way. In sum, discernment relies so heavily on humility that, in our discerning, we’re fools without it.
Becoming and being Spirit sensitive are both profoundly dependent on openness of heart and the true inscrutable knowledge of God, demanding humility, and becoming and being Spirit sensitive are one and the same thing.
By becoming Spirit sensitive we are being Spirit sensitive.
By being Spirit sensitive we are becoming Spirit sensitive.
What I’m saying is that nothing of being Spirit sensitive is mastery, for mastery is pride, and the Spirit won’t have anything to do with or have any part in that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

From the helm to the engine room

Photo by Colin Avery on Unsplash

Busy are we in our faith, so busy that we do not realise where we are. When was it that we ended up at the helm of the ship that only Christ is qualified to steer?
From such a realisation — any moment or any day, really — we make haste then for the engine room, to supply for the ship the steam it needs to break through the coming waves. In the engine room we’re handy. If we don’t mind getting our hands dirty and perspiring a little. It’s in the engine room, away from the glitz and glamour of the bridge, that we’re fashioned in the likeness of the only One worth being fashioned on. It’s there in the noise and the fume and the heat that we gather the fortitude to stay in situations through the steadiness of trust when everything screams from within us, ‘Run!’ when we know running denies us the strength of life.
From the helm to the engine room. It’s the heart’s journey from pride down to humility. It’s when we hand back control to our Lord, admitting our wrong, repenting again of our wicked way. Maybe it’s the hurt within a conflict that has gotten the better of us. Or maybe we are coveting something that isn’t ours. The journey from the helm to the engine room involves us owning our wrong and not focusing in on theirs. As we run down the grating, ready to do the maintenance required, we issue forth an apology. Whereas at the helm we assumed control and felt we were right, in the engine room we can see all the faults, so now we accept it’s our job to tend to them.
There is no functionality of relationship,
and no viable hope, without humility.
From the helm to the engine room. It’s from fear and insecurity to the depths of trust in faith. At the helm we face the fury of the waves, but we can refuse to acknowledge the power they have, because we refuse to acknowledge our fear and insecurity. As we make our way back down to the engine room we also acknowledge the only way to meet those waves is by the awesome mechanical power that propels our ship. By going to the engine room, and leaving the steering to Jesus, we agree that He meets the wind and the waves best, the wind and waves that know His name.
In doing what we alone can do,
we trust Him to do the rest.
From the helm to the engine room. It’s from the despair that readily clings to an ill-fated vision to the resoluteness of hope that casts doubt to the raging sea. Standing aloft on the bridge can leave us feeling useless to enact the changes required when all in the engine room is idle. But hope forces us down those steps, level by level we gain an ascendancy, and as we arrive on the engine room floor we see what must be done.
Hope sees what it can do, and it does that thing.
Hope takes control of what it can control,
leaving the rest to God.
***
While we feel comfortable at the helm,
God needs us in the engine room,
as we let Him steer our ship.
It’s comforting to attempt control,
but wresting control offers up
uncomfortable consequences.
God needs the horsepower of our obedience,
as His faithfulness steers us as we trust.
***

Engine room obedience trusts God’s faithfulness to steer the ship.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

In loss, nothing can separate you from God’s love

Having had an interest in grief for nearly the past 15 years, I have begun to appreciate both the enormity and the simplicity of the role of loss in our lives. I can only go on, and write on, my own experience.
Not unlike other conflicts in our lives, the relational kind I mean, or crises we have in relating with God, loss itself brings a crisis of enormous tensions, and grief is a conflict like no other.
Just like conflict in our relationships is an opportunity, the conflict in grief brings us to a precipice, and it is verily the means for coming into a conscious contact with God. If we can endure the search.
Believing that a conscious contact
with the living God is possible,
we endure in faith.
So many people believe in God for years and decades, serving diligently, and in walking the walk of faith, they have a kind of private crisis going on — in the privacy of their own heart they know they don’t know God. (Most honest Christians will resonate with this feeling. It is not an ungodly thing to need to know God more. Yet, many harbour fears privately that they do not know God.)
This is where grief comes into its own. In the opportunity of loss, which takes us in our experience fathoms down further toward an ocean floor of suffering than we never knew existed, the true knowledge of God is found. God is a Presence. He is to be related with through conscious contact. And every suffering moment is pregnant with the possibility of experiencing our Lord with us, even as we are swept over the precipice into the abyss of darkest pain.
What I talk about here is possibility,
not probability.
If we seek God,
if we knock,
if we call out in desperation,
He will answer us.
And faith it is that continues to call,
even when we do not hear an answer.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love, especially in loss, especially in grief, and in the pain of confused and overwhelming season. The confused and overwhelming season, replete with days of shattering hardship, is actually how God births true faith in us through the experience of His Presence.
To know this in our minds
is to invite this reality into our hearts
by experience, in God’s time.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love when we truly appreciate how much God loves us. And to imagine this, even in this pain that causes us to question why God would even allow it, fortifies our faith to the extent, that in humility, we rest in the acceptance that suffering in this life is a mystery.
Somehow by His Presence, as we hold on in faith, holding onto our hope each day the best we can, God does purify us for a time when our suffering will mean a world of meaning to us.
Yes, strange and ironic as that sounds,
pray for a day when what you suffer now
you can be thankful for then.
Nothing can separate us from this aspect of God’s love that holds us through cataclysmic turmoil. Yes, even in this mode of life that seems so foreign to life, God is making good of what should not be possible. Even out of these ashes rises a new hope born of compassion and kindness and gentleness of Jesus.
Somehow by His Presence,
through the gasping mouth of terror,
as we hold fast to trust,
day by day He gets through.
Even in loss, most especially in loss, we can come to know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. And perhaps you, like me, make come to find that it is loss that proves to be the way that God shows us just how much He loves us.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Responsibility and Control in Relationships

Photo by Francisco T Santos on Unsplash


Responsibility and Control in Relationship
There is one key determinant in gauging mental, emotional, and spiritual health:
To what extent does a person
have the capability
to take their responsibility
versus
their propensity to control others.
Those who receive counsel well take their responsibility. 
Those who receive counsel poorly are those who tend to blame-shift and try to control others.
Couples who take their personal responsibility individually enjoy progress.
Couples where even one individual who insists upon staying in conflict mode do not progress.
But this article extends well beyond couples.
It extends to the farthest reaches of all our relationships, with others, with God, even with ourselves. 
If people experience us as controlling we’re not only untrustworthy, we’re also unsafe, and not a pleasure to be around.
Let’s remember God made us for relationship, which has its aim in being a pleasure to be around (not that we’re ever expected to achieve that all the time). If people experience us as taking our responsibility, they’re free to enjoy relating with us as a person who is a pleasure to know, because we’re safe to be around. To be a blessing is always our aim.
Two pivotal questions remain:
1.      How can I be less controlling?
Needing to have control indicates we’re controlled by fear, which is driven by insecurity.
Because we all have the proclivity to be insecure, we do need to take responsibility for the possibility we can be controlling. The sheer awareness of being insecure helps us regulate the need to control situations and others. This is done simply in owning responsibility for such awareness. We see our controlling things as wrong and we repent of such attitudes and behaviours. This is actually one very effective way of taking responsibility.
2.     How can I take more of my own responsibility? 
For many who honestly struggle with needing to have control, this is a hard question. But wherever there is the endeavour to live a more God-pleasing life there is the capacity to achieve the goal. Living responsibly is the way to live a God-pleasing life, because it’s the life of faith — of trusting God to the extent of loving others.
Whenever we live responsibly we’re less of a burden and more of a blessing to others. It would misrepresent the truth to say this trend is absolute, but it’s a reliable guide. 
We take more responsibility when we hold ourselves to short account, particularly when we use the prayer from Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” What this prayer is truly beseeching God about is clear. God already knows our heart; He knows our thoughts. The prayer is asking God to make it clear to us what He already knows. It could be as follows:
Lord, You know my heart, please show me.
I submit to Your testing of my attitude;
show me the truth of my thoughts.
Reveal any sign of wickedness
(about this situation or other)
And continue to lead me, please. AMEN
Those who take responsibility,
seek God’s awareness of truth,
which requires intimacy
to walk humbly with God.
3.     Some traits of the responsible:
They attend to what they can control, and they accept what they cannot control.
They’re honest before God to the extent of hearing another person out who has a complaint against them.
They’re quick to own their contribution of fault, but they don’t enable others’ irresponsibility.
They own their current relationships and are happy to cut unsafe people out of their lives and don’t feel guilty about it.
They’re for the most part logical, reasonable, reliable, rational.

They take seriously the hurts of others, living at peace with everyone as far as it depends on them, especially regarding behaviours for which they, themselves, are responsible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What burnout did to me, what it’s like now

Photo by J Scott Rakozy on Unsplash

One of the unfortunate though necessary events in life is burnout for the person who continues to refuse to own their limits.
This happened to me in 2005.
Working and ministering at much more than full-time load, with a full-time study load, with three children, and in a season of life where I was saying yes to everything, something drastic happened to bring an abrupt halt to my preferred mode of operating.
I feel I only approached burnout and didn’t enter the entirety of what would have been a cataclysmic personal event. But the burnout I experienced caused my brain and my body to be semi-permanently affected.
Some of these effects were deficits I’ve had to adapt to, and some of these effects have had a positive impact as far as my body’s protective mechanisms that were initiated and remain in place today.
The way my brain worked shifted suddenly.
Immediately the symptoms of burnout began, I knew instantly what was causing it, and though there were no warning signs, I did know what God was saying. For the previous 18-months I have been working in kind of Superman mode. Freshly baptised in the Holy Spirit, I felt I could do anything. I really had no idea that I was limited, and wouldn’t have accepted it had I known.
God was using His grace to remind me
that while He was Sovereign, I wasn’t.
It was a hard lesson to learn. It was a scary change that had occurred to me. Without notice. Perhaps akin to what trauma does to us. In some ways burnout is trauma. Burnout symptoms made me feel like I was out of control.
With burnout, there isn’t any choice in matters.
Suddenly I was rendered incapable of cognitive processing when I suffered stress on the fateful day the first event occurred. Suddenly my mind just froze in a way it never had before. Later in the season of recovery the cognitive freeze would manifest itself behaviourally as well, affecting my vocal expression, in that when I was maximally stressed I was incapable of speaking any sense for up to a few hours. I felt incredibly vulnerable when this would take place in my workplace. More than once my wife had to pick me up and discreetly whisk me away to refuge.
My only hope on these occasions was to get complete rest, to escape the stressful situation, and to then gradually re-emerge hours later, needing to express what had led me to the emotional meltdown that had stopped my brain from working.
With time came recovery, but it took a few years of these episodes before they relented.
Now I still have the cognitive incapacity when I’m overwhelmed. My mind literally seizes up. But I’ve learned to accept it and live with it. My mind works better in one direction at a time now. The less I try to control it, the easier it frees itself up.
Burnout is much better prevented than cured.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

How much control do you need?

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

I wonder with some ideas I write on why I hadn’t already written something. This one is one of those. Such an obvious thing to be aware of and especially to be wary of.
But how many of us
are aware of this issue
and wary of it?
The fact is we are in bondage to anything we need to control, whether it is people, the possessions we have, the circumstances of our lives, and especially how events we are involved in play out.
Whatever we need to control controls us,
and we’re tempted to use what controls us,
to control others.
And if we need to control anything, especially where people are concerned, that control not only controls us, it tends to have a controlling influence over others as well. And that’s a problem that bleeds into abuse.
For instance, this article was prompted by my awareness of a simple action I made on social media where I knew that an action I took — a responsible and free action, nothing to be ashamed of — might be tracked by a particular person. Sounds like stalking doesn’t it? It is a form of stalking, but in this situation, it is part of an ongoing conversation. But it is controlling. And I feel controlled, even if I’m comfortable knowing there is control, that someone is watching, and that that someone may very well be reading these words. And I hope they are. (It’s unfortunate that it is possible on social media to track a person’s activity. Because it makes stalking behaviour not only possible, it allows and even encourages such behaviour.)
What we all need to come to terms with is the influence we each have over other people, or better put, the influence we attempt to have over others. Attempting control over another person is, of course, an abuse of the relationship.
For what are the ways that we try and control things in our life:
·        We try to control people outright. Anyone who denies this is denying an important reality. We all try to manipulate people. The only way we stop this is by becoming aware of what we’re doing. If we refuse to stop controlling people, frankly we’re unsafe for relationship.
·        We try to control the possessions we have, and more so in the accumulation of more. This becomes a problem when the demand for and coveting of possessions drives us.
·        We try to control the events in our lives and our part in them. This is mostly about feeling safe. Anxiety is an indication that we either aren’t in control or that we desire more control over the circumstances of the events of our lives.
I think it’s God’s will that we allow Him to help us seize attention for the things that control us and the things we wish to control. God wants us free of external control; that the only God-anointed control we have is the responsibility we must have over our own life.

In other words, we must allow others to be free to make their choices whilst we exercise control over our choices.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How men can help their wives feel safe

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

I was asked a question some time ago by a man who genuinely wished for his wife to feel safer in their marriage. (He had dealt with her in an abusive way and had shown the fruit of genuine repentance — that is, he had learned from his wrong and had turned back to God to learn and apply new ways of behaving.)
As happens in many marriages, not that we hear it very much, there are abuses done, and the statistics tell us that 85% of abuse is perpetrated by husbands. Many wives have become victims of abuse, and a lot of this abuse is invisible, for example, verbal, psychological, emotional, financial, and neglect.
This article focuses on abuses done to wives, the 85%,
not abuse done to husbands (15%),
which I will cover at another time.
At the centre of abuse is a husband driven by insecurity and the need for control. Any man worth his salt will attest to those drives, but not every man succumbs to those drives.
At the core of every person is the need to feel safe and secure, yet safety and security needs are elevated in women. For a wife, that need for security is most deeply met in how her husband provides for her holistic care, loving her by respecting unequivocally her right to her mental and emotional well-being, ensuring he’s no barrier to it, accepting it is her domain, to which he adds his proactive support.
In the simplest terms, he meets her security needs by making her feel safe.
What does this mean?
·        He doesn’t control her in any way, and his wife is the arbiter about that. If she feels controlled, she knows it and she feels unsafe. She is empowered to call it what it is. And he listens in humility and corrects his behaviour.
·        He watches how he interacts with his wife and is careful not to behave in ways that cause her to feel anxious. (This assumes he’s interested and curious enough to know what makes her feel anxious.) Where his behaviour does cause her anxiety, he is quick to acknowledge his wrong and repent of it.
·        He manages his anger, knowing that annoyance, frustration and irritation are the things he feels. His wife feels far more threatening emotions, like fear, intimidation and diminishment of her personhood. He recognises there are stark differences in how the gender roles play out; that her fear trumps his frustration. While he hates being frustrated and annoyed, he hates more contributing to her feeling fearful.
·        He understands that privilege and power that is availed to him in simply being male in this world. This is a journey for a man to come to this understanding, because he’s never been a woman. But understanding gender privilege and the power that comes with it, he has a choice: to depower himself and empower those around him, especially the girls and women in his life.
·        He takes his responsibility seriously, isn’t quick to blame his wife for anything, and willingly gets the log out of his own eye in conflict (Matthew 7:1-5). And where he does falter, he’s quick to apologise with sincerity.[1]
·        He is committed to resolving conflict in a peacemaking way. He learns when he can overlook an offence, is committed to reconciliation and negotiation, and executes accountability over himself.
·        He gives her permission to do that which she feels called or obligated to do, understanding that she ought not to be required to gain his permission. He is her cheerleader. She has control over her life.
·        He shares his feelings with her but is careful never to blame or attack her. In other words, he owns his feelings and can hold her safe in his communication. This way, she is free to support him without having to wrestle with the angst caused by having to support him whilst feeling attacked or blamed. She cannot support him when she feels attacked or blamed.
Above all, a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church believes everything she says is important and valid and worthy.
To do these things, the husband needs to be safe in himself, and how can he be safe in himself unless he is safe in God? In loving God, he has learned the glory of serving his wife. A husband like this, for any wife, is a pleasure to submit to, for there is mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21).
These are some of the mandates I espouse in counselling husbands and wives.
And just to complete the article adequately, men must ask how they can keep their wives safe in the company of unsafe others — in their workplaces particularly. At the earliest sign of a toxic relationship in a workplace, husbands can support their wives by empowering them to do all they can to use formal processes of grievance; once they’ve been exhausted, to be prepared to withdraw from unsafe situations.
This article was inspired by an article on the blog A Cry for Justice: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2018/07/06/chris-moles-gets-the-gender-thing-right-in-domestic-abuse/
This article also acknowledges the PeaceWise suite of tools, especially The Slippery Slope of Conflict and Peacemaking Responses.



[1] A sincere apology addresses everyone involved, avoids ifs, buts, and maybes, admits the error specifically, acknowledges the hurt caused, accepts the consequences commensurate with the hurt caused, alters behaviour, and asks for forgiveness. Source: PeaceWise, Seven A’s of Confession. More information: https://peacewise.org.au/a-good-confession/

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The life of faith isn’t a picture-perfect life

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Very many people converting to Christ in God expect their life to improve, for the fortunes in life to unfold, and it just isn’t true.
It’s a hard lesson, then, when they do wake up on the proverbial Day 2 of the journey to realise it is a journey — that none of us ever quite ‘get there’ — to that halcyon place of a living heaven on earth.
Perhaps we’re troubled more and more in our social media world where most people insist on posting only moments on their highlights reel. Maybe it’s the innate desire within us to experience ease and comfort in life. Possibly it’s the fact we feel we deserve a break, especially in our comparisons of others (notice how you never compare with people who are worse off than you.)
What we actually need to do is repent
of the desire for the world’s concept of prosperity.
It’s understandable that we would want a picture-perfect life, filled with awe, joy at every turn, willing and able to worship God from a heart quickened by praise. The truth is we’ll always want these things.
But the opportunity we have as Christians
is to differentiate our desires from the way life is.
There is a mismatch between our desires
and how life works, disappointing as that is.
The very first task of a Christian in living their life is to live it steadfastly committed to the truth. If it’s hard, we acknowledge it’s hard. If it’s terrific, we weigh the fact that it won’t remain that way. If it’s that we’re just going through the motions, or we’re in a problematic relationship, or we’re stressed beyond coping, or we’re overwhelmed with grief, we must be honest. God is pleased most when we’re honest. Most of the time life can be ho-hum, and it’s good to be honest about it.
The Christian life of bearing our cross — the resemblance of the cross Jesus bore for us, for our sin, fear, guilt, shame — is centrally about understanding that this life is no bed of roses, but that as we draw near to God, He can satisfy us in a way the world simply cannot. Jesus is a better way. When we’ve experienced Jesus we quickly determine He’s the only way.
This process of drawing close is no easy process,
for it involves us willingly dying to our desires
that morph quickly into demands.
But it is possible…
if God is important enough to us.
I feel sad for Christians who constantly put on a show about how successful they are. They’re not living a true life if that’s all they present to the world. And they create envy in others, which is a sin they ought to avoid. Why would we willingly put others in harm’s way of temptation?
Why be purveyors of misery
when we’re supposed to be loving one another?
We need to appreciate the influence we have
and use it for good and godly purposes.
We can do this by living authentic lives, unafraid that someone might doubt the tenacity of our faith because we struggle. Jesus struggled. He faced temptation. He faced rejection. He faced persecution. He faced being misunderstood.
Converts to Christ ought to be well warned that their lives aren’t going to radically improve; if anything, they’ll be radically challenged. But at least they’ll be endeavouring to live for truth and can grow in love. At least they’ll be well on their way to the restoration of their identity, their integrity, their relationships. And at least they’ll finally come back to the place where life starts — with Jesus.
The Bible is a book littered with accounts, concepts and wisdom about suffering. That’s intentional.
Very truly, God shows you depths of caverns more about Himself when you’re brought to your knees in life. When you’re compelled to pray, to seek His face, to rely on Him, for your life, like us all, is a crushing reality sometimes.
Life is designed to crush us.
Until it does, we’ll have no stake in God.
Until we have a stake in God we waste our lives.
And a picture-perfect life is a waste of a life.
A picture-perfect life misses God.
There’s nothing more encouraging to your peers than for them to see through you a real life lived, enduring the hardships as best you can. This is because deep down inside all of us we feel unworthy and alone in our inadequacies — even the most confident people face this if they’re honest.
When we’re honest,
it’s as if we’re saying to all those around us,
‘See, I’m just like you.’
Humanity needs to see our humanity.