16 November 2006

my life should be easier than this

I'd like to tell you about the message we heard at Granger Community Church when we visited this past weekend. It was the last part of their current series: "Suburban Legends: How to keep the suburbs from killing your soul." While I'd been interested in the topic, it spoke to me personally to another situation that I am facing. This message was titled "My life should be easier than this." Click Read More for a summary.

John 9:1-3 tells about an encounter Jesus had with a blind man. An exchange takes place between Jesus and His followers:

"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this
happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."
The orientation of the disciples was past and causal. They wanted to focus on why this had happened. Jesus' orientation is future and result. His focus is on what will happen as a result of this. Anytime we suffer something bad in our life, we're faced with this basic choice to make: we can stop at "why?" or we can choose to ask "what's next?" Listen to how the message makes the point in this passage clear: "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do." So often, the bad sfuff in our life seems really bad because we don't consider what God is going to be able to do through what is happening.

Another choice that we have when life is not easy is whether we will be overcome with grumbling or provoked to remember His goodness. No sooner did Israel escape from Egypt than they began to grumble about the conditions of their wilderness life. They quickly forgot about the goodness that God had showed them, freeing them from four centuries of slavery and sparing them from the power of the Pharoah's army (Exodus 16:1-3). Again and again, the Bible reminds us to remember. In Psalm 13, life is not as easy as David thinks it should be. He honestly throws his feelings at God (vv.1-2):

"How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your
face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? "
It's worth noting that the people closest to God in the scriptures are those who took their relationship with Him seriously enough that they honestly wrestled with all life with God. They made the sharpest allegations about Him, the harshest criticisms of Him, the most direct requests to Him. But, they did not stop there. They chose to remember (vv.3-6):

"Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in
death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I
fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me."
God will take the grumbling, the complaints, the allegations, the criticism, the questions we direct His way. In fact, I think He even graciously considers this worship as we consider Him Worthy of even our inadequacies (which are really what's in-focus in these things even if we don't know that). God will take it with the hope that we will remember how good he has been to us. When life is not easy, we make the choice to overcome with grumbling or to remember His goodness.
There are two other choices we make in the face of life's difficulties.

We make a choice to become bitter or to become better. Naomi was a woman who had suffered great personal loss, had no real viable future, and was consumed with grief (Ruth 1). Returning to her home, she sought to change her identity--the way in which people knew her--to Mara, which means "bitter." She does not contemplate the possibility that God is acting to make her or her life better. The songwriter gives expression to this choice that has to be made with these words (Psalm 71:20-21):

"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor and comfort me once again."

The last choice we make is whether or not we will be closed or open. The reality is that our perspective, and thus our sense of possibility, is always limited. We often see ourselves at a dead-end. Our appreciation of God's power is always less than what His power really is. Our ability to understand and make sense of what is happening is always inadequate to comprehending His ways of acting. It is natural to be closed to anything other than what we see, understand, or think is possible. And yet, we're talking about God. The reality is that God always has at least one more move. God always has something that He can do that is beyond our appreciation. Paul writes about this in Romans (8:28) when he reminds them of this certainty,

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love
him, who have been called according to his purpose."

If it were up to us, we'd choose to make life easier. But we don't get to make that choice. That does not mean that we don't have any choices to make when life is difficult. We choose...

...to have a past/causal orientation or a future/result orientation
...to stop at asking "why?" or to go on to ask "what's next?"
...to be overcome with grumbling or to remember His goodness
...to become bitter or better
...to be closed or open

These were helpful reminders for me, provoking thought and reflection about an area of my life where I think things should be easier than they are. I hope they prompt the same for you.

No comments: