It’s a rainy Sunday here in Kentucky.
Perfect for staying in bed and spending lots of time with my thoughts. I find myself thinking a lot about God’s goodness, his grace. I ponder how he loves completely even in the midst of this broken not-quite-right world.
Some days I find it difficult to reconcile.
A few weeks ago at house church we talked about struggle and what our struggle means in light of Christ’s struggle on the cross. I often compare my first-world struggles to those of people in war-torn, far away places like Aleppo or Nigeria. It fills me with shame that I lament the loss of a secure future when there are people starving to death. My worries over pension plans and 401K’s feel selfish, and I suppose that they are.
In American culture, though, that’s the thing, We work for security for ourselves and our children, and before we know it that’s where we’re putting our hope.
At least that’s how it is for me.
We’ve been hoping and praying for a new job for Lee. One that will fulfill his purpose and provide for our security. He suffered a blow this week when he found out that a position he had been working toward was given to someone else. He didn’t suffer alone. I hadn’t realized how much hope I had put in that job. It was going to save us, I just knew it.
In my sadness I often rail against the Lord. He can take it and I sure can dish it out. Then he always comes in with these quiet, convicting comebacks that leave my heart pierced.
He told me, and I know it’s true, that we’ve been putting our hope in a new job, in more money. He talks to me in a quiet voice so that I have to listen. This annoys me. I like shouting and billboards and neon signs. Quiet requires quiet.
I think that’s his tactic.
Jesus is the best at behavior management.
He reminded me quietly, gently that my hope is in God. Period. That’s it.
“God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.” ~ Psalm 46: 1-2
Struggle is part of this world. In fact, Jesus promises us trouble. It’s how we respond to that trouble that makes the difference.
We can’t deny struggle. That only delays the inevitable pain from it. We can’t make it too big, either. Giving struggle more attention than necessary causes it to grow larger than it really is.
Acceptance is the only way to go. Accept the struggle we’re each in, whatever it is. Then, knowing that the God of hope is with you, keep going.
I know that sounds all footprints-in-the-sand, but Truth is Truth.
God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my response to struggle, either. He knows me, he knows how I work and he’s okay with it. He knows that each thing I move through softens me, makes me more like Jesus. He is patient and good and doesn’t push me along.
My walk with Christ does not need to be fraught with tension. There is no condemnation from Christ. If I’m feeling that I know it’s time to seek him and his answers.
He is teaching me so much about resting in him, knowing him, and trusting him. It isn’t the way I thought it would look at all.
Not long ago I fell back to my old way of thinking. The way that said I was in my position because of how God felt about me.
Believing that my circumstance are a reflection of how God feels about me is lie of the enemy.
That is not true. Where I am at physically, emotionally, or mentally or not an affliction that God has put on me. Yes, he allows me to move through difficult stuff. That’s life here on earth, though.
How God feels about me won’t change my situation. God’s feelings for me, should I choose to recognize them, will only change how I respond to my situation.
The trap of the theology that God gives to those who deserve it is deep. If I believe that I am in my difficult situation because of something I have done, something I deserve, then what about those starving people in Africa? The children of Aleppo? The innocents caught in horrible places in my own city? What is that they have done to deserve their fate?
We were born where we were born and God loves us each the same.
He loves the people in Aleppo, Africa, cooperate America, brothels, and prisons. He loves everyone the same. It isn’t God’s love that’s confusing for me, it is the world that’s muddled. I get that mixed up sometimes.
There is no earning his grace, he just gives it.
There is no gaining God’s favor, it just is.
It’s all there for the taking waiting for our response.
Our pain is real, the battle will always be there. It will take different forms and shapes for every unique individual. Struggle will always be a commonality between us human beings.
Grace is bigger. Goodness is bigger. Love is bigger.
I like that commonality even more.
It is the Truth that God is bigger than all of the wars we wage that allowed Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write words hope from dark places. It’s that Truth that pushes us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and smile at a stranger. Those acts are responses to struggle AND the Light of Christ.
Maybe we need that combo?
Maybe struggle forces us to dig deeper?
Perhaps my struggle for security coupled with the Light of Christ is what allows me to my hope in eternal security.
There is no shame in weeping or gnashing of the teeth. I believe that’s necessary.
How I respond inwardly to struggle though, there’s where it gets me.
Do I turn to God for answers or towards the world?
The big question, among the many, I am asking myself today is this:
When people see me do they see my struggle or do they see Jesus?
More importantly, when the people I live with see me which do they see?
That last one gives me something to build my week on.
Those are my Sunday thoughts, the ones I caught before the rain went away. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions, too, or maybe you’d share your own Sunday thoughts?
Be brave, misfits.
Ask the hard questions.
Then wait for the quiet answers.
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