Friday, May 23, 2008

Too Blessed to be Stressed

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, 
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. 
You have heard of the perseverance of Job, 
and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, 
because "the Lord is compassionate and merciful."  (James 5:10-11, NAB)

The leading of the Holy Spirit for me this season in my life is to face hardship with faith and confidence.  For the longest time, I have abhorred any form of suffering.  Having gone through my fair share in the past, I have made deliberate choices to avoid heartache, pain, and hurt, ignoring their Scripture-based benefits to my faith.

Like a little child who lives in a fairy world where magic cures all ills and rights all wrongs, I have trodden the path of ease.  I have only involved myself in things I would succeed at.  Failure, though a necessary path of life, has become my enemy.  Living in a broken world where all, most of all me, commit mistakes whether they intend to or not, all this focus on perfection has just led me to sheer and utter frustration.

The most uncomfortable and inconvenient truth of all is that to follow a path of righteousness, we have to bite the bullet and plunge head on into the unknown - where everything is beyond our control, where we will experience pain, where we will encounter obstacles, where our strength and joy and confidence will be used up - but where God waits to empower, encourage, and enlighten us.  

Why is it that the search for truth still cannot stop me from denying it?  I have discovered that I am not alone in this quandary - that my favorite writers Philip Yancey and Henri Nouwen have undergone deep moments of doubt and confusion as well - despite knowing and proclaiming the truth of God's amazing love, of this world being His and about us being His children, not His super-children to be shielded from all harm or to have all powers to by themselves conquer evil.

The world does not value this truth, for everything around us tempts us to take control of our lives, to think only of ourselves, to worship ourselves as gods and goddesses, to associate only with similar diety, and not to follow Jesus at all.  Jesus' teachings on the call to discipleship are so contrary to the "values" of the world - for He espouses humility, patience, and generosity, while the world applauds pride, speed, and greed.

To be a Christian is to fight back with refusal, resistance, and responsibility.  It is to find God's voice from within our hearts and to follow Him, whether it is a slow, inch-by-inch process, or we find ourselves to be strong enough to skip and jump and soar.  This is a great challenge, but therein lies true joy.  I have yet to reach that phase.  These days I am starting to acknowledge again how weak I have been and to surrender the worldly attachments I have chosen to be my source of joy.  It is an upward call.

For God did not give human beings the power to fly and to teleport.  Thus, we cannot escape dangerous situations, painful confrontations, and complicated communications.  We are meant to stay put, face our fears with courage, and wait on the Lord.  He WILL sweep us off our feet.  He will carry us in His arms and take us to His heart, where we shall find all the rest, comfort, and love that we need.

My soul cries out to be heard, and this is more important than my tasks at work, my besmirched reputation, and my persistent plans.  Even to take time out to listen to my heart and rest my weary soul is difficult.  Now I am slowly facing those areas I have declared as off-limits to God, and admitting how helpless I am to fight this battle on my own.

My lesson on waiting for today - to persevere, and to learn to have the patience of Job.  Tomorrow is another day.

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