The Hidden Dangers of Disappointment

Heard a very thought-provoking sermon on the radio today. A series on the life of Joseph from well known Pastor & Author; Alistair Begg of “Truth for Life”. 

He spoke about the presence of God in our lives when we’re trapped in circumstances beyond our control. He described the presence and power of God to provide and protect us in the middle of difficult and discouraging moments, something I’m sure we can all appreciate. Joseph was trapped in a foreign land after being betrayed and abandoned by his own brothers, alone and isolated, a slave.

He had every right to give into the emotions of self-pity, resentment, bitterness. He had every right to hold a grudge, to nurse his anger and disappointment with his fellow-man and shake his fists at God in despair and righteous indignation. But he didn’t. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead Joseph chose to make the ‘best’ of his situation. To look for the good in the middle of his impossible circumstances and God’s presence remained.  Joseph must have sensed there was some purpose to his injustices, some method to the madness of his incarceration and false imprisonments. Joseph’s faith looked for a hidden agenda by God, a strategy to direct his steps through the ridiculously bad luck of his life; of being sold as a slave, falsely accused of rape, and then discarded in prison by the one guy he helped to survive Pharaohs wrath.

It seemed that Joseph just couldn’t get a break. 

His disappointments could have derailed his faith. Stopped him from trusting or talking with God. His pain and suffering could have easily burned away the belief and anticipation of looking for God  to keep his promises, of daring to trust that someday and somehow God would show up and fulfill his adolescent dreams and visions.

What about us?

Do we believe God is working in our ridiculously bad circumstances? Are we surrendering to the wave of despair that comes over us, wallowing in the feelings of self-pity, resentment, and bitterness?  I do it. Lots of times I’ve found myself muttering as I drive, wondering where God is in my latest crisis. Arguing with Him that He’s not fair!

I suffer badly. I hate stress and disappointments.  I want my life to go the best possible way, to be fulfilling and without prolonged struggle. I want what I do to be successful. I want to work hard and see results, to find meaning and value in what I labor over. But far too often it’s nothing like that. 

Suffering in Silence

So… I have a choice to make. Like Joseph my life has had some major disappointments and moments of despair. I’ve found myself in circumstances beyond my control and feeling the dangerous current of self-pity, resentment, and bitterness gnawing their way up my gut.

Will I surrender to the darkness or push it back with one more act of hope and desperate faith? Will I look to God and reaffirm my belief that although it makes NO SENSE to me, He must be involved. That in my disappointments… He is still God. He is still using my momentary suffering as a tool of infinite beauty for my character and growth. (Romans 8:28 / Psalm 34 )

Those are the moments to cling to our faith. We can choose how we will react to the pain of life.  Lots of options here… from covering up our pain with pleasure to losing ourselves in work. But what if we chose to read and pray?

What would happen if we turned to God no matter how hard it is? Discovering the promises of God in the darkness and sorrow of a sleepless night  has salvaged my faith many many – times. It can realign our heart and reshape our suffering into an intimate act of faith.

When we come to Him in our pain… we reaffirm the truth we so desperately need to remember about our savior. He loves us. He understands us. He gets our pain and suffering as no other can… we remember in our surrendered heart that our God is good. He is working in our circumstances, using the disappointments of life for a higher purpose. He has a plan, and we’re in it.

Let’s agree to follow in Joseph’s example.

Let’s look to see how God’s going to show up in our disappointed lives. Let’s drop the weight of our painful baggage. We don’t need to carry the self-pity, resentment, and bitterness we’re holding anymore.

Blessings, Pastor B.

 

Suffering that leads us to Surrender

Reading through the scriptures you can’t help but notice a pattern… the histories and testimonies of the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings all point to a common thread they share.

Suffering.

Sounds ominous, but it seems to be ‘the’ process God allows or uses to accomplish His will, His purposes in our lives.

The struggle of our will against God’s plan seems to work as the catalyst for our transformation. (think Jacob with the Angel) 

We desire and direct our lives to a specific point, we include God and prayerfully ask for His blessing to our efforts, but often we find our way in decline and the struggle to proceed becomes harder and harder to sustain. It’s in this pain that we suffer and wait for answers, confused by the lack of progress or success and we wonder if God is against us.

Rembrandt – Jacob wrestling with the angel. Google art project

He’s not against us. NEVER ever accept that lie. All of History reminds us of His passionate pursuit of our hearts! The great struggle of our faith is to cling steadfastly to this truth.

I’m learning a lot about these struggles and suffering moments right now, finding that it’s in these ‘storms’ of life that I am redirected from pursuing God as a means to ‘my’ progress. He’s more than a part of my plan, He’s bigger than all my plans and ambitions, He’s the entire point of it all. We have to reorient our lives around HIM.

We grow when we surrender our need to ‘know’ and accept His goodness for today and trust it will continue into tomorrow. I believe things radically changed in my life when I admitted my divided heart. That I was only partially in love with God and partially trying to manipulate Him into giving me what I thought I needed… but definitely wanted. I believe in the end He wants to be the focus and center of all my desire. He’s passionate to give us His best, and He wants to become number one, the focus of our attention and love. 

The suffering of our lives puts those inconsistencies of our motives into the floodlights of God’s divine illumination – these personal epiphanies are the mile markers in our journey of faith. They become the moments of clear understanding and  lead us to repentance, but often only come when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s in those depths of despair that we finally surrender to God and in doing so they become the keys to our spiritual growth and maturity.

Brennan Manning in his book ‘Ruthless Trust” notes that we desire to have ‘clarity’ in our lives, often praying for it… but he points out that God wants us to have ‘trust’ in His goodness and His plan for our lives. There is a difference. (my paraphrase)

Clarity is knowledge of what’s coming. Trust is belief that God is in control of the future and that His plans are better than ours. Surrendering control is the door to us finding His peace and freedom from fear… easy to type, hard to act on.

Lord Help us ‘trust’ you in our suffering, help us to continue to believe in your goodness and give up our need to know and simply accept your leading us to a better place, that your plans can replace our own.

Blessings to you – Pastor B.

Tired of Waiting…the AcheDeepInsideOurSoul

The greatest single threat to a family’s health… is divorce.

As a pastor and a parent, I get it.  We all understand the temptation that promises to bring excitement and passion when we feel ‘nothing’. The allure of being free again….to leave what we have for something… ‘better’.

NBC – source

But sometimes we get tired of trying.

We just wear out inside. No more desire. No more determination to stay… we just surrender to the dull and relentless… and seriously consider its time to simply ‘give-up’.

 

We feel only a little…  and it all adds up to just an empty AcheDeepInsideourSoul.

St. Augustine tells it like it is in his classic, “the Confessions” … “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” (source link)

For those who are grieving… those who lost a spouse… a parent, or a child. The grief that consumes is identical in its impact to our psyche as when a marriage runs off the rails… For those reading who are openly contemplating divorce… the truth is, you’re already grieving.  In your sorrow, you can lose all sense of time or purpose. You can lose your colors and taste, no flavor… personality dried up. We simply ‘exist’.

The need to ‘feel’ again is overwhelming. It scares us. 

In those moments of panic and desperation we turn to everykindofcrazy option. Cutting, drugs, sex, alcohol, work, ministry, friends ,cars, boats, exercise, gardening, books, movies, music, porn, you name… if you hurt badly enough…  we give it a whirl.

The solution to the “AcheDeepInsideOurSoul” isn’t obvious or easy. It’s not ‘more’… but ‘less’. 

We can’t fill up our empty spaces with stuff, or pleasure, or pain… we can’t get back to being whole again by doing more or owning nicer things.

source – Readers Digest

Our pain is only resolved by living with less. Less of us. Less of me… more of God. 

We start a terrible and dangerous spiral down when we keep insisting on getting what we always wanted. We look at the stuff we don’t have and then we start a checklist of all the things that will be better without someone else holding us back… or weighing us down.

If we were free to do and be and go…  would we be happier…. ? Or would we be more MISERABLE?

Here’s what I’ve learned….To fill the empty ache, you need to shift your focus. When we give up our rights, and our petty little wrongs…we gain life. Real life. Jesus said that. He meant it. 

Take whatever it is in your life your so weary of.  That thing you’re so tired of waiting for… Maybe it’s the option to walk away from an empty marriage or a dead-end job that you know you’re supposed to keep. Are you willing to consider another option?

Would you take another day… another week and sincerely ask (Pray) for God’s help?

Do something radical… don’t run away… trust God and stay. What if you chose to sacrifice your ‘wants for someone else’s needs? What would God do with such an act of faith?

(Disclaimer – It takes 2 to make a relationship work, and if you are the only one who wants to try, you’re going to have to pray for a change of heart in your spouse – and there are definite times to walk away from marriage – abuse – infidelity – addictions etc… God knows your specific circumstance – ask Him – listen – wait – He’ll show you what to do)

You won’t regret it and neither will your family…

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

Need some extra encouragement and practical support? … Check out a “Weekend to Remember” with Family Life.

 

 

 

 

Gravity… pulls us down and builds us up!

Hope you have seen the visually stunning – award-winning and epic film, GRAVITY with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It’s an AMAZING HD production partnered with a surprisingly intense dramatic performance …. it PULLS  audiences into the struggle of a single mom fighting to stay alive in the extreme of outer-space… alone.

Gravity captures…It immerses you in an emotional journey of someone desperate to survive. We become lost in a foreign world of unknown dangers and unexpected tragedy. The feel of this flic will make you sweat and your breathing will match the actors as you FEEL the power of panic and the desperation of a life lived to the razors edge of sudden catastrophe.

At the very end... we see a fade out shot of our heroine emerging but shaky. Her legs and body drained of all strength and her mind exhausted… she slowly rises to stand again, under the restraint of “gravity” once more. It’s here the poignant tale transitions to become a very powerful metaphor or allegory of life.

In this moment… I can see myself…. how extraordinary. I can see God uses our suffering like gravity to build me up. To form me into something stronger, someone with more character… more capable of creating beauty and in the end….expressive of  new-found life.

Gravity = Suffering.  An epiphany….a moment of understanding, of new and deeper insight…

God plans for us to endure the forces of suffering, of injustice… and allows our pain to perfect us into something much more like His intended creation. Someone like Christ.

Those forces are active all the time in our world, and like Gravity, they force our spiritual muscles to work, to contract… to lift, to move to run…. all while under resistance from the gravitational pull of our planet. Inescapable and undeniable, our acceptance of Gravity doesn’t make us fatalistic or sad, it’s a reality that we’ve scientifically explained and learned to live with.

Like science, faith has its mirrored principles. Laws of spirituality that are as unavoidable as Newtonian Physics.

God allows us to endure suffering, to mature us. To build us into the amazing and spectacular men and women of faith we were always meant to be. If we focus ALL of our attention on asking God to remove the hard, the difficult and the painful from our lives we are  refusing to mature.

As parents, part of our role is helping our kids understand and embrace the process of enduring and overcoming in life. To grasp an understanding of the purpose of hardship and discomfort play in our lives. To recognize its role as essential for a healthy life to grow.  Difficulty, struggle…painful mistakes, they really are the ONLY way our children can grow up!

Watch the flick this 4th of July if you missed it and remember the next time your able to crawl out of bed and stand up…. you’re overcoming gravity already 🙂

Peace out, Pastor B.

Romans 5:3-5  “ Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (NIV) 

The intimacy of Suffering.

Contrary to the “American Gospel” of life, being married and having a family is an exercise in true suffering as often as it’s a joy or profound pleasure.

It’s an issue in many “Christian” lives to think that their God would allow or even “prescribe” for us seasons of suffering. We’re looking for God to “ease” our pain, to make the hurting stop and for our uncomfortable life relationships & difficult circumstances be removed. Bottom line, we’re approaching God on our terms. Looking up to Him as a divine dose of Advil for all our life aches & pains. advil

The truth strikes us hard when we take the time to really read scripture and listen to what the Apostle Paul writes…what Jesus taught.

Philippians 3:10 (NASB) “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;”

Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB) “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Source link)

Tragic, unjust and just downright painful experiences for a modern believer  can become “deal breakers” for our emerging Faith in Christ. Our Christianese has taught many of us to just assume that God wants us to be HAPPY.

We “believe” for immediate favor and blessing from God to flood our lives upon every request…. removing difficulties as if by magic and releasing us from suffering further. IF that doesn’t happen…. we have a serious problem with God, our faith and life in general.

The “reality check” that suffering offers can cause major confusion and deep doubt in a parent’s heart and mind…. especially if we’re not able to separate the “truth” of Christianity from the myth. 

The marketing of the church has spoon fed many of us with  a happy-go-lucky version of the gospel that fits our Americanized ideal of what we want Christianity to be….A personal fire insurance plan with morphine drip.

If we’re not able to separate fact from fiction, we can get dangerously close to loosing our fragile faith in the bitter aftermath of disappointment.

“Cultural” Christians are leaving the local church today in droves, in part because the God they wanted has turned out to be a myth.

He seems to remain silent to our regular requests for “more” stuff … and we get sullen & angry because we did it all like we were taught… in the name of Jesus. But we still don’t get what we want and like spoiled children we pout and run away.

As parents, we can get easily discouraged if we lose the perspective of what’s REAL vs. what is HYPE. When we start to think God simply exists to supply my needs and fix my problems… we’ve left scripture for pop – culture.

The truth is… He works in the pain and the sorrow and tragedies of our lives as much or more than he does in the triumphs and successes.

When we seek to avoid discomfort at all costs, we’re skipping a critical step in our transformation and lose out on the intimacy we can only gain in our suffering.

Parents… don’t just seek to get out of the heat, ask God if and when and how you’re to respond to your troubles. Include your kids in the process of listening, asking and seeking to find God’s will for your family. Living out our faith in the midst of suffering is ultimately the highest honor a believer in Christ can experience. It becomes the evidence of something “authentic” and believable to those who know us best. Our Kids!

that as they say… is kinda the point : )

Peace to you – Pastor B.

The truth about intimacy…

I believe everyone wants emotional intimacy. Ladies are always reading – watching or asking about it. Guys seem to avoid it at all costs…but deep down it’s what we all want, and fear.

As parents, we need to remember it’s what our kids want too.

GETTY Images - source

GETTY Images – source

But emotional intimacy is a slow process, you can’t rush through or fake it. Intimacy takes time and lots of risk. I wanted to describe intimacy, to try to define it… looked at several definitions but this was the best one I could discover. freedictionary.com says intimate means;

1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity.
2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature: intimate prayers.
3. Essential; innermost: the intimate structure of matter
To truly get close you have to be close, in proximity. Nearby. – obvious I know, but for parents, this can be a huge challenge. Our days are way full – overflowing with demands, duties and deadlines. We have to carve out – protect our personal time and invest it wisely. Spending time in the same room, looking at and sharing a meaningful conversation is a MUST for any relationship to become intimate.
To relate with someone, to begin to grasp what makes them “tick” is a huge part of becoming intimately familiar. That takes some life experience to grow. In Christian terms… this means suffering through the hard times together. It means watching and learning and appreciating the good and bad traits of our spouses, kids and friends. It’s in the suffering we get to see the “real” stuff come to the surface. We see what drives someone – what scares them and what makes them mad.

datinggod.org

datinggod.org

The essential part of someone is their “heart“. Not the beating muscle that moves our blood from the lungs to our cells and back, but the metaphysical part of us that contains our desires, dreams and despair. The passion and ethos of life, stretching from the highest of highs to the darkest low. Knowing someone’s heart is at the center of understanding them. Of beginning to predict their reactions to life extremes. From the saddest moments to euphoric joy, when we know a person’s heart, we can accurately judge what they will do next.
Our kids need us to know them and be known by them. They want to trust and to love and to always be honest with us… it’s our “reactions” that drive us apart. As our kids age and grow, they form opinions and ideas. Often those are contrary to our own and in moments of discovery and desperation, we parents often blow up or vent so intensely as to train our fledgling adult children to never-ever tell us the “whole” truth again. Not a good thing, and something I am too often guilty of.
We can get so caught up in being a ‘good’ parent, that we forget the goal isn’t to clone our kids…but to prepare them to live their lives well. To teach them to trust and turn to God when things get out of control. Part of that modeling process is to let our kids in. To see our hearts, to feel our pain and to share in our joy.
It’s a risk to trust them with our fears and failures, but in the end… it’s only in being intimate that we can connect the dots from our faith to our families. Paul describes his intimate relationship with God this way in Philippians 1:28-29 (Message Bible) “There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.”
Suffering always leads to deeper intimacy. So the next time life throws you a tragic curve ball… look at it as a another step deeper into an intimate understanding of yourself, your family and your God. A beautiful truth for hard times.
Peace out, Pastor. B.