Keeping perspective while keeping the faith

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This past week has dealt some blows that have threatened to spiral me into a place of self pity and resignation. Instead of taking them to God, I've chosen to remain in this pity party full of the questions: "why me/us? " "why this?" "what have I done wrong?" I have taken my eyes off the finish line and instead focused on the grueling pain of the race. In his goodness, God let me go down this path for a few days but sent gentle reminders of where it would lead if I gave in. While natural to ask, none of these questions really matter-- nor will they change anything. They just help me give in to the danger of comparison and discontent. The message below arrived in my Inbox yesterday and it was worth sharing. It's written by a young woman in her 20's who heads up a ministry to teenage girls. Her audience is middle schoolers but her words of wisdom don't transcend age.

"If this was my last day on earth what would I say to you?

I would say that God is so much better than you think He is but He doesn’t owe you anything. Not a happy marriage, cute kids, a nice home, a great career, good friends, a healthy body, food every day and a cozy place to sleep at night. Millions of people don’t have any of those and yet God is as good to them as He is to you because He loves them just as much. If you have those things you should be crazy thankful each day instead of complaining about what you don’t have. God doesn’t owe you a long life and if you get through today it’s only because He was gracious enough to give you the breath and the strength to make it. If you were born and raised here in America, all of that is hard to hear because we consider those things a given. We have expectations of God that are unbiblical and dangerous because somewhere along the way the American Dream has morphed so seamlessly with our faith that we can’t recognize the unbiblical when it’s staring us in the face and leading us into destruction.

The truth of who God is and what life is really about has gotten so buried by lies in our culture that even in the church it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. There’s a common belief here, because we are so materially blessed, that God shows His favor by showering more material blessings on those people He is proud of. There’s also a more subtle belief that we deserve good things from Him. “Deserve” is a big marketing idea in this world and we’ve been so inundated with advertisers who tell us that we deserve the nice car, hot spouse and higher education that we now believe we “deserve” only good things from a good God without the greater understanding that some of the good things He has planned for us will look like tragedies from our perspective. For some of you this life will be a short one. Maybe you get 15 years and then it’s a fight to the death against cancer. Some of you will find yourself in a horribly difficult marriage even though you did exactly what all the good Christian people told you to do. You waited and prayed for “the one” and when you finally met him at church, you dated well without giving into temptation and had the storybook wedding. And some of you will never marry even though you desperately want to be a wife and mother. In each of those situations God is good and has planned for you a life that will end in your salvation and His glory. And in each of those situations, if your expectations of God are lies, you’ll feel hopelessly betrayed by Him and walk through a serious, painful crisis of faith from which you might not recover."

This young lady is right. If my expectations of God are lies then I will feel betrayed by Him--and I have. When life doesn't go my way I get all bent out of shape over those who have what I want. Not only do I think I deserve comfort and ease, I also decide that my friends and neighbors don't appreciate it the way I would. I reason that because they "haven't walked in my shoes" they don't deserve the material blessings that should belong to me. "I've worked hard." "I would share." "I...I...I.."

This same day another message came from a daily devotional I receive from Proverbs 31 Ministries. It hit me right between the eyes. I want to decide what comes my way and how long it lasts. In a word: I want to be "God." I don't like the card I've been dealt so I'm going to grumble about it to anyone who will listen.

"In Jonah 4, Jonah wanted to stay in the shade as he climbed up the mountain to pout about the salvation God had offered the Ninevites. God caused a branch to sprout up and provide him shelter so Jonah could rest under that branch. But then God caused a worm to eat away Jonah's shelter, exposing him to the heat once again.

Jonah became angry and grumbled about his lack of shade. He—like me—wanted to be comfortable. He wasn't thinking about what was best for him or what awaited him in the future. But God was. Jonah's immediate comfort wasn't God's first priority; eternity was.

Perhaps you're in a place of extreme heat bearing down on you. You feel the heat of bad decisions and broken relationships bearing down on you and you wonder why God doesn't provide some shade.

Or maybe you're feeling some cold temps invading places that used to be warm for you. A marriage has grown cold. Your finances feel frozen. Why doesn't God provide some warmth, you might be asking? Maybe because He knows that soon you won't need that shade or that in the future that warm place is going to keep you from becoming the person He wants you to be. (Yes! Emphasis mine.)

I ran recently in the cold, avoiding the shady spots because the temperature was much cooler there. I thought back to the summer and my conversation with God. He knew this time was coming but I didn't see it then. He knew that the shade wouldn't always be the best place for me. God loves us enough to take us to different places—sometimes carrying us if necessary as our key verse says—always preparing us for what lies ahead. He will make sure we reach the place He has for us and that we are the people He wants us to be when we get there."

Regardless of how I "feel" it's these reminders that bring me back to earth and knock some sense into my stubborn spirit. May they encourage you as well.

Keeping my eye on the prize,


4 Responses to “Keeping perspective while keeping the faith”

Donna G said...

I love your blogs. You speak some wise words in this post that I am sure will be a blessing to others as well as to you. Keep your eye on the finish line....

Jeremy Saunders said...

I loved both messages, we all need to hear that a lot of the times, especially living in this country. Here i am boohooing and you have your own troubles, I am a good listener too if you need an ear. Take care Dana and let's hope we can both learn and grow from our trials!

cfinelli2461 said...

I like your blog. I will print it up and use it in the Confirmation class that I teach. I will give a copy to those who need it. I need it myself from time to time to remember what I should be thankful for every day of my life.
Cathy Finelli

1bzymomma said...

WOW! I know it was the Lord's leading, as we don't know one another, but I do find intrest in your blog. This post was awesome, and just what I needed as I've been in a "funk" of self pity. Thanks for sharing this. It's nice to know there are other Christian mothers out there plugging away and trying to remain faithful. The Lord's timing is perfect!