Thursday, April 10, 2014

You Want Me To Do What?!

When my heart is broken the notion that God is good can seem preposterous.

When I feel so much pain in life, it can seem like my circumstances and the people that hurt me can't possibly be the result of a loving God. In fact, it can feel like not only is God no refuge of hope or comfort, but I also begin to believe maybe He is the one that caused me to be in the mess I'm in.

These thoughts have been streaming through my head off and on over the last several months. Less than ideal circumstances and a general feeling that God is absent have clouded my view of God and his goodness.

For me, the logic follows that when God is not good, he is absent, and when God is absent, I start to respond to the world around me in ways not indicative of my true self . I'm tempted to make darkness my friend, to turn inward, and shut people out entirely. Depression, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness rear their ugly heads as I become self-assured of my lack of significance in this cruel, cruel world. 

This pattern of thought renders me virtually useless to the people I care about. It becomes all too easy to give into my desires, and seemingly impossible to provide any emotional support or comfort to those hurting around me. Sometimes it may even get so bad that I stop caring altogether.

I know I'm not alone in this, I have sat and talked with so many others who have become such victims of their circumstances and hurts that they have virtually given up on life and the people around them. Each day becomes a frantic search for some tiny ounce of joy and one's primary concern becomes survival. And when you are only looking out for yourself, you become a true slave to the pain, and the destructive cycle that caused you to spiral down in the first place just keeps on going.

Today I was faced with a choice.

Feeling the desire to jump into the cycle of looking out for only myself, I looked to God instead and I simply said "I can not do this alone. I simply can't. I need you to be strong for me right now because I have no strength.'

I didn't all at once feel Him with me, I didn't instantly stop desiring to be selfish, but what I did feel was a resolve to walk forward and overcome what was plaguing me.

A half hour later I was on knees in my room sobbing, they were tears of joy as I realized the beauty of surrender.

Like I said in the beginning, when your heart is broken it's the hardest thing in the world to accept the message of a good God. But when you intentionally die to your flesh and walk toward that God, you experience something that is never found in the feeble ways we attempt to ease our pain. You find love that is faithful, unconditional, and always welcoming you with open arms.

I believe that the primary thing God desires of us is surrender to Him. But one thing after another starts to go wrong and all of the sudden we find ourselves in the middle of a season of life where things are really hard. Sure, it's easy to follow Jesus when everything is the way we want it. But when life brings pain and days and weeks go by where we feel sorrow and maybe even Gods absence, we start to convince ourselves that every lie in our head is the truth.

"I am worthless." "I wish I had that person's life." "Nobody cares about me." "I don't care about anybody." "I'm alone." "I'm unloved or conditionally loved based on my performance." "I'm going to rebel and cause other's pain like I have felt."

And on and on the list of lies goes.

When we isolate ourselves in times of pain, the primary thing that we crave remains unconditional love, but we cut ourselves off from God and the people he has put around us that could lead us to His unconditional love. 

The Bible shows us the path to experiencing God's unconditional love, and it always starts with dying to ourselves.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. - Matthew 16:24

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. - Romans 8:5-7

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. - Ephesians 2:1-5

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! - Philippians 2:3-8 (emphasis mine)

Will you, along with myself, practice surrender to God even in times of the sharpest and toughest pain you have ever felt?

Our promise is that when we put to death the desires of our flesh, when we die to ourselves and our expectations/ideals, when we stop comparing ourselves to others, when we turn our stubborn hearts to God, we will experience true life.

We hold on to our pain and make decisions from our broken hearts because we think that in doing whatever we please we will have life, but it's the opposite. When we feel the pain and death of this world, God is asking us to experience more death, which sounds ridiculous, but the death we die for His sake to our flesh, gives us sustainable joy and life that no circumstance or human can take away from us.

We can die to ourselves because God led the way. Jesus was obedient in surrendering to the Father's will to the point of physical death. Jesus died so that we could have access to his life and unconditional love for eternity.

It's all about surrender to God, and it always will be. It's only in our weakness that we will find our true strength in Christ Jesus, who works all things together for the good of those who love Him. He is not the cause of our pain, he is the healer. We have a Father in heaven that knows our pain because he himself walked through it, all authority to comfort us and lead us to the path of freedom truly belongs to Him, not us. 

I'm done doing things my way. Time to embrace surrender.