So, I run into this problem where I sort of expect people who are unsaved, or unbelievers, to act and live according to the standard of life that I live, to apply what we talk about in Bible study, to not compromise and refuse to be in compromising situations, and then, when they don’t behave that way, I become discouraged, and my heart aches…
But why? How can I expect them to be convicted of something they don’t believe is wrong? How can I expect them to grow when no seed has taken root, no bud has peeked out of the soil? How can I expect people to act out of a love for Christ and His love for them when they don’t believe that He’s the Son of God and that His word is absolute truth? How can I sit and become discouraged by unbelievers acting like unbelievers?
A few people have mentioned my feeling responsible for their decisions and their lives, and some have reminded me that I can control my life and my life only (and even that is controlled by God), and that other people’s decisions are not up to me to make, and their lives meant for them to live.
But of course, I’m the five-year-old over here stomping and throwing a small compassionate temper-tantrum about wanting them to do the right thing because it’s what’s best for them, knowing full well that I have areas I need to work on, and wanting to be able to work on them with them, being mutually challenged by one another. But then the five-year-old is sat down in a corner, scolded a moment with the truth, has a small moment where of course the entire world is completely ending, and then realizes that she was wrong, and is now wondering where on earth she’s supposed to go from there.
First of all, I cannot expect anyone who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, saved by His Gospel and being sanctified by the power of God and the Holy Spirit, to retain or apply anything from His word. I cannot expect anyone who is not convicted by sin to strive to seek forgiveness and grow closer to the One who forgives. I cannot expect to be able to say “Maybe that’s not the wisest decision” in all good counsel, and have them listen to my explanation of why and take it into consideration, even if I’m not under pride and just trying to prove them wrong.
Wow. How on earth did I forget that?
Paul in his first letter to Corinth even says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” though in context this referring to God’s thwarting of worldly wisdom. I believe it still applies. And then, in the same book (I love it when God uses my daily reading to show me truth that applies to my life RIGHT NOW), chapter two, he says
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (v.12-14)
Even though I believe the Bible and God’s revelation through the Holy Spirit to be the best and most foundational standard of life, I have to remember that I see the world differently. The desire of my spirit is to please God and grow closer to Him and through that bring others to Him as well: unbelievers don’t live to please God, but live to please self.
And I’m not saying that I don’t have times when I do things just to please myself. I’m still human, and I struggle with selfishness all the time. What I am saying is, however, that with the unbeliever, the idea of pleasing God and living a life dedicated to growing closer to Him and deepening their understanding of who He is isn’t a reality, it’s not a goal or desire, or at least not one that’s going to affect, change, mold, and bear weight upon the everyday decisions and actions of their lives.
Some things that have happened over the past couple of days have shown me just how little I know about how things work and what to do when things are difficult (I know, you’re so shocked). One of these things is trust.
I’ve always had the idea in my head that it should be easier to trust God than it should be to trust people, because, though God is unpredictable and His ways are often hidden or misunderstood by humans 😛 His motivations behind them and the character from which He’s acting remains the same throughout. Even when things are absolutely awful, I can be confident in trusting Him because His character and His truth are consistent, and because I’ve had experience with Him in the past, and He’s never failed yet, and He hasn’t yet given me a reason to not trust Him.
Which brings me to my next point! 😀
I’m beginning to see that trust is much like faith. The application of both of these to a situation results in an outcome that was either pleasantly or negatively unexpected, though one or the other was usually at least hoped for. You may not trust the person while you’re in the situation, but, depending on how they handle it, you trust them more when it’s all over, which sets you up to trust them more by default the next time a similar situation comes up.
Trust isn’t an ignorant or fluffy, fluttery kind of thing, and it doesn’t make you feel weak, but rather it’s a wise risk that results in both strength and greater wisdom, which is the exact opposite of what I imagined it to be. It’s built up over time. It’s not a one time decision or turn of heart, but a conscious decision one has to make each time a new situation comes up, a difficult circumstance arises, or being vulnerable is the order of the day.
So yeah 🙂
For different reasons, I didn’t go to sleep until around 3:30 this morning. When I woke up at seven, though, God gave me the energy and the desire to get up and talk to Him for an hour or so before heading to church. Talking to Him put things into focus, and His word refreshed my bones (I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s totally true). And though my heart and mind were still heavy from what happened during the night, I could lean on the One who gives rest to those who are heavy laden, the God of peace, not of confusion.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe my life is too intense or too dramatic, that maybe I shouldn’t go so against the grain and keep pushing, that maybe my Christian life should be quieter. But then, each time I open up my Bible, I realize that everything that happens and is happening in my life is in accordance with what the life of the disciple is said to be like:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
“Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11)
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
And to think all of these come from only one book in the New Testament! If you look further, the life of the disciple was never meant for the faint of heart, and the “intense” and “dramatic” moments of my life are really nothing compared to the persecution and physical pain and torture that the disciples of the New Testament went through. So, instead of expecting things to get easier and quieter, things will only continue to grow in intensity and opposition (though it’s of course small, or seems small in comparison to other things, right now) will continue to come up.
…How did the campers describe the location of their bonfire?
…In tents 😀
Because, it’s like “intense” and they’re camping, so it’s in—
Anyway! 🙂 I took the train to church, exercising a little bit of wisdom and deciding against walking to church, primarily because it was 16 degrees outside and windy. I know, I’m such a wimp. But later on, when I was walking from the subway station to the church, I was glad I’d taken the train.
In Sunday school this morning we talked about the idea of all religions being the same, which I’ve had to consider before, the first semester here at Pratt, actually. We were able to discuss and bounce things off of each other and it was wonderful 🙂 Afterwards, during the regular service, Duston preached on what real worship looks like, about how our very lives should worship God, and how it’s more than just a song on Sunday morning.
Because the temperature was dropping and the wind was harsh, the afternoon service was canceled. Heidi and Rosie asked me if I wanted to go out to lunch with them. Yes! 😀 So the three of us went to a Mexican restaurant with, yes, burritos the size of my sneaker 😛 We talked about the five love languages, how we’ve seen them in the lives of our families and in each other, our stories, church, and everything in between 🙂 It was wonderful to just spend time talking to and getting to know them better. They’re lovely 🙂
I took the train home, and by the time I got to my dorm and looked in the mirror, my nose and cheeks had been burned by the wind and I looked almost like Paul Walker did after his character experienced the snowstorm in the Disney movie “Eight Below,” chapped lips and everything. But hey, it was sunny out today 🙂 And I had plenty of energy, even though I didn’t get a ton of sleep the night before…actually, four hours is a long time to sleep, now that I think about it, in comparison to having no sleep at all. God is good 🙂
This morning, while I was talking to God, the fear of the future and the uncertainty of how everything is going to work out crept into my thoughts. “Have I upset the entire order of things?” “Is the world going to end?” Yeah.
But then, while I was talking to Him, (and I’m entirely convinced that He’d prepared me to stop and make this decision, because I couldn’t have done it on my own will) I decided to refuse to let fear make me selfish. I refused to let fear make me run, make me back down, make me doubt, make me love any less. Why on earth should I be afraid? When has God ever not kept me safe in the way He’s promised? When have I ever been wounded beyond repair? Well, I’m still here, so, never. When has God ever not come through? Sure, He came through later than I wanted, or when I wasn’t expecting it, but He came through in His timing, which He’s promised. When has my fear ever been more than an illusion?
Of course I’ll fall back into the fear, or at least a solemn understanding of the depths of the unknown…okay, that was a little deep. In other words, I’ll understand that, yeah, I don’t know what’s going to happen, I have no clue as to how things are going to work out, but I know that God has a plan, and that it’s good. And there ya go 🙂
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” —2 Corinthians 4:16-18