Archive | August, 2013

Looking Back, for Strength to Look Forward

21 Aug

I’m breaking the silence on the blog… Here it is. I am glad that people probably have few or no expectations about me writing on here so in my absence (and that of all my co-writers), I’m sure life has gone on and everyone is doing just fine. Nonetheless, I think I’m ready to jump back in!

I’ve been learning MANY lessons over the past few months. I’m sure I haven’t arrived at a place where I can say that I now know and have fully grasped what it is that the Lord is teaching my and why He’s doing it now, but, somehow there are things that I think are getting through my stubborn skull. It’s funny how lessons don’t come in neat, tidy, easy to understand packages. Sometimes you get a little of this here, and something more there. Just the way it is with little children, you instruct a bit on one day, and that doesn’t mean that they get it immediately. It often takes time. A long time. Some lessons will keep being taught over and over in many ways and at many times, but there is a reason and purpose, and even when we don’t get the “why”, it doesn’t matter.

I’ll try and dig in to exactly what I mean by using a recent example. This past summer, I’ve often found myself floundering in discouragement. I am faced with some area of sin, some struggle I’m having, whether it be with patience towards my family, or learning to gain self-control in many areas of my life (time, money, etc.), and I begin to believe that there’s no hope and that things will always be the way they are. I’ll never stop responding with annoyance when I’m asked a question for the fifth time, and I’ll never say no to that unwise purchase, because I always find a way to rationalize my choices, even when I know they’re not the best. As I have on many days felt disheartened and hopeless, the Lord has brought to mind my past. Can you think back to when you first became a believer? When you first became convicted about sin in your life, or realized that the direction you were going in some particular area was not good, what happened? Did God leave you to wallow in self-reliance and guilt? I am sure that the answer for a believer is no. It is a good thing to remember back, and even list off mentally (or on paper if that helps you), struggles that you once had that have been overcome. I can think of many, many different things that I used to feel hopeless about, that God has brought me through. I’m not the same person I once was. That doesn’t by any means mean that I’ve arrived, or am floating around in some state of perfection, far from it. It is just a reminder that God is good and He doesn’t leave us in our sin. He who began that good work, WILL be faithful to complete it. It is Him, not us, working to conform us to the image of His son.

Reading from an piece written on another blog, I was reminded of how when parents are teaching their children, lessons get learned after much repetition. It is rare that the first time they hear or see something, they’ll pick it up and have no problem recalling what to do or say the first time they’re tested. But over time, they do learn. Thank God for His patience with us. We are just as stubborn. We want to insist that our way is the better way, or that we must see our situation more clearly than He does, so He’ll understand why it was ok for us to behave the way we did, without faith and hope in Him, and without obedience.

In a world where the world discipline has such a bad rap and is most probably associated with abuse, or unfair treatment, it’s hard to get our minds around the fact that it really is such a good thing. It’s a good thing to experience discipline and to practice it. The Bible says that if we are not disciplined by God, then we aren’t his children, because a loving parent disciplines the children he loves. God does the same thing. He chastises us, for our good. Again, with little kids, it’s the exact same way. We put limits on their desires, and stop them from going ways that are not good, not to restrict them but because we love them, and the ultimate freedom is not found in wandering whatever way they think is best, but in staying in safety, where they are able to fully enjoy liberty without hurting themselves and others. God’s reminders to us through His Word about sin, about the reality of our hopelessness, are not meant to leave us despairing and turning inwards for the solution. They’re meant to turn us towards Him so that we go to the real source of hope and strength. His discipline is a sign of His love.

Here’s one more point on discipline that comes from another recent experience. I’ve been running a lot this past summer. I’ve never particularly liked running and I actually don’t really know what got me started. I love sports, and I love exercise, but I guess because my time is limited in some ways, I find myself unable to do certain types of exercise that I’d typically be drawn to. I can remember participating on various teams growing up, and knowing what it meant to commit to some form of athleticism. The commitment didn’t just happen at game time on the field, or the ice, it happened prior, during 6 am practices. It happened at home, practicing some skill on the driveway. It meant saying no to other activities so that I could say yes to being on a team. But it always felt worth it because at the end, regardless of whether I played on a winning team or not, the satisfaction of having committed to something and having been willing to see it through till the end was good. With running, I have no one to hold me accountable. It’s just me out there, on the road alone early in the morning. I sometimes run with a friend and we’ve mentioned to each other several times that waking up and getting out the door is the hardest part. But once you’re out there, and once you finish that run, you feel great, not just physically but mentally as well. There is something valuable in telling your body to do things that it doesn’t want to do. It is a good thing to force yourself to work hard, even though you know your muscles will ache and you’ll have to crawl out of a warm bed, because the end result is so much better than not doing anything at all. Discipline is like that. It hurts you in the present, and the reward doesn’t show up till later on. You don’t want it, because it seems hard to accept that anything painful or difficult could be good (regardless of how many times you’ve seen results!). I’m telling you, even after running several days a week, getting up for that fifth time in spite of the benefits, is still a challenge. I’m sure it will continue to be, everyday I choose to go out.

To wrap all this up, remembering where we’ve been, and the fact that we’re not there anymore is hopeful. It reminds us that God has disciplined us, and will continue to discipline us for our good and for His glory. We don’t need to loose hope. We need to look up instead of inside. And the looking back serves as a good reminder that there are spiritual exercises that you have been put through and have seen results from. Just as our physical bodies need reminding that pain can be a good thing when it is used to mould us into a new person, so with spiritual difficulties and even failure. We’re reminded that we aren’t who we should be, but, to borrow from a quote whose author I can’t remember, by God’s grace, we’re not who we used to be, and one day, we will be who He has called us to be.

Till next time!

(Lord-willing not in 8 months!!!)