|Photo provided by iStock.com
God has seen fit that this will be an extreeeeeeeme testing season for my family. I have never seen the fire turned up on us in quite this way and never seen so many of my own impurities surface. It is devastating to see just how ugly I can be (or is this only scraping the surface?! )!
Yesterday, I felt like I couldn’t handle even one person at church asking me that dreaded question: “How are you?” I am honest. I can’t handle saying “Fine” if I am not fine. Even if I am feeling a bit off, I don’t like to say “Fine,” let alone when I feel like my world is caving in…which I do…right now. (Note: If you are one of our church family, please know I love you dearly. Your hugs and prayers mean so much to us right now.)
So, I decided I was heading to an early service at a church some distance away.
You see, I had spent a very challenging night wrestling with God over big issues–over faithfulness (my imperfect perception of his as well as my own), forgiveness and my developing hatred toward other people (don’t worry, if you are reading this blog, it is doubtful you are one of them!), to name just a few. Yes, it is true! And even these words seem to sanitize what was really going on during the middle of the night. I had it OUT with God and it is amazing to me that I wasn’t given what I “deserve,” all right. I demonstrated in the dark of night that I am totally worthy of hell–my heart is so black. And even now, as I consider what transpired, I see I yet cherish sin in my heart. Oh, there is SO much work to be done…so much purifying. Why He tolerates me is beyond me.
and then are angry at the Lord.
Anyhow, with 100% attitude and 0% humility, I burst in on my family members’ sleeping reverie at 6:30am and announced to them we were going to an 8:15am service 40 minutes away so they had 45 minutes to get ready. (What a treat to be greeted by a mom like that on a Sunday…sheesh!). We normally attend a service here in our town five minutes from our home that starts at 10:30am.
Sherwood Carthen was the special guest speaker and he delivered a message which God, in spite of my arrogance, used to slap me (lovingly) upside the head. The question that brought me to the end of myself was, simply, “What am I pursuing? Godliness? Or happiness?” (It is related to the question asked a couple of days ago and echoing in the empty corners of my mind ever since…”Is Jesus enough for me?”)
In my anger and frustration with the trials I am currently facing, with my threats to God about how I intend on handling what he has ordained for me, it is clear that I feel happiness is not only my priority pursuit, but it is my RIGHT. This is defective. I know this. Even on a day when I am dim and lacking sleep I know this. But God somehow moved in and exposed just how selfish and superficial my insistence has been that I have things MY way. This simply isn’t pursuing godliness. Not even close. Even when the things that I insist on seem good, godly, wonderful, biblical, and like God has given them to me. (OUCH!)
I was broad-sided — if tears were equal to repentance (they aren’t), then I would be in good shape for a 180 degree turn and transformational shift in my paradigm. I realize right now, so many hours after hearing the message, though, that I still have an attitude toward the Lord about the things that are going on in my life.I need to invite God to soften my heart and remove the calluses on my heart that are building by my rebellion.
What will I do with the message God personally made sure I heard this morning? I believe with all my heart that I am accountable for what I hear. Here is an outline of what Sherwood Carthen taught:
When Happiness is my Pursuit:
- Anything is ok – there are no boundaries, no limits (this addresses things I dared to “threaten” God with during the night!)
- It often ends in frustration and blame (I am blaming a whole bunch…when all else fails and no one else is around to blame, I have been blaming God…)
- God is not the priority – This one is trickier because it sure seems like “I HAVE made you my priority, God!” But I think it comes back to that old thing of making God’s gifts the priority. This can be subtle…very subtle. Even my “right” to a “quiet time”…that sounds so wonderful, but the fact is, quiet is a gift. A sense of His Presence is a gift, too. Do I esteem the Giver of the gift as much as the gift? If I don’t feel Him, or the Word seems devoid of feeling, will I still trust He is here and that is precious enough? Or do I insist that He “behave” in a way that meets with my approval? Who is God here, after all?
When Godliness is the Pursuit:
- The Spirit of the Living God changes the way you think – I really needed a change in my thinking in the wee hours of the morning…and I still need changes in my thinking…NOW. Pursuing godliness will ensure that I allow the HOLY Spirit access to my thoughts.
- Training for godliness is a priority – recently, I have begun to give more attention to fitness. Not in an inappropriate way (yet), but in a way that I believe is best for me. I want to be stronger and have better cardiovascular health. Am I making my training in godliness the priority (at least) that I am my physical training? I don’t just mean having a quiet time. But am I considering all of life–the moments that challenge me–an opportunity to train? I do this when someone does something that wounds me and choose what I will say or do in response. I have a chance then to “train” myself in godliness. Or do I “indulge” myself in doing whatever I want in those moments?
- contentment is produced – this is a sweet promise, and absolutely true.
Therefore, the goal in this life:
- …is NOT happiness. This is a no-brainer, really, but nevertheless, I realized as I listened that it was precisely what I had been insisting upon. I had elevated my happiness to the place of “idol.”
- …nor is it heaven (heaven is a promise for those who are in Christ).
- …it is to BE LIKE GOD.
These points ALL spoke uniquely and personally to my personal “bullet points” laid out for God during the late night and early morning hours. In fact, God couldn’t have responded more obviously to much of my tirade had he spoken audibly at the time.
How about you? Can you relate at all? Is happiness your primary pursuit like it has been mine? Have you found yourself frustrated and blaming others (or even, like me, blaming God)?
Let’s allow God to change our focus and our priority. He will change our thinking and we will experience contentment.
In what ways might this impact your eating or your view of your body? I know it definitely impacts me in this way!