What do you do with your suffering?

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Suffering

 

 

 

If you can commit to reading one ‘meaty’ book this summer that will bless you, invest the time in Tim Keller’s work:

Walking with God through pain and suffering

Here’s what resonated this morning during my 10 minutes (I’ve been reading just a few pages at the end of my quiet time):

Boiled down….

  • Either God is the ‘supporting actor or accomplice’ in the drama called Me or He is God and I am not guaranteed that I’ll understand all His ways in my life.

Framing God as MY helper results in the following:

  • ‘desperate, doomed, exhausting effort to control all the circumstances of my life’
  • anxiety about how my life will turn out – Maybe God won’t answer my prayer THIS way!
  • the burden of thinking my life is up to me and my prayers
  • the fear of ‘bad stuff’ happening to those whom I love: what if?????

what if

 

 

  •  By planning out how God should act in my circumstances and solve the problems of those I love, I’ve actually created an IDOL, a version of God that suits me, despite the anxiety I experience.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The one and only true and living God offers a way out if I…..:

  • Acknowledge that He alone is God and there is no other
  • His ways are best.  He IS the Creator and Sustainer of all life
  • He doesn’t owe me an explanation; after all He is transcendant and I’m finite.  I doubt I’d understand all that He is doing even if He told me!
  • There can be only one Happy Controller, King of Kings & Lord of Lords – and that job is taken! (1 Tim  6:15)

Tim Keller draws from Elizabeth Elliot’s writings.  She’s the widow of Jim Elliot who was murdered by those to whom he was witnessing.  She has known more suffering than a lot of us.  Out of the richness of  lessons learned through pain, she cautions against figuring out God’s reasons for suffering.

When we find ourselves praying from a belief system we’ve created ourselves, “My God would never do XYZ!”, then we should be alerted to our own idolatry.

Idolatry

 

 

 

Elliot recounts the story of a missionary who lived in constant anxiety:

  • ‘Margaret realizes that the demise of her plans had shattered her false god, and now she was free for the first time to worship the True One.  When serving the god-of-my-plans, she had been extraordinarily anxious.  She had never been sure that God was going to come through for her and “get it right.”  She was always trying to figure out how to bring God to do what she had planned.  But she had not really been treating him as God – as the all-wise, all-good, all-powerful one.  Now she had been liberated to put her hope NOT in her agendas and plans but in God himself.  If she could make this change, it would bring a rest and security she had never had.’  (p. 172, Keller)

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while,  you might recall that two years ago I read another book about letting God be God called Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow: Link to her book here.  That’s where I learned about handing over the reins of my life to God.  Obviously reading one book and discussing it with a friend was not enough to cause lasting change!  Thank you Tim Keller for providing another reminder of the burden/sin /illusion of control.

Question: Do you really want to control your own life? 

Controlling my life

 

 

How do Christians make decisions?

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Do Christians make decisions differently than non-Christians?

I ask because I think that all of us, pagans and Christians alike, want to make good decisions and have peace.

It seems to me that within the Christian community, there are two approaches.  I have tried both and am now a practitioner of the 2nd kind.

The first decision-crisis I ever lived through was when our oldest son, a new Christian, was faced with a significant intersection in his life.  He was a freshman in college and had applied to a different one for his sophomore year.  When he was accepted in January, he faced a difficult choice.  And as a baby believer, he wanted to trust God.  He explicitly announced that he was going to wait on God to give him an answer.  That got ME worried!

  • what if God didn’t answer him; how would he decide?
  • what would an answer even look like?
  • how might a lack of response impact his fledgling faith?

Graham, himself, didn’t know what to expect, but he plunged ahead with this ‘experiment’ in what he thought was biblical decision-making.  He vacillated for about 2 weeks and finally got mad at God. Then God graciously gave him a consistent FEELING of rightness about staying at the current college and NOT transferring.  After living with the FEELING that staying was the right choice, Graham declined the offer from the other college.

I, too, had a feeling-based decision-making experience.  I decided I wanted to leave a current job.  But on the assumption that I should wait for a sign from God, I did nothing but pray.  What would a sign from God look like?  That was the scary part!  Would I even recognize God’s prompting?

Graciously, God indulged my immature view and gave me a feeling of, “I’ve had it!” at the current school. With my husband’s approval, I told my supervisor that I would not seek a contract for the following year. My Christian friends supported this decision-making method by quoting me the verse from Colossians 3:15…Let the peace of God rule or umpire in your hearts.

It seems like Christians live by feelings and not by faith.  And I was one of them.  But reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something,

on decision-making started to change how I make decisions.     Link to Amazon

His premise is that as we soak in God’s principles from the Bible, we gain wisdom.  And God actually wants us to put that wisdom to use.  We are to grow up as we practice walking by faith in Him and not by sight. If we wait on a sign from Him, then we risk nothing.   But if we make a decision, having prayed and sought counsel, then our acting IS a step of faith. And God promises to guide our ‘ship in motion’ if we head in the wrong direction.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord guides his steps. Prov 16:9

Elizabeth Elliott, a godly and mature older Christian, addresses that perennial topic: How do we know God’s will for our life.  Like Kevin DeYoung, she also counsels wise action when she says, DO THE NEXT THING.

Actually God’s will for our life really isn’t about whom we should marry or which job to take.  It’s our growing up in godliness that He’s after.  At some point, the training wheels come off and we walk on our own.  (But Abba-Papa is always near)

Next week, God-willing,  I ‘ll talk about our experiment with the ‘step out in faith’  type of decision-making.  In the mean time, I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences in dealing with decisions as you have grown in Christ.

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