The sorrows of our lives – God’s weaning process

“The sorrows of our lives are in great part his [God’s] weaning process.  We give our hearts over to so many things other than God.  We look to so many other things for life.”- John Eldredge

As John Eldredge continues the Fall section of Walking with God, he states we’re vulnerable as long as we tie our happiness to things we can love.  In fact, the author notes a propensity in himself and everyone he knows- a stubborn inclination to view the world in only one way.  That way?  A chance to live a happy life.

Yet, the first and greatest command is to love God with our entire being.  And God’s given us many good and beautiful things in our fallen world.  John explains how to reconcile those two thoughts.  He writes:

“We are created to enjoy life.  But we end up worshiping the gift instead of the Giver.  We seek for like and look to God as our assistant in the endeavor.  We are far more upset when things go wrong than we ever are when we aren’t close to God.  And so Gold must, from time to time, and sometimes very insistently, disrupt our lives so that we release our grasping of life here and now. ”

Usually, the author notes, this disruption comes through pain.  However, our first reaction most often consists of getting angry with God.  This only serves to make John’s point.   We don’t really look to God for life.  We’re surprised by the course of events because we fail to see “the process of our life as coming to the place where we are fully his and he is our all.”

In conclusion, John makes a point to stress that he’s not suggesting God causes all pain in our lives.  But pain does come, and we must deal with it.  For example, what does our pain reveal?  How might God redeem our pain?  Most importantly, John urges, don’t waste your pain.

Today’s question: How has God used the sorrows of your life as a weaning process?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our desire to have a nice little life”

How we define the word good

“One of the reasons we have a hard time believing that God’s grace is working for good in our lives is because of how we define the word good.  We have our own ideas of how God should work for our good . . .”- Kyle Idleman

Pastor Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 10 of Grace Is Greater as he talks about how we define the word good.  We tend to believe that if God works everything for our good, the results should match how we define the word good.  Conversely, when adversity strikes, we feel that God’s failed to keep His promises.

However, Kyle observes, God’s grace works in the midst of our pain to bring about goodness in two ways:

  1. God’s grace works in your pain to draw you closer to Jesus.  The worst thing that ever happened to you ends up as the best thing that ever happened.  Why?  Because that event brought you closer to Jesus.
  2. God’s grace works in your pain to make you more like Jesus.  God uses all you’ve been through to make you more like Jesus.  Therefore, your pain always has a purpose.  And when pain has a purpose, we’re able to find the strength to endure.

In conclusion, Kyle finds it helpful to distinguish between reason and purpose.  That’s because we don’t always know if there’s a reason for our pain.  But, we do know that God, in His grace, always provides a purpose.  Hence, Pastor Idleman compares reason and purpose.

Reason:

  • looks for a because
  • wants a logical explanation that makes sense out of what happened

Purpose:

  • focuses on the for
  • offers us a hope that God is able to work good out of what happened

As Kyle encourages, just keep reading.

Today’s question: How do you define the word good?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of Grace Is Greater

He [God] also really wants our sad

“I have learned through the years that God does not just want our happy; He also really wants our sad.  Everything is not fine, and God wants to hear about it.”- Esther Fleece

Esther Fleece continues Chapter 1 of No More Faking Fine as she notes that God doesn’t minimize our pain or compare it to the pain of others.  Hence, God wants us to surrender all our pain to Him.  He responds with infinite compassion, for He alone possesses the capacity to do so.

Therefore, as Esther writes, lament provides a pathway to honest expression:

” . . . lament is a pathway.  Honest expression to God makes way for God to come and work His real healing.  Lament is a channel for powerful transformation.  It is exactly the kind of song we need for hope and healing.”

As a result, real strength consists of identifying a wound and asking God to enter it.  While no one enjoys dealing with pain, Ms. Fleece observes that we lose a great deal by wishing that pain away.  In fact, Esther finds that, to the extent we minimize our pain, we only heal to that same extent.

In addition, when we silence the reality of our pain, Esther points out, we lose an entire vocabulary from our prayers.  Thus, the church needs to be the safest place to share our pain as well as a sanctuary for our healing.

As Esther concludes, in order to lament or overcome, we must identify ourselves with Jesus.  That includes acknowledging just how painful life can be.  Silencing our own cries inevitably silences the cries of those around us.  Ms. Fleece writes:

“There is no ‘fake it till you make it’ in Scripture.  When we fake fine, we fake our way out of authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves.”

Today’s question: Knowing that God really wants our sad, how have you expressed lament to Him?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the latest Short Meditation, “Discover the beauty in sorrow”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Reclaiming the language of lament”

Get out of pain as quickly as possible

“We have not discovered the beauty in sorrow, so we try to get out of pain as quickly as possible. . . . But life will let all of us down, and we need a way to talk about it — a way we have lost along the way.”- Esther Fleece

In Chapter 1 (“God Wants Our Soul”) of No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece makes an astute observation about pain.  She states that whether your pain is (a) the result of others’ sinfulness or (b) due to your own deliberate sin and disobedience, the pain always goes somewhere.  Therefore, you need to face your pain and grieve your losses.  Also, in order to do that, you need a grid for grief.

Furthermore, the expectations of others as well as our self-imposed demands apply an incredible amount of pressure.  In fact, this pressure may be so significant that we default to faking fine.  We want to avoid the perception that we’re weak or in need.  Yet, our inability to neatly put things together and chart them out creates time, space, and quiet.  God then uses that time to expose our unhealthy normal and wrong patterns of identity.

Hence, during such times, you must allow God to transform you in the midst of your pain.  Walking you through your painful seasons reveals God’s kindness.  You learn to break the habit of faking fine.  As a result, you trust God and truly live, rather than waiting for God to deliver you from your circumstances.

In conclusion, D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) ties it all together:

“There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering.  They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God.  Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you tried to get out of pain as quickly as possible?  Please share.

SPECIAL NOTE:  on March 21, 2017 Crown hosted its 300,000th visitor.  Thanks be to God!

Tomorrow’s blog: “He also really wants our soul”

God meets us where we are

“God meets us where we are and not where we pretend to be.”- Esther Fleece

Esther Fleece recently published No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending to explain and apply the ancient biblical language of lament.  In the Foreword, Louie and Shelley Giglio (Passion City Church, Atlanta) describe the beautiful  nature of lament.  They write:

“The beautiful nature of lament is that it has a beginning and an end.  No one is meant to live forever in grief and sorrow, yet without it, our life loses all meaning and our sense of immeasurable joy that is intended for our journey.  Without lament, there is no joy.”

Next, Ms. Fleece follows the Foreword with a letter to her readers.  In the letter, she notes the desperate nature of her own circumstances- with no relief in sight.  In addition, Esther wondered if this moment pushed people to give up on God.  Yet, in the midst of a dying will and hurting heart, a lament began to surface.

However, this surfacing lament produced a deep, authentic, worth everything (emphasis Esther’s) faith.  But this type of faith comes with a cost.  Esther observes that lament was:

  • giving her a language for relating to God, her Creator
  • saving her faith
  • the only thing that enabled her to keep the line open to God in her moment of greatest need

Although  we experience pain, Esther exhorts us not “to settle for heartache without comfort.”  God cares for us too much to leave us alone.

In conclusion, Ms. Fleece provides some thought for the hurting, restless, disappointed, stuck, faithless- and even the faithful.  She writes that we’re all in this together:

“All of us need lament.  All of us long to be rescued from pain. . . . Pain will not be forever, but pain will be present in this life, and so I pray for you.  I pray for us.  That God will meet us in our distress, and that we will end the pretend, together.”

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, provide examples of how “God meets us where we are.”  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Get out of pain as quickly as possible”

Success is Who you have

“Success is not what you have; success is Who you have.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”- Genesis 50:20

In Chapter 14 (“The Peace of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans takes special note of the order in which things occurred in Genesis 50:20.  Thus, keeping this perspective in mind enables you to face life’s challenges, disappointments, pain, and confusion head on.  Hence, Dr. Evans wants you to see this order: Evil.  God.  Good.

We see this pattern throughout Scripture.  God transforms the pain and suffering of this present life when He’s brought to bear on it.  Tony explains:

“That’s why God must be an integral part of your everyday existence and not just a visit here or there.  God doesn’t want visitation privileges with you on the weekends.  He wants to be your best friend.  He wants to be your partner.”

As a result, bloom where you’re planted.  Wherever you are right now, work faithfully and serve willingly.  Joyfully submit and fully honor God.

Therefore, Dr. Evans exhorts, live obediently where God’s placed you. Of course, people tend to give up on God where they’re down.  Consequently, Dr. Evans challenges you to change your perspective:

“The more miserable things get, the more aggressive you should go after Him.  It’s easy to praise God in the sunshine, but if it’s storming in your life right now and darkness is all you see, force praise from your mouth.  Run to Him in the dark. . . . And lastly, be patient.”

As Tony quips, too many people want a microwave God, but God often functions more like a Crock-Pot!

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain confidence in Who you have?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The worst kind of waiting there is”

Where you experienced the pain the most

“God has a way of blessing you exactly where you experienced the pain the most.”- Dr. Tony Evans

Tony Evans concludes Chapter 10 of Detours as he provides three ways to know you’ve truly forgiven someone.

1.  You don’t bring other people into the situation that have nothing to do with the sin.  Dr. Evans asserts you always can tell when a person speaks words of forgiveness, yet their actions tell a different story.  Therefore, such people will:

  • gossip
  • involve people in the problem or knowledge of the problem who have nothing to do with that problem
  • include people who can’t even fix the problem

These people seek revenge, not forgiveness.  In addition, they promote the sin of gossip.

2.  You seek to make the offender feel at ease with you.  In Genesis 25, we read that Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.”  True forgiveness creates a space where the penitent offender freely comes and feels safe.

3.  You try to help the offender forgive himself or herself as well.  Joseph refused to pile more guilt on top of the guilt his brothers already felt.  Hence, when you believe God can use your adversity to take you to your destiny, that belief enables you to help guilty people forgive themselves.  In the process, that protects them from further pain and shame.

While Joseph never forgot what his brothers did to him, he forgot the pain.  As a result, Joseph no longer lived under the pain.  In fact, Dr. Evans stresses, “God has a way of blessing you exactly where you experienced the pain the most.”

Today’s question: How has God blessed you exactly where you experienced the pain the most?   Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s sovereign control and arrangement of life”

Development- a painful process

“Development . . . often a painful process of breaking us out of our own ambitions and independence so we can live a life of surrender and obedience before God.”- Dr. Tony Evans

In Chapter 2 (“The Pain of Detours”) of Detours, Tony Evans reminds us sometimes God asks us to take the next step without revealing our destination.  Hence, when we understand the normative reality that living a life of faith involves detours, we’re more willing to trust God.  We believe He’ll reveal the rationale and reason as time goes on.

Yet, something curious occurs when God’s ready to move you to the next level.  Things actually get worse before they get better!  As a result, God creates detours in order to:

  • perform needed construction on the pathways of your soul
  • chip away at parts that don’t fit where He’s taking you
  • strengthen the things not yet ready for your destiny
  • roadblock you several times before reaching your destination- depending on your response

Furthermore, seeing purpose through the pain enables us to bear up under our pain with a great deal more dignity.  Sometimes that pain involves losing something we treasure.  In fact, Dr. Evans observes, often the very thing you fear losing the most is the thing you lose.  Until life strips you of your own self-sufficiency, you lean toward self-reliance.  When you hit rock bottom, Dr. Evans states, you discover that God is the rock at the bottom.

In conclusion, Dr. Evans offers these words of encouragement:

“God has a plan for you.  Try not to fight the detours that are designed to take you to its culmination.  Praise Him in the pain, even if it’s just a faint word that falls off your parched lips.  He knows what He is doing,  He has great things up ahead for you.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses strengthen your spiritual development during your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Never mistake the hand of God”

Give them pieces of your heart

“Instead of giving someone a piece of your mind — it’s far better to give them pieces of your heart.”- Ann Voskamp

In Chapter 16 (“When It Comes to Wooing God and Healing Wounds”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp cites Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher.  Mr. Vanier observes:

“Most of the time to discover new meaning we have to go through a cross, we have to go through a breakdown.”

As a result, Ann states, two opposing options present themselves as a response to hurt and pain:

  1. throw up a barrier to vainly keep the hurt out, using bricks of escapism, defensiveness, apathy, or distraction
  2. break down your barriers, break right open, and let love with all its pain in; pick up your cross and choose the humility of vulnerability

Furthermore, no barrier in the world blocks out pain.  In addition, any attempt to block out pain only creates a pain all its own.

Yet, although being broken or rejected may hurt like a kind of hell, it will be holy.  For God created you to grow into something more.  However, you must be brave enough for this to happen.

Most noteworthy, Ann puts forth a significant caveat regarding anger:

“Never become a container for anger.  Anger is the only toxin that destroys what it’s carried in.”

Also, defending our own hearts deafens us to the cries of other hearts.  This absurdity (from the Latin surdus, meaning “deaf”) of hurt only changes when we listen to each other’s hearts.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you given those responsible pieces of your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Brokers of healing”

Shards of our broken hearts

“I get to live into the dare that . . . though shards of our broken hearts pierce our lungs’ every breath, there’s the grace of a miraculous communion of all the broken.”- Ann Voskamp

Author Ann Voskamp concludes Chapter 13 of The Broken Way by stating fuller inclusion in the life of Christ comes from loving broken people during times of inconvenience.  Therefore, dying to live = loving as much as you allow others to inconvenience you.  People you can count on to show up have something real to show for their life.

Hence, loss possesses the potential to transform you.  For example, Charles Spurgeon once said the bed of pain enabled him to grow in grace more than anything else.  In addition, Elisabeth Elliot, wife of murdered missionary Jim Elliot (1956), weighs in on the subject of pain.  Elisabeth wrote:

“I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us.  In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”

The greatest returns come when we love with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  And, Ann reminds us, “it’s never too late to live a remarkable, inconvenient life given to the interruptions of now.”  Furthermore, Ann notes, interrupt comes from the Latin word interrumpere, meaning to “break into.”

As Ann concludes, you live “breaking into each new moment.”

Today’s question:   What shards of your broken heart cause the most pain?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Grieving how plans change”