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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Is it a "Happy" New Year?

When life pounds you and you face a series of difficult life events, beware the threat of "Attitude Shift." It can be subtle at first, but then you get to a place where you suddenly realize: "Hey, this isn't really me. It's not the me God made me to be." I have found that what happens in the face of multiple hardships is a growing distrust for God, coupled with an increase in personal pleasure seeking, ie: eat and drink, for tomorrow, we die.

It's a kind of mental equation that you don't literally verbalize, but it's there in your attitude. It goes like this: "God, I no longer believe you have my best interests in mind; I'm no longer certain that you love me; and I'm not even sure that you really are good. So, I'm going to take care of me, myself, and I."  Painful to read because it's so obnoxiously wrong. And yet, as life beats us down, it is all to easy to let it erode our faith. All too easy to return to that which comes most naturally: the pleasing of self. So what do you do when you find yourself there? I'm not certain. First step, of course, is becoming aware of the shift.

The next step *I think* is to do a reality check. In other words, ask ourselves, Is our life really so awful? Really so much worse than others? In most cases, the answer to Q1 is NO. Most of us could count on our fingers and toes all the blessings in our lives and run out of digits long before we run out of blessings to number. In most cases the answer to Q2 is also, NO. What we deem "hardship" might be nothing to someone else. But what if the answer to Q1 or Q2 is YES?

What if life really has been harsh? I think it helps to consider what life is supposed to be like. I mean to say, what does the Bible say will be true of the Christian's experience in life? Just a quick overview reveals that "In this life you will have trouble." Other scriptures reveal the very real expectation of tough times: persecution, discomfort, tragedy, pain, and poverty. These are not abnormal circumstances for the Christian. This helps with perspective, doesn't it? There's always some comfort to know that we aren't being somehow singled out. Misery loves company, right?

And yet, what are we Christians if we show the world we are just a company of miserables? Too often, that's just what we look like to the world. Who wants to meet Jesus and become just as miserable as I am? LOL, not a very nice advertisement. But what does that verse say? "In this life you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART because I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD." 

This is the secret, really. Take heart. Why? Jesus beat the world with a stick. The cross. He died on the cross so that our backpack full of leaden sin could be thrown away. Jesus rose from the grave so that tragedy and death need no longer be so scary. #1 our guilt is dead. #2 our death is not final. We are free on this earth. And we have the hope of eternity before us.

None of this takes away the very real pain and heartache of tragedy. There is a time to weep and a time to mourn. Jesus weeps and mourns with us. He did for Lazarus. But Jesus has the power to resurrect the dead. So we need not be hopeless. Even when everything -EVERYTHING- goes wrong, we can know that Jesus is the master of transforming the catastrophe into the blessing. Many times, the blessing that comes through it all is that we fall to our knees and seek Jesus out more often and more sincerely. Many times, the blessing is that we grow as Christians.

1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Something else I think about in relation to all this: why should Christians be spared any trouble—any trouble at all—that the rest of the world must face? Famine, flood, fire, disease, sickness, poverty, loss, tragedy—you name it. Why should Christians be spared any of it? We ALL still live in a sin-stained, broken world. By coming to Christ in faith, we've done nothing in and of ourselves. We don't merit any "special treatment." Jesus did all the work.

And if Jesus did spare Christians the troubles of the world, or even a percentage of those troubles, how then would Christians ever be able to empathize with the world? How could we say to someone, "I feel what you feel. I know what you know."?

So perspective should help us to avoid the attitude shift. There's so much more to be explored in this issue. Books have been written. This is just my .02.

So, whether this is indeed a "Happy" New Year for you or not, I hope you'll be able to say honestly: Though He may slay me, yet will I trust in Him.