Saturday, January 5, 2013

Life Ain't Easy

You ever feel the urge to slap someone upside the head - hard - and pray it rattles their brain enough to open their eyes to reality? Welcome to my life.

Or how about the desire to stand up in the midst of a crowd of people acting hatefully and just scream at the top of your lungs, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!"? Yep. Me, too.

Have you ever seen the bumper stickers and t-shirts that say "The only reason some people are still alive is because it's illegal to kill them"? Yeah, I've felt that way at times, too.

Only the law has nothing to do with my restraint. The Lord does. Knowing how He feels about those urges to slap someone upside the head, or scream at people, or take them out altogether keeps me in check. Understanding His expectations has also prevented me from verbally tearing into someone on occasions when my flesh SO very much wanted to do just that.

Looking back on those situations, I understand why He wanted me to stay silent - most often the other person made themselves look like a complete idiot all on their lonesome, no help from me needed (and I likely would have looked like just as big an idiot if I had stooped to their level). In addition, it gave me an opportunity to glorify God when someone asked me how I managed NOT to rip into that person when I would have been totally justified in doing so. "Only through God's restraint. It was all Him. Not me."

Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Having self-control and exercising patience and gentleness when people act in nasty ways is a serious challenge. And I pray A LOT about this at times. Thus the reason a lot of people haven't had to deal with me truly angry and ready to verbally flay hide off their backside. And since we're supposed to be thankful in all things, I thank the Lord (rather begrudgingly, I admit) for the countless and unending opportunities people give me to practice those three fruits of the Spirit. (Have I mentioned I really prefer they behaved?)

Then there's the battle to not let those people steal my Joy in the Lord. That's a battle and a half. Some people seem to almost go out of their way to tear down and hurt others, to devalue them and steal their joy. They'll even often go so far as to tell you they're doing it for "your own good". (Which is really their way of saying they don't care if it hurts you - suck it up and deal with it whether you like it or not.) I just don't understand that mindset. My grandmother says that's a good thing - if you understand their mindset, you're probably more like them than you want to realize. So I guess my ignorance on that score is a blessing.

And the reality is the believers around me tend to behave FAR worse than the non-believers. Yeah, I know. That's not how it's supposed to be. As believers and followers of Christ, we should know better than to act even more hatefully than the world around us often does.

Living in this fallen, sinful world is so definitely not easy - and some days are worse than others. Some days are good, and people around me actually act like civilized, loving human beings who care about each other the way the Lord tells us to.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another."
John 13:35 (NASB)

Other days... I come home bone weary from dealing with the attitudes out there. And some of the folks who act the most ugly are also the ones who should most decidedly know better and, thus, have no excuse.

"But if you bite and devour one another,
take care lest you be consumed by one another."
Gal. 5:15 (NASB)

Still other days, I wake knowing I'll have to face those people again and ask "Do I really have to go out my front door, Lord? Can't I play hookey from life? Just for today? Please?"

Usually the answer is a resounding no. Oh, well. Never hurts to ask, right? Then my prayer becomes, "Okay, but You're going to have to walk with me every step today, or I'll royally blow it. Please stay with me and slap a guard over my mouth so I don't say something I shouldn't."

The thing I find most troubling of all is that I'm seeing prophecy come to pass in ways I never imagined as I watch the behavior of the people around me. Christ warned that as the end drew near:

"... most people's love will grow cold."
Matt. 24:12 (NASB)

The worst I see on a regular basis is Christians outright lying about and to each other, choosing to believe lies about one another then spreading those lies around through gossip and rumor-mongering, shredding each other and devaluing one another just to build up self, wallowing in self-righteousness to the point they reflect hatred to the world and even to other believers. This is probably most grievous of all because they should know better. There's no excuse for such behavior.

Love truly is growing cold.

Such behavior reflects badly on God and the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, which won't be without consequences in the long run. How long will God allow people to shred each other and claim they're doing it in His name? Only the Lord knows. But His patience will reach its limits, and no excuses or whining will change His response.

Seeing all of this, knowing all of this, and seeing the damage people do to one another (and so often not CARING they hurt or destroy others) drives me closer to the Lord and makes me desire even more to be different than the world around me, to be a true reflection of God's love and hope. I don't want to "bite and devour" others. I don't want to hurt them, consume them, destroy them. I want them to see Christ's love reflected in me and know someone loves them. I want to hold them accountable in love as we're supposed to, not beat them over the head with the Bible in self-righteous legalism. I want to love them enough to offer correction through that love with gentle kindness. I want to reflect God.

And it's a struggle. Life ain't easy. God never promised it would be easy. Just that we wouldn't face it alone. He gives us the power to walk perfectly, but we so seldom tap into that power. Human nature, the flesh, is always battling against the Spirit and our desire to follow the Lord. But we can't surrender to the flesh. The outcome of that daily battle is too important. Hearts and lives depend on it. Souls depend on it.

I'm no more perfect than anyone else. The flesh drags me down, too. But my prayer remains, "Lord, help me reflect You to others." And quietly, in grief, "Don't let me bite and devour those who need Your love as I see so many others doing." I don't want to hurt others. I want to see them strengthened in Christ, walking in right fellowship with Him. Tearing them down, beating them over the head with legalism (which is usually not accurate anyway), lashing out in anger (whether we feel justified or not) isn't the way to do that.

The reality is, the world needs Christ. If we don't show Him in our lives, in how we conduct ourselves and treat others, how will they see Him? Believe me, I know God will reach them without us, and often despite us, but He shouldn't have to. Where's the gratitude we should have for Him and His tremendous sacrifice on our behalf? Where's the love we're supposed to have for one another and the world around us?

We have two choices. We either support God's plan and act in obedience, thereby earning the blessings God wants to bestow on us so richly, or we allow our lives to be a warning to others by walking in a manner unworthy of the blood of Christ, stand in the way of an unstoppable process and reap His judgment. I don't know about you, but I prefer to be in that first group.

I choose obedience.

Will you?

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Dawn. Thank you for your message and for your courage in writing it.