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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

out of the depths

Think about the good today. 
These words woke me one morning.  They weren’t audible, they came as a thought, but not a thought of my own.  They were soft and generous as thoughts from above can sometimes be.  I got up, still wondering how a thought could wake me.  I had been having quite the restless night—the result of many restless days, and then a simple sentence shook me.  It wasn’t complex or profound, but revolutionary for sure.

I'd been feeling like I was in a type of pit for some time.  God’s nearness and faithfulness were still certain in my mind, but I began to wonder if He had forgotten about me or set me aside.  As a self-proclaimed realist, “looking on the bright side” when things are difficult has always bugged me.   I love the part in Romans that says “Abraham…faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…”  Facing the facts makes much more sense to me than the power of positive thinking.  Pardon the clichés.  I’m on a roll.

But maybe, instead of focusing on the hard circumstances, I was being instructed to focus on the good that was also true—to the rest of that verse in Romans that says, “yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” …to shift my thoughts from the brokenness and questions to the ways God has poured out good things and Himself.  I think the Lord was saying, “ok, you’ve examined the difficult, now let’s examine the good.”  Could it be that the deliverance I’d begged for begins with the renewal of my mind?...with my deliberate choice to follow Him out of the pit? 
Sometimes God sheds His oh-so-bright light into our dark places and we sit in awe, but sometimes He shows us His light and asks us to walk to it, leaving the darkness behind. 
Sometimes He says, “be still and watch my deliverance,” (Ex. 14:14) and sometimes He says, “get up and come out.”  (John 5:8; 11:43) Today was the latter.

So how do we think about the good and how does that bring healing and restoration?
First, I think it needs to be said that grief is part of life.  We cannot expect our lives to be free of sadness.  Even if our lives were completely free from all hardship, which they’re not, the state of the world around us and the condition of human hearts can cause deep sorrow.  Our world is so broken, lives around us are so broken, our own hearts are so broken.  I think it was Amy Carmichael that said, we follow a crucified Savior.  But we face the facts and then we face a great God who can be trusted.

One command in Scripture that helps us is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5—take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.  In other words, when thoughts of self-pity, doubt, or sadness (or pride or self-righteousness, for that matter) come knocking, shut the front door.  No really, shut the front door, the back door, the windows and the garage.  You’re not escaping reality by not focusing on the difficult because the truest reality is found in Jesus Christ, which brings us to another command.

Delight yourself in the Lord.  Yes, this is a command.  Delight literally means to bend towards or to be inclined to, it also means to take pleasure in.  We serve a God who commands us to take pleasure in Him! It doesn’t say “you should delight in Him.”  The words should and delight don’t work together.  Delighting in the Lord is the response to a clear view of Him--God is delightful, we are told to enjoy Him.  As John Piper proclaims, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  Don’t seek joy (or satisfaction or pleasure), seek God and find all of the above.   If I took my son to the candy store, opened the door and simply said, “go for it!” he would have no trouble finding delight inside.  This is what God does for us, “here I am, find your delight in Me.” 
All of God’s fullness is made available to us in Jesus Christ,
we can either feast, snack, or fast.

If I am not finding delight in the Lord it is either because I haven’t subjected myself to His fullness—maybe because of busyness or disinterest; because I have looked in the wrong places and settled for a lesser-God, one that glitters and shines, but found to be fools gold; because I have so filled my thoughts with self that there is no room for Him or anything else; or because I have looked for pleasure in shadows--good things, even religious things, that only point to the reality found in Him.  As long as we are delighting in something other than the Lord, our delight in Him will be minimal. 

Think about the good.  It takes practice when those thinking muscles are atrophied, but He gives strength with every command. 

 We still face life’s difficulties, but the difference is that our joy is steadily anchored in Him—not because we have masterfully created a good anchor or a good rope, but because that which we are anchored in is strong and sure. 

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