Do you remember how it was when you were faced with the challenge? We all went through it a few months ago. I am referring to the challenge of meeting a situation in your life that takes over control and there is very little you can do about it?
A crisis--like financial or job loss, illness, divorce, war, death--really tests our faith. In March we were all so worried about whether the US would go to war in Iraq, concerned how that would affect our lives. Then suddenly the problem of a war several thousands miles away became dwarfed for those of us who live in SARS-infected countries. Overnight the threat of death loomed at our very door and we were confined to our own homes watching in horror what was happening around us.
My own challenge about a year ago resulted in being uprooted suddenly from one country to another, uncertainty about my husband’s job and upheaval for my children. I found myself in darkness—I could not see what was ahead of me, and I learned then to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In times of trial, believers are forced to make choices. Do we trust that there is a God who is in control, do we doubt his love for us and take matters in our own hands, or do we act as if he does not exist? Of course, we must all do our very best to put our lives in order, but sometimes, as in my case, things can be beyond our control. How we relate (or not relate) with God during a crisis determines the direction of our spiritual walk.
The Hebrew sages taught that heavenly tests are intended to give us the opportunity to be elevated spiritually. Of course the Lord already knows how we will perform. By going through that test, we see for ourselves how we actually respond. It is the opportunity for us to show our conviction about him. As well, it allows the world to observe our faith. A godly response brings him glory. We lose out in his blessing when we turn from him. In trusting him, it allows us to experience God in a new way.
Well, we passed through that valley. I did anyway and looking back, I can now see that while it seemed like a period of darkness, in reality, I was in spiritual light. It was an intense time of cleaving to the Lord, like the child clutching anxiously on to her father. How I sought him more than ever, his wisdom to understand our difficult situation, his forgiveness for things that I could have done better, as well as his presence, comfort and love.
I bowed before him as the Lord of the universe, and I surrendered what I had left to him. I tried to show the world around me that I trusted in my God, and he graciously gave me strength to give him glory. As he promised, he did not fail me. In the end, there was victory. He took me past another spiritual milestone.
And now, several months later, there is peace again. Our life of predictability is with us once more. A time, it would seem, of blessedness. Indeed, we are all called to the great commission, but, there is a time for rest and this is such a time for me. Maybe you, too, are in this in-between stage--between jobs and work for the Lord.
Now I find myself facing a different challenge. I am “prone to wander.” In time of great trouble or joy, it is not difficult for me to seek and praise God but when things are fine, that is a different story.
Summer holidays and a break from Bible studies bring all kinds of distractions. I find myself being wooed by what Jesus described in Mark 4:19 as “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things.” Worldly things call out to me. I pursue them, then want more, demand more, lust for more. How wretched I am and how easily tempted human beings tend to be.
1 John 2:15 said: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” In this age of super-sizing everything, and in our buy-one-get-one-free society, how does one practice moderation, let alone live an ascetic life style? Did I really need yet another white tee-shirt even if it was on sale? Should we abstain, must we, and how can we? When do we say enough is enough? How do we live so that others can see we are Jesus’ disciples who are not chasing after the same worldly things that everyone else seems to be chasing?
How do we enjoy the blessings that the Lord has lavished on us, be content and not move beyond the point until it becomes lusting after the things and treasures of this earth, drawing us away from the path of righteousness?
How not to lose sight of our destiny in Christ? Unproductive use of time is a dangerous thing. It certainly got David into trouble with Bathsheba. Blessedness can easily turn to idleness. How perverse my inclinations can be; my tendency is to do things that draw away from God. My behavior is far from holy. Many nights, I end up disappointed with the way I have reacted to people and situations. How often have I not heeded others and thought only of myself. Many times I fail to live up to my own expectation of myself.
I realize that I have not been forced to live an austere, regimented life because our Lord’s death on the cross has given me freedom and a life to be lived abundantly in so many ways. But I do want to live a godly life and I do want my life to be a good witness for the Lord. And that takes discipline, I found. Discipline on my part, and God’s grace working in me.
How we do keep our eyes on Jesus? I have these RE-minders for myself. Firstly, let us REJOICE. For this state of rest, give thanks and praise. God is Lord of everything—he is with us in the highs and lows, but also very much working in us in the humdrum of life. A ho-hum state is really a blessing—this, too, is a season. Steward this time wisely. REST and RECREATION are very necessary for REBUILDING.
This is a time for REPLENISHING. Use it as a time to build up your body—take up exercise, eat healthfully, and get enough sleep. But get refreshed spiritually also. Always set aside time to READ and seek the Holy Spirit’s teaching in your private study. Meditate on his word and ask the Spirit for new wisdom on familiar passages. Memorize scripture—practice them during chores, driving alone, in the shower. Pick a passage from Revelations and memorize it dramatically. This is the time to fill our spiritual storehouse.
Seize the moment and use it as a time of REFINING. As we learn from his Word, let it cleanse and change our daily living. Allow ourselves to be molded in his image. As disciples, practice some things Jesus preached. Work on denying ourselves. Can we put ourselves last and others first? Hold the urge to get to the check out line before that person you see at the corner of your eye. Waiting in a queue is a good time to pray. Learn that less is more. RESTRAIN from getting the biggest piece of pie, saving it for someone else in the family or friends, or strangers. Deprive yourself occasionally. Opt for doing without. Practice treating your children and spouse as you would your friends, i.e. treating them with patience and politeness. (I put that in because I do not always treat my own family nicely, do you?) Commit thoughts and deeds to be holy ones.
Enjoy and REST in his love. We do not always have to be performance oriented. As Henri Nouwen pointed out we are the Lord’s beloved and we can just enjoy his love and blessings. Enjoy that day out at the beach, soak in the excitement of great music and dancing, including the Lord in all you do. Rejoice again in this time of peace. Rest in the bosom of his love. We are his chosen. What a privilege. RELAX.
Finally, be READY. This may be a time for rest but the Lord has a task for each and every one of us. Let us keep our ears open and our feet ready to move because when the time comes, he will call and we must respond “Here am I!”