Tuesday, September 06, 2005

When Life has you Down

You probably have an idea of what I mean here. Your relationship with your spouse is not what it could be, so you're discouraged. Or maybe you're not getting done in work what you should be. Maybe the kids are unruly and you seem unable to settle them. Perhaps there are issues in church you think should change, but the inertia of the members seems too much. You feel lethargic, as if you can't do anything, and worse, you feel trapped into this.

It would be easy for me to say, "Just break out of it!" With God's strength you can do anything! There's even a verse that says this, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."

But I have found, as have others, that God is not to be manipulated into getting you out of your slump. There's no making deals with God: "Lord if you just get me out of this, I'll..." Prayer is good; however, while God will answer the prayer, it may not be the way you expect. I read somewhere that a little boy prayed very hard for a bicycle for Christmas. His family was very poor, and he didn't get one. So a friend of his said, "Well, it sure sounds as if God didn't answer your prayer!" But the boy, showing a remarkable maturity, said, "Yes, He did. He said no."

I once heard George Grant speak in person; it was at the 2003 ACCS Conference, and the title of his talk was "Slow Miracles, Small Graces." His point was that God usually works by showing you one step at a time, not the entire remainder of your path. The idea is generally to keep your mind on the here and now, the next thing you should be doing. It's human nature to despair of ever achieving gigantic goals, but small ones we think we can handle. But even then, if we decide we're going to do it on our own strength, God has a way of tripping us flat on our face. No, God's strength is made perfect in weakness: our weakness.

But just because we are supposed to rest on God's strength doesn't mean that we are not involved in doing things. I remember a Peanuts cartoon, which shows Snoopy at an intersection, wanting to cross the street. He pushes the button marked "Push button to cross street" and then he waits... and waits... and waits. Then along comes Linus, hoofing it over the street and he says, "You have to move your feet, too." Snoopy remarks, "How embarrassing." The Bible speaks of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. That's a paradox, and I don't know how it works, but it's not a contradiction. It's a paradox, a seeming contradiction to my expectation. Of course, my expectation could well be wrong in this case, and almost certainly is.

So the thing to do is ask God for the daily strength you need, and then go out and do what you need to do. Of course, making more long-range plans is not wrong, and helps to determine what your daily plans will be. It is, however, imperative that you submit all your plans to God's will. "Not my will, O Lord, but Yours be done."

In Christ,

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