Count It All Joy

I really didn’t want to get up this morning. Around 4am our daughter crawled into our bed and cuddling her just seems to make my heart smile.  But, once you start to wake up it’s hard to reverse the process and fall back asleep.  I can hear Karen in the bathroom starting her day, I smell fresh coffee, and quickly the tasks of the day start to rush into my head – not with any clarity mind you, just an overwhelming feeling of needing to get something done! Another deadline is here; another day of realized failure…  We need to figure out where we’re going and what we’re doing. Although this day does have a different feel to it – I don’t have the feeling of helplessness.

I was hoping to have the money together today, or at the very least, an honest timeline so we could pick up the keys to our new house. Sadly, while we did receive a handful of new leads this week, none of them converted into clients, which means no new cash flow, and no timeline. I really need to do something different to produce some different results – this situation has grown past the point of frustration.  Of course, part of the frustration is also not knowing how/what to do differently.

Bound To Happen

When you’re facing long-term trials I believe it’s only natural that one day you’ll start questioning what you’ve done wrong to deserve the fear and anguish you’re going through. It’s certainly a topic that pops into my head on a daily basis.  Yesterday, Karen was recapping the lesson in Hebrews 12 with a friend of hers, and the natural question was brought up, “What do you think you’ve done or are doing that needs chastisement?”  Ah, the question.  The question that Job’s friends really wanted Job to answer so he could address his sins and move on with his life (or just finally just die) – and now, like then, that’s just bad theology which results in asking the wrong question(s).

I listened to a message from Dr. R.C. Sproul that reminded me that there isn’t a time when we as humans do good before the Lord – and the good we do is because of God, not of our own. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” So there isn’t a day that passes that we as Christians get to pat ourselves on the back and point to our good God while saying to ourselves, “I was pretty good today!” No, God was good today, you’re still a wretch.

Let’s remember, Job, the archetype of suffering, wasn’t being punished, although, let’s also recognize that even on Job’s own merits he would not escape God’s righteous judgment and justice – and he was considered blameless. Yet, through his suffering, he grew significantly closer in his understanding of God, expressed in Job 42:3-6, and thankfully, it’s a lesson we can read about without having to experience the volume and depth of his tribulation directly.

So, should I view my present situation as a punishment? I do not. James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” And like so many other popular bible verses, I knew the words, but did not understand the depth of the meaning. Why should we count it all joy when we’re in trial? There are a lot of reasons cited in the bible, but I will address mine.

I prayed for all this.

No, I did not ask to lose everything and find myself living in a dingy motel room. No, I asked God for closeness, understanding, and faithfulness – I prayed that I would be obedient to his will, that I would put him first, that he would be the center of our family, that he would lead us, that he would be our God…  And guess what? I am closer to God, I have a greater understanding, I have read the entire bible, I have a tested faith, and I have a deeper love for God.

God has/is answering a prayer in abundance.  Which does tie into Hebrews 12.  While I may have created the mess I find myself, God is being glorified in it. God is answering my request, his plan is perfect, and for those who want to question God’s plan, you can find his response in Job 38 – Job 42.  God is correcting me to keep my eye on Jesus – Read Hebrews 12:2.

I am thankful. I am thankful that God has adopted us; that I am having the opportunity to know him, to see his hand in our lives, loving us, correcting us, and delivering us. This experience is a small price to pay for the reward of being with God – not just after I pass from this world, but to actually have his relationship with God now.  Yes, I am thankful.

When I first met Karen, I was a pack a day smoker.  Part of the courting process wasn’t just a foray into running – I also needed to quit smoking.  So, one day, I flippantly said, I’m going to stop smoking after I finish up this pack – probably the most popular caveat when telling people you’re going to quit. And Karen was quick to hold me to it. Smoking is quite the addiction, for years there wasn’t a single day that didn’t pass I did not think about having a cigarette – it’s a feeling that still pops up from time to time.  I haven’t had a cigarette in nearly 10 years, yet in the background I can feel that the addiction lingering and mildly tugging. It was hard, it was mentally and physically painful, it would consume my thoughts, it created daily rituals of when I smoked, and my body longed to keep the rituals…  I was a slave to cigarettes.

Well, Paul tells us that we were slaves to sin.  And this slavery is rooted deeper, longer, and far more socially accepted than cigarettes – sin is who we are; separating it from our nature is only something God himself can do.  And he did, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul writes, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God both justifies us and sanctifies us; and this process of being set apart is exactly that, a process that changes us – we ought not be surprised when this process turns our lives upside down as we abandon the rituals that defined our lives – and we ought not be angry, we ought to be thankful.