This week's "thought" comes to you as a result of my being out of town this past Sunday visiting my brother Jon who pastor's the just north of Pittsburgh, PA. Randy (my associate here at ) filled in for me while I was away and in his message quoted this section from Larry Crabb's book, "Finding God." It's a good reminder (in our self-absorbed society) that we must be careful not to get caught up in the prevailing cultural sense that everything in life is about us and for us.
As a Christian psychologist is one of the few who has been able to retain a very Godward focus. We must also strive to do so, lest our own focus and the priorities that flow from it come to be dictated more by the world than by the Word.
The premise of his book is stated in the first quote, where he tells us not to waste our pain. It is then spelled out in greater detail in the others that follow. Enjoy!
"We have become committed to relieving the pain behind our problems rather than using our pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God. Feeling better has become more important than finding God."
What does he mean?
"Helping people to feel loved and worthwhile has become the central mission of the church. We are learning not to in self-denial and costly service, but to embrace our inner child, heal our memories, overcome addictions, lift our depressions, improve our self-images, establish self-preserving boundaries, substitute self-love for self-hatred, and replace shame with an affirming acceptance of who we are....
Although the gospel does bless us with a new identity that was meant to be enjoyed, it calls us to higher values than self-acceptance -- values like turning the other cheek, esteeming others as greater than ourselves, going the second mile, enduring rejection and persecution, living not for the pleasures of this life but for those of the next one, and clinging to the promises of God when we don't feel His goodness. But these higher values, the kind that make 'people of whom the world is not worthy,' have fallen upon hard times...
We treat personal discomfort (self-hatred, low self-esteem, insomnia, money pressures, loneliness) as the central evil from which we need to be saved (instead of sin, idolatry, rebellion against God, and so forth).* When we blend the pursuit of comfort with Christianity, Jesus becomes a divine massuer whose demands we heed only after we are properly relaxed. Our agenda is to fix the world until it can properly take care of us. God's agenda is to bring all things together in Christ until every knee bows before him...
The question we need to ask is this: Are we merely living, or are we walking with God? I must surrender my fascination with myself to a more worthy preoccupation with the character and purposes of God. I am not the point. He is. I exist for him; he does not exist for me."
When my focus becomes earth-bound, and the joy of my relationship with God becomes obscured by constant irritations in regard to "not-as-I'd-like-it-to-be" quality-of-life issues, then its time to step back and see if I can't use my pain and irritations "to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God." For as Crabb reminds us (and previous generations seem to have grasped better than us), in the ultimate sense it is more important that people find God than that they simply feel better.