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Finding God in times of trial

Greetings All,

   This week's 'thought' comes to you from Larry Crabb's book, "Finding God."  I have turned to this book often when I get tired of the light-weight help offered by many other more popular books which often attain their popularity by evading the issue of sin, completely bypassing God's call to holiness, and approaching Christian spirituality from a pop-psychology standpoint, rather than a biblical standpoint.
   Therefore, if you are going through a difficult time, Larry Crabb, who is a trained psychologist, can offer you a refreshing perspective -- Using your trials to find God, rather than trying to use God to get out of your trials. 

   He is compassionate yet firm, and helpful precisely because he, as any good doctor, follows the example of God in Is. 19:22 and 30:26, who strikes or wounds in order to heal.  If you want someone to tip-toe around the issue of sin, and be very indirect, and sympathize with you while failing to call you to take responsibility for your part in things, Dr. Crabb is not  the one to read.  But if you really want to be helped and healed -- to have your motivations exposed and your soul wounded that it might be made whole -- he is a very effective doctor!  Enjoy.
Enoch, the Man who Walked with God

The prophet Amos asked the question, 'Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? (Amos 3:3). [The question demands a 'no' answer.] If I am to walk with God, one thing is immediately clear: we must go in the same direction.  And God doesn't negotiate.  He invites me to join him, but He will not go with me on side trips. God's course is clear. He has committed himself to bringing 'all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ' (Eph. 1:10).  If I want to walk with him, I have no option but to join him on that path.  Agreeing to join him requires that every other ambition in my heart become secondary to promoting Christ. Anything that contradicts this purpose must be abandoned. Those terms are demanding.  Following Christ requires something of us -- more than rejoicing in our new identity. Sometimes it feels like we have to give up our only hope for life.
   I once spoke with a woman whose husband regularly struck their teenage son. The boy was terrified of his father and had given up on his faith because God was doing nothing to protect him from his father's wrath. The mother was heartbroken, confused and angry... She told me that her mother had died when she was ten years old, and four years later her father had taken his own life.  The care of her three younger siblings fell entirely on her fourteen-year-old shoulders. Over the years, she had become an intensely responsible woman, determined to solve everyone's problems, including her own...
   At one point I suggested that she had cast herself in the role of survivor.  She saw herself

as the leader of a camping expedition lost in the wilderness with a blizzard raging.  Everything depended on her.  Her one goal was to gather together her considerable resources -- she was an extremely capable woman -- and see to it that everybody got out safely. With that resolution locked deeply in her soul, her questions, 'How can I help my son?' and 'What can I do with my husband?' reflected a clenched-fist determination to make life work better.... Her agenda was to fix her world until it could properly take care of her. God's agenda is to bring all things together in Christ until every knee bows before him. These two persons -- this woman and God -- were not walking together.  They were moving in different directions.  She came to God not to walk with him, but to persuade him to supply the energy and power she needed to fulfill her purposes.  Until she changed direction, she would know neither peace in the situation nor wisdom for dealing with it.

                   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.
                   When I am not convinced that God is good, I will quietly -- but with
                   tight-lipped resolve -- take over responsibility for my own well-being...
    In our day we treat personal discomfort (self-hatred, low self-esteem, insomnia, money pressures, loneliness) as the central evil from which we need to be saved.  When we blend the pursuit of comfort with Christianity, Jesus becomes a divine masseur whose demands we heed only after we are properly relaxed. But that is not the Christianity of the Bible.  Christ offers hope, not relief, in the middle of suffering, and commands us to pursue him hotly even when we'd rather stop and look after our own well-being... Our mistake is to think that peace means having a satisfying sense of our own value and worth.  Neither definition gets to the heart of the matter.  God's peace belongs to those who have confidence in his goodness even when life is tough and their self-esteem is low.  And it should be noted[contrary to the opinion of many] that we can experience God's peace and a poor self-image at the same time."
     Our goal in difficult circumstances should not primarily be to feel better, but to trust the God who uses our wounds to make us more whole. When God (as the Divine Surgeon) takes the the knife to cut out some lingering or spreading infection, my primary concern should not be to stop the cutting and feel relief, but endure the cutting and its attending pain knowing and trusting that God's promise is true (Rom. 8:28-29) and thus His purpose is my growth in holiness, and the restoration of the divine image in my soul.  
     We often fail to realize that sin is an infection that must be dealt with frequently, and sometimes painfully. Like the soldier wounded in battle and laying on the ground biting down hard on the rag in his mouth while the medic works his miracle with the knife (knowing it must be done to save his life), we also
must do the same on occasion.  We must refuse to stop the Surgeon while he's cutting on us, knowing and trusting that His purpose in doing so is our temporal and eternal good. "The Lord will bandage his people's injuries, and heal the wounds He has inflicted" (Isaiah 30:26).
With the hope that you may agree, like Enoch, to walk with God,  Pastor Jeff