Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Mystery of Striving endlessly, but never Finding, and the true source of Meaning

Are you one of those people whose always going but rarely arriving?  Yeah I know the feeling.  Sometimes you just forget what you're even chasing, what the root desire was.  I must say I see it everyday.  I guess these are results of a sin spun planet.  It's easy to verify.  There are some really heartbreaking realities, things most don't see.  I get to see them now.  I've been working at a Salvation Army homeless shelter for two months now.  I get to see a lot of it.  Battered girlfriends.  Lifetime alcoholics, day by day for 60 years.  Sending those people onto to the street because they're intoxicated, or calling the police because they're becoming violent.  Well wow.  It's not something I'm used to.

Yet I find a lot of peace intermingled with the crisis situations.  It's like I'm suppose to be doing it.  I can't really explain it.  Obviously it felt like the job came from God.  The name of the business gave it away.  But I didn't realize there could be a job I could enjoy.  In the past I've jockeyed a cash register, or answered emails for a shoe company, or checked medical insurance claims for errors.  But knowing I'm doing something that actually matters.. well, that's priceless.

Ugly decisions, but that's this life.  There is very little black and white.  It's a billion shades of gray.  Which makes it all the more amazing that Jesus Christ never sinned once.  These situations get so muddy.  Who wants to make those kinds of decisions?  And the dispersive ironies regarding whom God chooses to make the hard calls, in such situations.

The Bible says to whom a little was entrusted, much will be entrusted later.  Sometimes we have to go, and go, and go, and sometimes we have to arrive in today.  And live the day.  Let me ask you something: Does a child sex offender need your mercy as much as a battered wife with a black eye?  I didn't ask if the sex offender deserved it, but if they were in need of it.  We all need mercy for different reasons, and we all need grace if we're going to survive in a world shattered by sin.

I'm the kind of person who is always striving but never attaining, and I rarely allow myself the comfort of the feeling of a job well done.  Is that you as well?  Is guilt and binding shame your constant companion?  Allow me to recommend a book that has been helping me recently, it's called "Healing for Damaged Emotions" by David A. Seamands.  So far so good, there is much healing to happen in my life.  The stress and depression has mounted lately, to overwhelming levels, but I take heart.

The Bible is filled with depressed greats.

1 Kings 19 1-2 Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”
3-5 When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

In the wake of Elijah's great victory against the wicked false prophets, he became depressed as Jezebel threatens his life.  Good thing the believers around him didn't tell him he must be "in sin" because hes depressed.  Spurgeon, Luther, Brengle, the greats have all suffered from depression and pain.  What about Jesus Christ, "Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matthew 26:38)

Things became quite tough recently, and I leaned heavily on God.  And many a time it felt like I was in free fall, leaning into a blank nothingness, calling on one who seems unwilling to step in and shelter me.  But I clung to my trust in God, defiantly, stubbornly refusing to let go or question.  I hid in my God.  And he has comforted my soul, the clincher; in his timing.  

Trust in him, ask him for guidance in times of trouble.  Know he will test you, but only for your future good.  He will assign difficult tasks to you in ministry, for the good of those around you, and sometimes at the expense of your own peace and happiness.  Because that is just what God did when he tabernacled in a human body, Christ Jesus in humble service to those around him.  

Philippians 2 (MSG)

He Took on the Status of a Slave

1-4 "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father."

Again and again, the humble service found in the Bible shouts Christianity's superiority over all other world views, because it does the most good, making it a hard truth to follow, yet so obviously superior in that it does the most good for everyone surrounding at the expense of the one who follows it, sometimes to the point of death.  The naturalists, the altruists, the liberals in all their pious talk have very little action to back it up, yet are constantly glorified by the established media.  At the same time, Christians doing incredible good are largely ignored, and their failures are magnified and shot across the airways.

God gave me some rest recently, and I was able to spend this last weekend at Crescent Lake Bible Camp in Rhinelander.  It was a much needed break, and being back here in the city I wish I had another month or four to spend there in quiet contemplation.  I dread going in to work, I dread the daily grind and that's tough.  It's just tough.  But there it is.  God gives ministry, he gives rest.  And what is all the striving, but foolishness?  The reality of security, significance, the culmination of the two, meaning, is found in the perplexingly completed situation of intimate relationship with God the Father.  The mystery of that relationship is the foundation of immovable, unsearchable completed satisfaction and joy, not something to strive for, but something already received, yet still to be fully perceived, and later fully revealed.  

God bless, and take care.