Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Failure and Success

This morning I was reading in Psalm 27 which ends like this, "I would have despaired unless I believed that I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living" and later the psalmist David goes on to encourage us to "wait for the Lord" but wait for what?  This waiting is not like waiting for a bus but rather it means to be at rest in the understanding that God is working and trusting in Him.  Its understanding that He does love us, that He has not condemn nor forsaken us in whatever situation we find ourselves in...even if it is one of our own making.  Oh we may have to eat the fruit of what we have done, suffering consequences here on earth for our foolishness, but if we are willing to be taught by it, honed by the hand of God, we will be utterly blessed and become usable instruments in the Master's hand.  Isn't that just amazing?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about God's faithfulness in the daily things of life like those ideas I get all too often, set out to do and miserably fail at accomplishing.  Its funny how we can one minute be all gung-ho for something and feel we can conquer the world and then a few days later or after physical disability realize it was a nice idea but we are just not that person yet, we're not there yet.  Case in point, my recent proclamation of my plans to keep a journal of what I eat and other aspects of my life that may impact my health and how that just is not happening.  It felt like it was time and I really thought I was ready to do it, but in reality I'm just not that disciplined of a person...at least not right now.  I would hope that someday I would be but the good Lord knows my weaknesses and I know He is at work despite the bazillion times that I fail.  That is why I love this verse in Psalm 27 so much.  I can still have hope even when I fail because God is always faithful.

This is a reoccurring theme in my life which I'm sure you have also seen in your own life to some degree as well.  We all are prone to it.  We are all flesh and flesh fails. But in each new day, in each new moment of life, with each breath we are given another opportunity to move forward, another hour, another minute, another breath. God does not pin us to the ground with condemnation because we fail, but is standing there at the sidelines cheering us on.  He rejoices over us!!  Yes, over YOU!  This is the beauty of God's mercy.  Though we fail He doesn't condemn us but loves us in spite of our weakness and failures.  He does want us to admit we are weak however and desires we see our need for Him and come to Him for help, forgiveness and restoration.

Then there is the other side to this issue...someone else delights in our failure. The enemy of our soul, Satan, loves it when we fail and comes swooping in on us with his weapons drawn to try and take us down and bring us to self pity and to a sense of worthlessness. Think about it, all those thoughts that batter the mind after a failure.
Satan knows we will fall for his trick if we are not putting our faith in God but in our own strength and abilities.  I sometimes think he can smell our weakness like a dog can smell fear.  He would love us to feel we are condemned because we failed at whatever it is we tried to accomplish and that we are worthless.  However, I can't find anywhere in the Bible that says God condemns us for our human failures save a failure to trust in the work of the cross, so why are we listening to those thoughts that come from the pit?

 Why do we believe such nonsense?  Because we don't understand how complete God's love for us is.  We are still seeking validation or feel that we have to perform to be loved.  If you are His you are loved, plain and simple.  You don't have to "be" something or someone in God's economy to be loved, you only have to be His!  He promises to use all things for our good too. 

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:27-29)  This is diametrically opposed to what Satan wants us to believe and all those degrading thoughts we find ourselves thinking after we fail.  Why would God use something bad to produce good for me?  Because He gets glory for doing so and because He loves you!

I'm going to say this because it is very important in understanding the love of God and who God is!  READ YOUR BIBLE!  Memorize it, feast on the words in it. (Confession time...I have real trouble disciplining myself to memorize scripture so I'm speaking to myself  here too.)  If you don't understand something you read keep on reading...God will in time help you understand if you ask Him too...or even if you don't He'll still bring it to light but I highly recommend asking.  If you want to know how God thinks and who He is you have to read your Bible!  Reading the Bible renews our minds to be able to understand things from God's perspective and the area of success and failure, love and acceptance are key in our lives as those who trust Jesus.  This is important because by nature we strive for perfection, we work for validation, we lust for success...but what is "success"?  It's certainly not to attain to perfection and its not at all what most of the world believes it is.  Success in God's economy is trusting God, resting in His will, letting Him do for us.  This is what glorifies Him the most and that is what our lives are all about, bringing God glory.

It seems in our own minds we are very good at cooking up all sorts of "good ideas" and hatching plans that are most always linked to the wrong thinking that we are prone to as human beings. That is why reading and knowing what the Bible says is so key here. The photo below is a perverted form of a "Drumstick Allium" a natural occuring perversion which usually sports very pretty purplish flowers, but this one has this odd green hairlike growth instead...thus its name "Allium Hair".  Not nearly as pleasing as the original but worth a good laugh or at least some conversation. Someone probably even made some money off it too I'm guessing as it is in a lot of bulb catalogs and still a delight to plant geeks that like the odd look of it.  There is no accounting for taste...hey I was even sucked in by it back when I was lusting after plants.  And by the way, this is one that came up after I thought I had gotten rid of them all a few years ago.  Sounds a lot like how our mistakes haunt us doesn't it?

We often take our own ideas of what will be good or best instead of understanding what it is that God deems as best from His perspective and going from there. We often discover that we are incapable of attaining our desired results with the final outcome looking more like the weird little bulbing head on this Allium and its bad hair day than our intended goal and vision.  Sadly when we are striving in our own flesh, in our own understanding, we can only see this after we have failed unless God intervenes and taste the fruit of our labors or as in the case of this flowerless Allium, see the results for ourselves.  But God's desire for us often is something much simpler and surprisingly fulfilling and perfectly beautiful in its final results.

Did you notice in that passage from Romans 8 above that it said nothing about it being for our will but about "His will".  If you think for one second that your life is all about you then you need a reality check.  Its not at all about you but all about you bringing God glory. We were created to bring Him glory plain and simple.  The rest is icing on the cake actually and God loves to bless us.  I'm saying this because I used to act like life was all about me, it revolved around me...my being loved, accepted, validated and praised for what I did! I cringe at the thought of how I used to act sometimes but we as humans are predisposed to believe this and to act accordingly.  We make a royal mess out of our lives when we believe its all about us.  Funny thing is that God is still going to get glory for it and use it to teach us to see things from His perspective. Trust me He will if He hasn't already done so in your life, He can't help but do that because its who He is and because He loves us.  He opposes our proud, self centered natural man but by His grace and mercy will use that very failing in us to humble us and bring us to a greater peace than we could have ever known when we learn that its not about us at all.  That's God's way.

I don't claim to fully understand this truth but I have over and over again seen it demonstrated in my own life without exception.  How wonderful it is to understand this concept even in part.  It releases my heart to hope, but not in my own worthiness which when I look at myself in the mirror, seems to reflect my many flaws or even in my own strength which fails over and over again, but in God's faithfulness and loving kindness which will not fail.  That's just who God is and how He does things.  Isn't that amazing!!!
Proverbs 8:17-21

May God bless you with greater understanding of His unfailing love and faithfulness and may the garden of your life be filled with the beauty of Christ.

Thanks for stopping in and have a blessed day.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Heart in The Midst of Suffering

How's your heart?  I love this question.  I've began to ask this of those I meet also but I think it is one of those questions we ask too infrequently of ourselves.  How's my heart?

I was reminded of this as I read a post by a very dear brother who is walking through the suffering of Parkinson's disease.  His post reminded me it is very good to weigh the desires and motives of the heart especially in suffering.  During the past five years God has been gracious to me in teaching me a lot about the benefits of suffering, often bringing me to the point where I felt like I couldn't go on only to be brought to where I would have to ask "How can I possibly ask for this to be removed if God is doing some great thing in it?"  This is God's grace in the midst of suffering. The suffering Jesus bore for our redemption is the template for this thought as the good it accomplished was the greatest measure of love ever.  But even like Jesus himself prayed...if there is another way...but not my will but Thine be done.  So I am not imposing guilt upon anyone who has prayed for relief.  It is not a sin to ask for it.  It is a sin to focus on just wanting healing and not seeking God's will first and foremost.

The pitfall we all like to fall into while suffering is self pity of even selfishness...for me that might be to have a more comfortable chair.  Our desire to be set free from suffering becomes an idol or a mode of manipulating others.  There are times we feel completely justified to let the whole world know how much we hurt for the simple purpose of validation.  But here's a question for you...If your eyes are so consumed with your own comfort that you are not seeking His face or to love others is that not selfish?  This is dicey territory I know and I can hear some of you saying "Oh come on now!"  But it's true! I've been emptied by it at times, to just let others know how much I'm hurting for selfish reasons...it happens.  The heart is deceitfully wicked and sadly, for as hard as suffering is to walk through it is no different here than in any other arena of life.

This seems so counter intuitive to our natural modes of dealing with suffering in how it casts off the notion that its allowable to be selfish in the midst of suffering because "I'm in so much pain!"  WRONG!  (I'm convicted by my own words!)  I must add that I understand there is pain that is so wrenching that we do become consumed by its presence for a short time.  Grief is a suffering that can be like that for some.  But suffering is not meant to keep us focused on ourselves!

The cure for any wrong motive in us is to lay our life in suffering at the foot of His cross with a thanksgiving sacrifice and a sacrifice of praise in surrender to His will.  To ask for understanding as to what He is teaching us, wisdom in walking through this season, for help to sustain us in our weakness.  I have found myself saying "God ya gotta help me here because I don't know what this looks like" when I read we are to give thanks in all things or to offer up a sacrifice of praise.  How can we be thankful or praise God when we suffer so?  It is in the understanding of who God is and that He is working for our good and His glory that this happens.  We must trust enough to give thanks in the midst of it...oh we must learn to give thanks!

Why give thanks?  Because God is doing things we cannot even imagine because of the suffering we experience.  He is working in us to be sure, but He is also working in the lives of others through our relationships in this season of suffering.  The modeling of faith to others, the stretching of their hearts to serve one who is weak in body or in grief, it all has a purpose.  God's ability to open our ears to hear Him, to get us to sit still before Him and to teach us in the midst of trial amazes me!  For this one thing if nothing else I will praise Him for He has answered my prayer to draw me close to Himself, closer than I ever thought possible.

Looking back upon these past few years I can see His wisdom in choosing suffering as my teacher...and what a perfect teacher it has been.  Praise God for His mercies which are new every morning, for the manna of grace we need for each and every day and for His faithfulness to keep us in the midst of trial.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.