Saturday, December 17, 2011

Really? Are You Kidding Me?

This catch phrase has become my trademark over the past 12 months. It's become somewhat of a joke, probably because if I take it too seriously, I'll begin a descent into depression. So, it's kind of good to laugh at it. So much has happened with my family over the last 12 months, I really have come to that place where I continue to state this question, over and over again.

The thing is, I have to move past the selfish part of the question. Ultimately, that's what I end up making it about: me. How have I been inconvenienced? How are my feelings impacted? How is my life dramatically changed? When those are the only questions that I ask, it's easy to find myself in a place of anger, bitterness, and frustration. But when I begin to think about all of those same questions for others, the focus moves off of me and onto things that are a little bit more significant and important.

During this Christmas season, I have a job. I have a house. Although we have experienced loss, I still have my family. I am able to provide meals for my children. If we need a doctor, we can go. There are hospitals around for emergencies. We have friends who care for and pray for us. Compared to a good portion of the world, we are living in the lap of luxury.

If I drive just a few miles away, to the place where my dad is currently in the hospital, I will experience a very different world. There are people who don't have the things that I have. There are people who are looking for warm and dry places to sleep. There are people who want to find something to eat, anything to eat. I am not in their situation. I do not understand their situation. If I am willing, I can help to change their situation.

Right now, my life is fairly chaotic. I look around at a messy office and a messy house and get frustrated, then I remember that there are way worse things in the world than messiness.

The main problem is what I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to hold it all together. I am looking to muster up everything that I can to "fix" the situations that surround me, and I can't. I don't have the strength or capacity to do such a thing, nor am I supposed to.

When the Apostle Paul was writing one of his letters to the church in Corinth, he told them about something that he struggled with. He didn't name what it was, but based on what he said, it must have been inconvenient enough that he asked God to take it away from him. Not once. Not twice. Three times. In fact, it wasn't an asking but a pleading with God to take it away. I don't get the feeling that Paul was saying "please" and "thank you" in his language to God.

But God didn't take it away. In fact, he was given an answer that is a good reminder to all of us who find ourselves in difficulty, adversity, and challenging situations. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Wow! Not sure that I am at that place yet. It's hard to get through the difficulties, let alone rejoice over them. It's hard to break my selfish will and see beyond the "me" of the situation. Maybe that's why I continue to struggle. Maybe that's why things continue to be a challenge for me.

Regardless, I have been given today to do what I need to do. There is no guarantee of tomorrow for me or anyone else. The future-thinking idealism of the Western world is a foreign concept to so many in other parts of the world. In some ways, it's a stark contrast from what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ. Who are we relying on? Ourselves or him? Whose strength is empowering us?

I have today, with all of its challenges and opportunities. Will I make the most of them, or will I complain that I have to deal with them? I am sure that I am not the only way who faces these challenges or has to answer this question. I am sure my challenges may pale in comparison to the challenges of others. Today, I choose to serve the Lord, that might mean challenging and trying situations, but if I'm not trying to hold it all myself, they won't be as challenging as I might think.


  1. Thanks for your insight Jon. While there are many of us going through very difficult years, I have said this one was the worst in my life, God ultimately has a plan for us. There is always someone with more struggles, more fear and sadness. When we take our eyes off ourselves, hard to do, we begin to gleam the lessons in front of us. Your family is a blessing to so many, keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Jon- it seems you are having a yr as I had when we were crossing paths at seminary. i know i told you a bit about that stuff. it didn't end there, but the entire yr was as if bookended with tragedy and heartache.

    Anyway, that doesn't make sruggles easier, but i learned something, and it was reinforced as i read thru this little book on the best seller stands right now about a 3 yr old who 'goes to heaven' and comes back. perhaps you've seen it. the title escapes me, its yellow. its a quick little read, profound and interesting.

    anyway, my point is this- in the book, the father is angry with God, and let's Him have it in a prayer setting. the father doesn't see it as 'prayer but an angry outburst at God. in the story line, the little boy says God was going to answer that specific prayer of the father. an angry 'how could you God' a type of lambasting of God in every facet- angry at God.

    it gave me a little bit more perception on God's 'broad shoulders' to 'take it' on the chin when we dish it His way. What that perspective did for me was change what I felt was unreasonable lashing out- to bonafide prayer, as legitimate as it gets! In fact, more legitimate than most things I turn His way about. It was a 'hot' prayer, not a lukewarm ho hum prayer. It would have been nuclear bomb if I could have sent it His way. That little story I referred to describes this same kind of intensity, which the father recalls sheepishly as less than his finest moment, and in the story, it is called 'prayer.' In fact, absolutely nothing made sense and I angrily blasted Him about it.
    I'm not gonna say anything trite to try and sum it up, I don't think we even reach the depths of ourselves even in crisis.

    I'll pray for you Jon. - Jim Willis

  3. Thanks for this Jon. It is refreshing to hear a Christian commentary that embraces trials instead of remedying or avoiding them. Your so right about getting our minds off ourselves. Bless you.