I’m fresh out of witty transitional anecdotes for you this morning, but I do have a fresh batch of “snap the heck out of it,” so let’s have at it;
Have you ever been so tempted or so wearied by a trial, that you genuinely felt you were losing part of yourself? I’m talking about “The Weary” – where you allow any ridiculous manner of thoughts and feelings to dictate your reality, knowing under less pressing circumstances you would reject them outright?
Have your temptations ever so thoroughly deceived you that you feared everything you imagined yourself to be was a lie, and that this self, the tempted and tried and weak and battered self, this must be the person you were all along? If not, see ya later. If so, and it’s not just me, come scoot over in the pew.
Our trials, our temptations, they do reveal our hearts; the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. I believe this can be a gift, because the best gift we can receive is that of humility (for real!) – more on that another day. But when we are so eclipsed by our trials that we lose sight of the Truth, taking our eyes off the plumb line and setting them in horror on our bruised souls instead, or upon the desire of our flesh, resisting no more – that is where the danger of being swept out to sea resides. No amount of white-knuckled willpower will keep us tethered, but I am finding when we remain in the Truth, when we continue to abide in Him, even if we are hanging on by a single frayed thread, we will be secure – and we will come to find we were never clinging by our own strength anyway. We really are held by hands far stronger than our own.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. (Ps 94:18)
This is how we know what is true; not by looking within, but by looking up. Our feelings, while very real to us, are not great indicators of objective truth. They are influenced by our worldview, our past experiences (both good and bad), and whatever we ate for lunch. They’re influenced by how much sunlight we’ve had recently, how much traffic we just sat in, and whether or not we’re nursing a cold, etc. All of these things inspire feelings – great! – but they cannot and have never been intended to be our Truth. If we don’t continue to line up our feelings with the Person and living Word of God, we will be tossed by our feelings, others feelings, feelings about feelings and thoughts about those feelings, political feelings, interpersonal feelings, my mailman’s feelings, that actor and this actress and… it’s exhausting.
But the Word of God is different.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
My foundational truth, that bedrock I can build my fragile life upon is this; God is good, and He can be trusted. I can trust Him with my very self – my soul, with all its desires, both superficial and intimate – and I can trust that He will withhold no good thing. That part is very important, so I’ll say it again – He will withhold no good thing.
He is not cruel, He is not far off, and He is not playing games with His creation. He is, as the ditty goes, a good, good Father.
He is love; and so He is patient. That fear of exhausting His love and exasperating His patience? It is a lie. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Lift your eyes, and go forth.
He is kind; am I being tempted to believe that He is not? That He is mean and I am invisible to Him? Is my own kindness completely spent? Lift your eyes, and taste and see. That is where the Truth lies; He is kind.
Love does not envy or boast; am I tempted to envy in some way? Am I resentfully coveting that which is not mine – that season in someone’s life, that gifting, that husband or wife, that family dynamic – and thoroughly getting lost in that thicket? Lift your eyes. Love does not envy, and He withholds no good thing. Come, cry out to Him – my foot is slipping! – and wait for His rescue.
He is not arrogant or rude; but are we fearfully approaching Him that way anyway?
He is not irritable and resentful; but do keep our guard up anyway, just in case?
Do we project our worst fears onto Him? Lift your eyes; He is your Father, He loves you, and we are told to come boldly to His throne room when we are most desperately in need of and undeserving of His grace.
Love does not rejoice in wrong, but rejoices with the Truth. It bears, and believes, and hopes, and endures all things.
My friend, when you have lost your way, when you find yourself tempted to let the weariness swallow you whole – that is not the way. That is not Truth. When you grow exhausted resisting, and resisting, and resisting, and are tempted to melt into the darkness – that is not the way. That is not the truth. Lift your eyes, ask Him to set your sights rightly again, and taste and see that He is good.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)
Feed on the Truth – I tell you truly, there is no substitute for a steady diet of the Word of God. It is the light to our path, and it will keep us from stumbling. Find a good plan, and stick with it (here’s my favorite); live in a Proverb a day for the rest of your life. Also, call one of those friends to help you swim back to shore, because none of this is possible alone anyway.
Take heart, weary sailor. You’re not alone, and you’re never completely lost at sea. He is able to keep you through even the darkest storms – trust Him and taste for yourself.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24)