Is Your “God’s Love” Tank Critically Low?

meterI pray that the right people see this.

I’m thinking tonight of the main characters in stories that would tear your heart out. Ordinary Christians, drained by disappointment and hardship. They no longer feel any love or peace from God. He seems all but absent. Just when hope seems to be rising, life kicks them again. They’ve been faithful for years, slogging through Scripture and the spiritual disciplines, staying a “good Christian”. They could recite the Biblical reasons behind suffering until the cows come home, but it’s no longer lifting their hearts so much as a whit. And then the cows kick them.

Seeing a brother or sister struggle in this way is one of the things that truly knocks down the door of my apathy and sets me ablaze. I get angry at Satan. I get – well, I would say “fearful” if I didn’t know fear was a sin, so I don’t do that – but certainly deeply concerned for the person. They stick on my heart. I don’t want them to be separated from God. I want so badly for them to know, to rediscover the love of God.

But…it isn’t easy.

My own experience says that, and surprisingly, Scripture says that. It grants that cultivating a relationship with the Unseen is counter-intuitive and hard. Especially once you step back and see all the obstacles arrayed against it, the spiritual opposition, the inertia from our unsaved days, the shiny lies about where we should be looking for our joy.

Start with this: do not accept the way things are. There is no Scriptural basis for the idea that God’s love and joy should be limited, blocked, or withheld from us. Indeed, other than salvation, an ironclad peace and joy in any circumstance is the greatest treasure of the kingdom, the very thing Christ died to give us! The Bible does not speak of this stuff in terms a scarce trickle, but of plenty, abundance, overflowing. He meant you to have it “to the full” (John 10:10).

So, you ask…why is it not flowing?

Ultimately, it must be God doing the answering. I do not know your particular situation, which could be varied as the stars are many, and I don’t have a lot of power in myself anyway. But I can offer my own story, and some Scriptural thoughts God has taught me.

1. You can’t do it alone.

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Why Evil for Evil Doesn’t Work

cubesIt’s cold.

As I write this on January 4th, the temperature is 8 degrees below zero. The air is painful to breathe. I’m keenly aware of all my nose hairs. Pipes are freezing, and every traffic light in town has somehow been reprogrammed to turn yellow at the exact moment where I must either slam on the gas and risk a ticket or slam on the brakes and risk destruction. I blame the Russians.

Now, you would not walk into your house in these times and say “Man, it’s sub-Arctic in here, let’s open the door.” That would fix nothing. In fact, it would worsen the problem; sub-Arctic would become Mars. Instead, you turn on the heat. It just makes sense.

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.

Someone at work triggers you in some way. They yell at you, or circulate an unfair or inaccurate comment about you behind your back. Our first instinct in these situations? Hit back somehow. Defend our honor. Eye for an eye. Maybe we yell back; maybe we spread a rumor about the other person, or just bring up a genuine flaw in them to “balance things out”, even if it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. At the very least, we feel like we haven’t just rolled over and taken it, right? That would look weak.

Except…has it ever worked? Really? Does the other person ever just roll over themselves and go “Oh, yeah, I was wrong” ?

Maybe sometimes, depending on how it’s handled. But typically, all that “evil for evil” does is leave the two parties hating each other, and everyone else gets to deal with it. Workplaces, churches, and families across the world are infected with this stuff. Nobody’s ever proven right; nobody’s vindicated; instead, resentment festers, and the whole environment is left feeling awkward, fragile, and, well…

…cold.

Enter Jesus, wielding advice.

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The Fresh Start No Calendar Can Bring (and Why You Need It)

earthA funny thing, this January 1.

I can’t help but imagine the sun giving us a weird look right now. “Okay, Earth, so now you’re one degree further over and…oh, it’s a celebration for you this time? Umm…ok. Have fun, I guess.”

This is the day that most of humanity seems to connect with a fresh start. We’ve got a new paper book hanging on the wall with a big “2017” scrawled on it, so now we get to dump the last 365 days of failure and launch a new life. Or something.

A fresh start is a nice thought. Whether it’s from failure or from simply not being someone you yourself can like, the concepts of redemption and a clean slate permeate literature, television, and film. “Lost” was a great example (darn that show. YOU NEVER TOLD US WHAT HAPPENED TO WALT!!!! Ahem…). The idea of getting to become a better person calls to all of us. Even in the darker shows (think “House of Cards”, not that I could bear to watch it for long), we root for the antihero to experience that gradual turn towards the light. The theme is prevalent – almost universal.

Perhaps there’s a reason redemption sells.

The truth is, it’s speaking to a primal, unspoken truth running through the fabric of mankind. A fresh start is not a novelty. It’s not a fallback strategy, not a last-ditch measure, not “for those other people”. It is a necessity. For everyone.

Even for you, who think you have lived a good life.

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You’re Not a Loser for Starting the New Year Single

I can’t even right now.

Every once in a while I’ll get triggered by an obnoxious Internet meme, and ’tis the season for this one…

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Or this one, along similar lines…

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I saw others, but you get the idea.

I don’t know how serious people are being here, but let’s assume worst case and break down the items contained herein (I won’t use the three-letter F word, you heard it enough in junior high):

things

I could see how the first three are negatives in your eyes. 1) is definitely a problem. Knock it off. 2) and 3) are worthy of pursuing a change – I wouldn’t say they’re evil, exactly (James 1:9), but we want to meet our bills and take care of our bodies. May 2017 be the Waterloo of these obstacles in our lives. (Though even if not, our worth in Christ remains untarnished…far, far from Loserville.)

But…single? How does that fit into a set of negatives?

There is nothing wrong with singleness. There is nothing unhealthy, inferior, or inadequate about being single. It’s a station in life. You’re probably at that station because you take relationships seriously and are holding out for someone you can actually go the distance with. I mean, who wants to be jerking in and out of relationships like a 15-year-old learning a stick shift? No, thank you.

Now, that waiting may still not be the station you want, and boy can I understand you there. I eagerly await married life as much as the next guy, and I’ve struggled to appreciate this station. But next to the other “low” qualities we’re trying to shed, singleness sticks out like a sore thumb. You are not a loser for being single. Ever.

I know, I know – “it was just a meme, Brandon. I posted it for a joke.” Perhaps I overreact.

But are you sure?

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