Monday, March 18, 2013

What is Good ≠ What is Easy

They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. ~ Acts 14:22, GNT ~

"Good, Better, Best" was the theme of yesterday's sermon at our church.  One of our fabulous pastors, Pastor Dan Morse, led us through the mindset of Solomon as we pondered all the foolish things that we chase after in a lifetime.  He wisely noted that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the good blessings of this life.  He also admonished us to remember that all this good comes from our Maker.  And in the end, he rightly guided listeners to the only true conclusion, that ultimately, only Jesus satisfies.

As I sat and pondered Dan's words, I thought of all the sorrows and trials our family has endured that have painfully taught us the truth of this lesson.  Chasing after anything other than Jesus always fails us.  Yet I wondered why, despite knowing from experience, we as a family fall back into that foolishness of seeking satisfaction in anything other than the Lord.  

When we set our hopes on anything apart from God, we can be certain those hopes will be dashed.  I can cite specific examples of hoping for improved health, but not receiving it; looking forward to our kids finally having a friend to hang onto, only to have that kid quickly disappear from their lives; planning on a vacation that eventually ends up being too short; depending on another person, who can't come through for us.  The list could go on, and on, and on.  And serving thousands of parents raising children with special needs, I know our family is not the only one who confronts such attitudinal challenges. And I think I have the answer to why we humans get stuck.

What is good often does not equal what is easy.  Humans don't like icky.  We don't like inconvenience.  In our foolish brains, good = easy, hard = bad. Unless there is a very valuable, immediate reward to us, we avoid anything short of ease like the plague.

Think about the simple act of giving birth to a child.  There are so many challenges around it.  A mother waits anxiously for 9 long months, endures strange and awful things going on with her body, and labors in pain to bring that baby into this world.  Childbirth is a wonderful thing, with an instant reward at the end, but it certainly isn't easy.  

In fact, if parenthood doesn't have a high value to an individual, it is so painful, that it will be avoided.  This is no less true of other things in our culture -- working hard for a college degree, staying in good physical shape with a disciplined diet and exercise, becoming a good gardener who grows copious and beautiful produce each year are all good things that require some effort.  Still, if a person does not hold those things in high regard, they will never pursue them through adversity. 

Special needs parenting is no different.  The treatments we must subject our children to always seem heartbreaking, but we know it will ultimately provide what is best for our child.  Yet, if we can, many of us delay or avoid these difficulties.  It's easier to be permissive than to have our child on a special diet; it's not convenient to schedule the procedure right now; we deserve to whip out a charge card and spend a little money we don't have.  All of this is so much easier than fighting the battle.  However, I would hazard a guess that most of us regard our children as such treasures that we will ultimately do what is best for them.

Settling for ease just because it is ease is not God's best for us.  We can take encouragement from the Bible.  God's word is replete with stories of those who have gone before us, pursuing the excellence their Maker intends for them, while also pushing through unbelievable hardship.  The Good Book has no shortage of challenge, labor, suffering and exhaustion, yet the faithful pressed on in the strength of the Lord.  

While it may sound crass, as seekers of the Lord's favor, we must "put on our grown-up pants" and set our faces like flint towards doing what is difficult.  Yes, there is an overabundance of it in our lives, but we need to accept that this only leaves more room for God to be glorified when we cooperate with it.  We need to abandon the lie that good = easy.  For there is no doubt, as evidenced by the very cross itself, that much of the very best God has for us can only be obtained by running straight through the heart of the unpleasant, agonizing, and challenging things this world has to offer.

PRAY:  Only by Your strength, Holy Spirit, can I persevere.  Jesus, transform my perspective and my attitude as I seek to look more like You every day.  Thank You for being the only One who can offer true hope and joy.

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