|Photo image courtesy of Soloviola Liudmyla via 123rf.com|
Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
~Hosea 6:1, NASB~
Though hardly needing to be said, life can be brutal. It's an unfair and unforgiving entity which grinds at our nerves at the most inopportune times, nagging and beating as much as it can until we go home to Jesus. Even the Apostle Paul could not deny the unfairness of human mortality as he recalls to his readers his many instances of starvation, beating, and imprisonment brought upon him, despite being one of the first great steadfast followers of the Way. While our trials may not compare to the apostle's, we can all certainly agree that we've each faced our fair share of hurts. Personally, I think it's less important what these trials may be or where they derive from and more vital in the end to look at how we respond to the pain.
So here's the question I would like to pose to you: To whom, or what, do you run to?
Read it over again. Good, now give yourself an honest answer.
You may be quickly saying to yourself, "God, always! I run to nothing else but Him!" And, really, that's exactly what we'd all like to say. Our most basic of Christian doctrines command and encourage us to run to Him: "Pick up your cross daily and follow me," (Luke 9:23); "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength," (Mark 12:30); "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," (Proverbs 3:5). Even the Ten Commandments explicitly state, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Superficially, this one's pretty basic--put God above all else, don't worship anything or anyone else--but when we're in the midst of suffering or abandoned in its' aftermath, those other "gods" seem to emerge as easily as a new dandelion does on your most treasured patch of grass.
If you're in a deep enough trust with God that you do run to Him for each trial, props to you! But most of us can admit that our instincts don't immediately cry out, "Abba! Father!" when life gives us a good kick in the teeth.
Whatever you turn to--anger, depression, shopping, eating, screaming, etc.--it's instinctual for us to put it in place of the healing hands of God. When we're upset, our mind turns to what we treasure most in the world as a jet fuel for healing: some of us run to the sparkly stones in the glass case; some of us turn to the palm-reader who assures our security; some choose the next season of your favorite Netflix series; some turn to aggressive sewing or constant pots of scalding coffee enough to keep you with a jittery zip in your step for days. There's no denying it! Each of us has our place on this spectrum of the world's open arms. Heck, it's so obviously prevalent, there's and entire sector of secular psychology which identifies all of the human brain's defenses for "healing" ourselves! There's denial, regression, over-compensation, repression, sublimation, dissociation, projection, intellectualization. Out of breath yet?
We gorge on what we want and once we've had our fill of worldly cures, we tend to leave with regrets; arguments you wish had never happened; weigh gained out of gluttony; weight lost in tears. When we started, we all thought, "Maybe if I just eat some sweets or take some sad naps or buy a new blouse, I'll feel better," but that's just like slapping a Band-Aid on a tear in your nylons. We create an ugly, imperfect patchwork on our wounds when we try to drag ourselves out of the chasm, and the more bandages we stick to that fragile weave of our hearts, the more we push God away, thinking we can do His job for Him.
But who are we to say that our skills are greater than God's? There's a reason why each cure the world tosses at us never lasts: this world is not one of perfection. The only perfect thing existing in this world is the perfection of healing grace which only God can provide. So why waste our time on petty desires with melancholy results when we could be immediately turning to God's saving grace to heal us the first time? Why not learn to turn to God and find greater comfort and delight each time we call out to Him before all else?
It's a hard saddle to climb up on, learning to trust God with your sorrows rather than turn them to the things that make you happy -- and yes, you may not feel all too happy at some times -- but there is a great divide between happiness and joy. Happiness is reliant on brief moments of enjoyment which we assume are fulfilling, but joy doesn't need happiness to exist. Joy exists despite happiness and exists because of the comfort and security which we can only receive by trusting in our Father instead of our things.
Pray: Lord God, teach me to lean into you when my troubles are on the rise. Help me to relinquish all of my substitutes and find my solace and serenity in You. I pray that, in times of trial, I may always be joyful for the wounds which only Your perfect hands can dress and make new.