Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Faith Life Hacks

 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
~ Romans 5:3-5, NET ~

Our Aspie girl is the aficionado of life hacks.  As with so many kids who have this diagnosis, she tends to hyper-focus on a particular topic.  Her passion is for "bush-crafting," or backpacking in the great outdoors.  This makes all her little life hacks perfect companion knowledge as she learns how to make her hiking experiences easier and more efficient.

I wish I could name all of the little shortcuts and insights she has learned over the years.  It truly has been fascinating!  For instance, one of her life hacks has been creating an instant fire-starter that is light and easy to carry in a backpack -- a cotton ball soaked in petroleum jelly.  Blowing through one end of the shell of a hard boiled egg makes it slide off easier.  Skin impurities can be removed creating a mask that includes school glue and charcoal.  Strange, quick ideas that would never remotely cross my mind suddenly become an instant remedy.

And isn't that what we all want -- quick, easy, instant?

In a pain-avoidant, frenetically paced world, we want this in our faith life as well.  We want the instant success to being a "good" Christian.  We want to be spiritually mature in 5 quick easy steps.

I wrote on Romans 5:3-5 less than a week ago, but God in His richness has had more to say about these words than I can write in just one post.  These verses keep coming up.  When God repeats Himself, we had better all stop and take notice.

In conversation with one of our amazing parent mentor small groups last night, we discussed verses that each of us cling to in our most difficult times.  One precious mother shared how these words give her strength and encouragement when life gets tough.  

It took me back a few weeks to a discussion that we had been having in a weekly Bible study I attend to fill my own spiritual tank.  Our outstanding expositor was deep in the book of 1 Thessalonians talking about discernment and self-discipline as the marks of a disciple of Jesus.  As she continued to examine with us the careful testing of things against God's word, we came to dialog about the notion that there is no speedy route to this process.  A believer must make time, silence themselves, and carefully explore whether a matter is true or edifying to the Lord.  Taking the time to do this displays our growing character as a believer and grows us in wisdom.

I suddenly shared my epiphany with the group,
"There are NO life hacks to faith!"

This is an immutable fact that we try to negate in our addiction to ease.  There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity.  We have no ability to become instantly wise and grown in our faith.  Those things are only obtained with increasing measure through each trial and suffering where we allow the Lord to grow us.  

This process is exactly what Paul is writing about in his letter to the new Christian church at Rome. He encourages them to hang in there and reframe the way they view their persecution by dissecting the transformational process on which it depends.  Hope is deeply nourishing food for the weary human soul.  The kind of hope that is not misplaced and temporal is only produced through "maturity of character" or "spiritual maturity" as described by the 2 different versions of the Amplified Bible.  This sort of maturity is only the result of fortitude or patient, persevering endurance.  Those characteristics are ones only displayed over time and produced through the testing of troubles, hardship, affliction, and suffering.

Paul's encouragement takes us right through the heart of exactly what we hate.  We don't want the suffering.  We don't want things to fall apart.  We want life to go our way on our terms.  Yet, Paul clearly shows us that we are resisting the only route to a matchless hope.

I have to believe that this is where most of us wrestle with God or bail out on our faith.  When we learn there are no life hacks, no shortcuts, no easy way to avoid the pain, we get disgusted and think God is not worth it.  We want the resurrection without the crucifixion.  We want heaven here and now despite being repeatedly being told that this world is not our home, we are only passing through.

THANK GOD that He does not feel the same way about us!  He DOES think we are worth persevering through suffering.  He proved that by stepping out of His heavenly comfort, holding back all of the awesome power of His glory for 33 years on this broken earth, and restraining Himself to the point where He willingly endured the tortuous pain of the cross to pay for our sins.  That was certainly no life hack!  That was the difficult road to our eternal hope!

May we become ever-mindful as we seek easy solutions to our life troubles that we may have to walk through the darkest valleys, but we have an experienced Shepherd who will guide us through every step of the way.

PRAY:  Holy Spirit, I cannot produce these attitudes or characteristics in myself.  Today I cooperate with You, yielding to Your will as You conform me to the image of Christ through the difficult things I endure.

~ Barb Dittrich

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