There are a couple of phrases we really should erase from our vocabularies--or more to the point, attitudes that we really should eradicate from our hearts. Sometimes we say that so-and-so is not doing well. Alternatively, we may characterize them (or ourselves) as struggling. Whenever I hear those words, I want to say, Really? Are you sure thats necessary? Is that even a worthy response from a child of God?
Of course life can get difficult at times. Weve all felt pressure from external demands. Each of us has experienced physical pain and emotional heartache. We all have known the crushing disappointment of our own moral failure, when weve had to admit (again) that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. No one is minimizing the challenge of responding faithfully in those situations.
But not doing well or struggling? Those phrases imply an ongoing condition of sin or unbelief. May it never be! Arent those words really saying that so-and-so has been overcome by the world or by their own flesh and that we really dont expect them to pull out of their tailspin very quickly? Again I ask, whatever the challenge, is that a worthy response from a Believer? Should we accept a state of spiritual weakness that could last hours or even days before we finally turn the corner somehow?
Well, lets allow God to have the final word on the subject! Hear these five exhortations, all taken from letters Paul wrote to Believers just like us:
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:11-12).
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Alwaysgive yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians5:16-18).
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).
And as for you, brothers and sisters, nevertire of doing what is good (2 Thessalonians3:13).
Those passages are full of always, never, continually, nothing, all circumstances, and every situation. Not a lot of room there for curling up in a fetal position, either physically or spiritually, is there? It would seem that regardless of our circumstances, the only fitting response is cheerful, consistent obedience, worship, and love. We are to remain upward and outward focused.
Now please: I am not saying that we should ever fake it. If we sin, we need to have the humility and integrity to fess up quickly, without pretense or hypocrisy. But our sorrow needs to be godly. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. The worldly sorrow of struggling or not doing well only leads to death and decay inside. It actually postpones repentance and the refreshing that it brings. It deprives others of the encouragement and help that they could have received through us. It quenches our spirits and hinders our prayers. It stops Gods work cold, at least in our own lives. And it is so unnecessary!
Of course, if you are not a child of God, that is a different matter. Even then, phrases like struggling dont really portray the situation accurately, nor do they point to the answer. If you have never been born from above, if you have never received the wonderful Provision of God through your abandoned trust in Him, then doing well isnt really the issue. Your life stands condemned by Gods righteous judgment. He offers you a glorious Solution, if you have the desire to find it!
But once you do--once you have been born from above--decide that you will offer Jesus and His people the gift of your faith. No need to struggle. No reason you cant be doing well, whatever that means! Melt your life into the lives of Believers around you. Pray for them. Encourage them. Do the work of God with them. Rejoice with them. Yes, sin does happen, and when it does, repent quickly and cleanly. Be willing to see the depths of the sin in your own heart, and confess it freely. But never accept a condition of struggling as somehow inevitable. Or even normal!
Never be lacking in zeal
let nothing move you...always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord
never tire of doing good. That, not struggling, is your true destiny!
This was shared with me several days ago but I was unable to read through it until this morning. As I read through I realized how very often I have used those words "struggling" and given into those attitudes of the heart. Really has given me much to think and pray about...