This being the week of Thanksgiving, I thought I could put up this post on which I’ve been working for the last few weeks but never got a chance to finish. It’s something of an echo of this post from last week, but given where I’ve been of late, it’s pertinent.
I can be a very bad Christian. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m not going to pretend it’s not serious. Fact is, I yell against God some days. I could go into a laundry list of reasons why, but I won’t bother, as they will likely do little but further cement how shallow and childish I can be and often am before my Savior and Lord. At the end of the day, my reason is very simple. I have a sin problem.
I am selfish and pre-occupied with the things I don’t have rather than those that I do.
And to be fair, I don’t think I’m alone in this. In the west, specifically, we are trained to be constantly discontented. Advertisements, contests, even day-to-day social media constantly remind us not of what we have but what we don’t, whether that be tangible things like a house or intangibles like self-fulfillment. To the well-rounded social media user, life is also a barrage of ideological minefields, with half your “friends” soapboxing, either to your delight or chagrin, while the other half is too busy living wonderful lives to bother with such supposed high-mindedness (a state which may also engender one of the aforementioned emotions). Each of us feels implicitly put in the middle, shown we’re not living up, or reminded of what we lack. This is the world in which most of us live, and I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks it difficult to navigate, not merely emotionally and mentally but also socially and spiritually.
As I am in an ever-demanding journey of integrating these above categories, I find myself in the aforementioned position of being frustrated, angry, and altogether malcontented. That is a specific word choice, implying that I am rallying against contentment by virtue of my focus on not only what I am missing but the fact that so many others seem to have it. I cannot help but look at others and see their satisfaction and success and wonder, “Where’s mine?!” And, as a Christian, that thought never rests as an idea, it translates immediately into prayer, “Where’s mine, God!? Where’s my joy? Where’s my virtue? Where’s my wisdom? Where’s my…wealth?” And the list goes on and on. The Christian wonders how he or she arrived at their present state, when so many of their peers, saint and sinner alike, appear to have had everything granted to them. “Have I not worked, Lord?” the Christian asks, “Have I not followed your leading? And for what?”
The Christian asks these things, and when the answers do not come, they go to Scriptures and receive reminders that trials produce steadfastness and the ears of the Lord are open to the righteous. The Christian knows these truths, yet he/she cannot help but feel he/she has failed to seen them in his/her own lives. “Perhaps I am not the righteous?” the Christian asks. “Maybe I am not just undergoing trial.”
When they go to others for counsel, many Christians are reminded of these things, and while they are noble and useful truths, sometimes they fall on deaf ears and hard hearts developed from disappointments, troubles, and unmet expectations. And what does one say to the Christian who has fallen into such a place? How can one encourage the brother or sister whose fire has been all but snuffed to ash and smoke by a world that breeds contempt and malignant self-loathing.
I don’t have an answer, because frankly, when I find myself in that headspace–and I have more so in the last ten weeks than at any other point in my life that I can recall–I do not know if any kind word, encouraging thought, or noble attempts at rebuke could assist me. And many have tried, but the reiteration of truth when one is already rejecting it does not often find soil in which to plant itself. The malcontent is, after all, rallying against contentment and satisfaction, so pointing him or her to such a thing will often be met with apathy or aggressive dismissal.
And that is why I am very grateful for a gracious, patient God. Because sometimes, he just waits for us to get over it, and more often than not, he waits for far too long. We refuse the counsel of his Spirit, the truth of his word, or the encouragement of his people, but he still loves, watches, waits. We lash at him for our bad choices, our failed enterprises, our lack of clarity and wisdom, yet he loves, watches, and waits. We give audience to the devil, we embrace his lies as testimony, and we wallow in our self-abasement, yet God loves, watches, and waits. He does not reject us, even after we reject ourselves. He does not deem us lost and wasted, though we feel ourselves as such. He does not cease to encourage and call to us, no matter how hard we reject him. If we are his children, he abides. He waits.
And in time, in due time, we return, not with answers to our questions or all the wealth or wisdom we desired. We return as empty as we have ever been, just wanting to be held in his arms again. Just wanting to remember how the fire feels. We return with a hunger, and he fills us.
At the end of the tunnel of despair, a light exists for the sons and daughters of God. That light is God himself, and when we open our eyes and hearts to him, that light can fill the tunnel and line its walls, it can show us a path from the freedom of self-pre-occupation and narcissistic self-pity. That light, that divine light, can lead us home, and strange thing happens then, one we do not intend. We find contentment anew. We find peace and joy. We find our blessings again, and we wonder, “How did I ever doubt and why?” Our circumstances may not have changed or possibly, they have gotten worse, but we care not in the present moment, for near to God all the tangibles are fleeting and the intangibles are a momentary bliss, for it is with him and him alone our true satisfaction lies.
At least until we are pulled away again by the falsehoods of the darkness, where we again give audience to evil and an anchor to ingratitude. Fortunately, for men like me, who fail in this as often as I do, God is patient. God is kind. God endures our hardened hearts, and through Christ returns them to living flesh. He is so much greater than we are. He is so good and worthy.
And we, his children, would be wise to remember it.
Thanks for reading, if I fail to post before the holiday, have a great one, full of thanks and merriment!