Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Like to Fight

I like to fight. When I can't fight I get restless. Now, I don't typically walk around starting fist-fights but some form of competition or battle -- no matter how abstract -- is necessary to keep me interested in what I am doing.

My job was difficult. I was struggling to get acclimated to my new position. Nothing was going the way I thought it should. I tried and tried to turn things around and I couldn't. Leanne and I were struggling to make friends. We just lost our church and now we were hunting for a new one. I was starting to struggle with some depression which makes it all the more difficult to turn things around. Leanne was starting to get worried and I was starting to withdraw. All of these things suck. This was the last half of 2008.

I went to breakfast with an elder from my church. I explained all the reasons my life sucked and he sat and listened patiently. After I was done describing my woes he looked at me and asked a very simple question: Where do you get joy? He said, "If your job was better, or money wasn't as tight, if you were 'winning' at work and at home, would you be happier?"

"Well of course." says I.

"How long is all that going to last? How long before a great job turns into an ordinary job? Before this or that success isn't that exciting anymore? What is the only thing that lasts?"

Part of me wanted to tell him I'd be willing to find out how long that great job lasts but I gave him the Sunday School answer, "My faith is the only thing that lasts."

"Zack," he said, "your joy has to come in the finished work of Christ. The Gospel message is that you were totally lost from God, separated through hatred (our hatred towards God) and it was his joy to crush his son for us so that we could be reconciled to him (Isa 53)."

So, he was telling me that I was supposed to find joy in the gospel. I understood that I should be relieved to be saved, but how do I find joy in that?

I don't have all the answers now, in fact practicing Joy-in-the-Gospel is something I only recently started being able to do, and that very imperfectly, but it comes from doing a few things:

  1. Knowing your purpose through the bible - If you are trapped by your situation and you believe that there is no point to it, then you are almost guaranteed to struggle with some sort of depression or angst. All situations the Lord has promised to work for good. In order for us to get joy from this we need to know where God is going. We begin this by regularly reading the bible. The bible is actually God's self-revelation. He is speaking to us - His Church. You have to know the bible, know God, and know what God has said about you.
  2. Commune with God through prayer - Prayer is not just where you ask God to do things for you like a divine vending machine, it is where you open yourself up to him and he changes your heart. So often I have gone to God asking for one thing and left having my heart totally turned around, realizing that is not what I needed.
  3. Live like you are in a battle - You are. The battle you are in is actually very binary with no gray spots. You are either moving towards God or you are moving away from him. That's it. Nowhere in Scripture do we read where there was neutral ground (cf., John 3:18, John 8:12,34-36). Every day you need to re-commit yourself to--in all your actions--Glorify God. There is no coasting in this life. Only when you relentlessly pursue the holy (set-apart-for-God) life you were bought for will you begin to find the joy that doesn't fade after the wrapper has been taken off.
My desires were misplaced. I thought I would find happiness in the exaltation of winning at work or socially. I was lucky that the "fight" at work was so unsuccessful. I know a lot of guys who are making 6-figure incomes that are still tilting at windmills. Just a little more. A little more money. A little more success. Joy isn't there. It is in the only "success" that matters: The once and for all success of your reconciliation to God.

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