In moments of honesty, it’s easy to see our lives as, well—insignificant. What we do often seems to matter very, very little. Whether it’s pushing papers or changing diapers, it can seem pretty pointless.
We often can fall for the thinking that because what we do seems small, or behind-the-scenes, or insignificant, or unequal with our abilities or qualifications, that what we do matters little.
After all, if we foul up, no big deal. The world still turns. Nobody notices. Few seem to care.
Sometimes the dreams and goals you have for life are good goals—even godly goals—but just not God’s goals. Your expectations of life are just that—yours. God has His own set of plans, and He isn’t telling.
God may lead you initially one direction simply to take you another.
- He may give you a vision as a single, or for a family, or for a ministry only so that He can sanctify you by his grace in experiencing a slammed door.
- Slammed doors do more than bend your nose; they keep your heart pliable, sensitive, and available to God’s leading.
Not only does He keep secret the difficult valleys you’ll experience (and many of the mountaintops), but also the tremendous lessons you’ll glean no other way. Lessons you didn’t know you needed to learn. Lessons you’ll thank Him for one day.
Very often, we fail to recognize God using us significantly because we define God “using us” in terms of what we consider significant: results.
I sat in the front row of my 8th grade math class and squinted at the chalkboard. A total blur. I had to face it. I needed glasses.
I’ll never forget the moment I put on my glasses for the first time. WOW! A different perspective entirely! I had no idea the details of life I had missed. They were there all the time, but I literally could not see them.
Glasses and contacts made a huge difference. Trees had leaves. Shapes had sharp edges. Colors were more vibrant. And, oh yeah, I could see in math class.
That worked great for about 35 years. But now I have another problem. As my eyeballs have aged, they have given me 2 choices:
- I can see far away (with my contacts).
- Or I can see up close (without contacts).
It was one perspective or the other—until my optometrist gave me a really weird solution.
You and I have the same challenge spiritually.
Have you noticed how often we tend to interpret our faith as we want it to be, rather than as God reveals it to be? We have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist who only wants to see the highlights of the city.
(Photo: courtesy of Oomph)
Forget all the back alleys of New York. Show me Times Square. Let’s just jump to the Empire State Building. We focus on how the Christian life “ought” to be. (As if the tough parts are electives.)
A broad chasm stretches between the God we want and the God who is. Between the life we want and the life God wants for us.
As tough as it sounds, the only way to bridge this gap is the cross.
God’s leading is often strange. That’s because He doesn’t share the plan. He keeps it a secret. We want God’s plan so we can trust the plan. God hides the plan so we will trust Him.
(Photo by Tom Butler, courtesy of oomf.com)
Genesis began with God blessing all He created. But the fall of man, Abel’s murder, the rebellion at Babel, and the global flood gave cause to doubt that there would be any recovery of that blessing. Genesis 3–11 sketches more than 4,000 years of suffering that people experienced under the curse of sin.
But God’s plan chose one man through whom He would resurrect His blessing for all mankind.
Your life may seem in chaos as well. But God has a plan He is hiding.
Most of us Christians have experienced those incredible moments of intimacy with God when we have no yearning for any earthly joy, much less for sin. Christ becomes our entire desire.
In those times, we make impassioned commitments of absolute dedication. We really believe we have turned a corner in our spiritual lives. But for some reason . . . it doesn’t last.
In those deflating moments, our spirituality exits like air from a balloon:
- Driving away from church, our family fights over where to eat.
- After our quiet time, our bickering children rapidly rob us of joy.
- On the way to work, a hurried driver cuts us off and waves with only a fraction of his hand.
All of a sudden, commitment wanes. And these are just the little things.
What about real life crises? What about those times when success is demanded but a lack of success seems all we get?
Jesus spoke words of encouragement for moments just like these.
I’ve noticed an unsettling habit in my life. Whenever I find myself with a free moment, I feel compelled to fill it with something productive. Because I hate to waste time, I fill it with activity and justify it as productivity.
But I’m learning that constant movement doesn’t represent efficiency.
It could, moreover, represent just the opposite.
As with every other part of the human experience, Jesus remains our model of efficiency. But His life—even before the cross—was no easy walk:
- The demands on Him were constant.
- The needs He faced were overwhelming.
- The expectations He encountered were unrealistic.
No person was ever more qualified to do it all, and yet Jesus took life in the fast lane in stride.
What was His secret?
Have you ever noticed how we dedicate so much time and money to feed feelings that last only a moment?
We plunk down twenty bucks for a movie (and even more for popcorn), and it’s over in two hours. We long for that glorious vacation but come home in a week to face the same daily grind. We enjoy the zing of a new relationship or a new church fellowship only to discover it’s just like the last one.
Now, nothing’s wrong with any of these activities, per se. But when joy and satisfaction in life elude us, we need to ask an obvious question with a not-so-obvious answer:
How do I deal with the futility of life when my satisfaction always fades?
Eventually we figure out we can’t exist for the next relationship or vacation or pat on the back. Instead, we need to learn to live for what never fades and what always satisfies.
In order to find lasting satisfaction in a temporary life, the Lord challenges us to look beyond the moment and to love what lasts.
It’s the mantra of today. It’s the moral lesson of most movies. It’s the guiding light of many lives. After all, it sounds so right, doesn’t it?
Follow your heart.
“Follow your heart” is another way of following your feelings. Even as Christians, our feelings often lead us, don’t they?
- “I don’t feel good about this.”
- “Am I comfortable with this direction?”
- “I don’t have a peace about this decision.”
Following your heart is a popular, but unwise, way to make decisions.
Although our feelings are real, they may not represent reality. And even if what we feel does have some connection to reality, it is never all of reality.
God offers a better way.
Other rivers have more beauty. Many are longer. Most are cleaner. But none has garnered as much affection as the Jordan River.
It wasn’t the beauty of the Jordan River that inspired centuries of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to include it in their verses.
Its significance began as a simple geographic barrier, which—practically speaking—represented a border (Joshua 22:18-25). In fact, the serpentine river still represents a border between Israel and the nation of Jordan.
In Scripture, however, the river’s presence on Israel’s eastern edge stood as an enduring metaphor of transitions.
Significant transitions, in fact.