Faith and difficult social or relational situations

30 08 2007

>Are there relationships in your life that are, at best, difficult to maintain? But because of circumstances they are necessary for you to maintain nonetheless? I am thinking about acquaintances, co-workers, or even relatives. Or, do you have times that you have to interact with others but just do not feel up to it? Either I am odd, or this is something that we all deal with from time to time.

But what do you do about it? Do you suck it up and try to put a smile on your face, make small talk and get through it? Do you think…what would Jesus do? And then forge ahead once you’ve decided that Jesus would be cordial? How has that worked out? If you are like me, I bet not very well. I can think of times that I have not been up for social events, business-development events or even gatherings with extended family. The worst result comes from not giving thought to changing my attitude and heading into the situation. When I do that, I am miserable and the people I interact with know it. If I resolve to do what Jesus would do, I may be able to put on a better face (at least in the beginning), and others may not realize that I am none to psyched to be there — but I usually don’t feel much better.

What to do?

The trouble here is what’s inside of me. The trouble is in my heart, which in the biblical sense means my heart, my soul, my consciousness. The trouble is the hardness of my heart.

Proverbs 28:14 sheds some light on this:

Happy is the one who is always reverent,
but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (HCSB) 

Wouldn’t you like to be happy in those times when your flesh is trying to convince you that you are not? The concept of reverence used in the HCSB translation is translated as “fear the Lord” in other translations. The “fear” is not really what we would think of as fear, though. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, puts it this way:

Happy is the man who always keeps up in his mind a holy awe and reverence of God, his glory, goodness, and government, who is always afraid of offending God and incurring His displeasure, who keeps conscience tender and has a dread of the appearance of evil, who is always jealous of himself, distrustful of his own sufficiency, and lives in expectation of troubles and changes, so that, whenever they come, they are no surprise to him. He who keeps up such a fear as this will live a life of faith and watchfulness, and therefore happy is he, blessed and holy. 

That’s a fairly long-winded way of saying, live in faith and do not for a minute rest on your own abilities. God can, and wants to, change your heart. But you have to turn to Him to do it for you. So instead of using your own faculties to determine what Jesus would do and then setting your mind to doing it, ask God to change you from the inside out.

Here is a prayer from Psalm 51 that gets to this point. Note that the mention of “teach the rebellious” certainly extends to our actions and not just our words. When you’re in a difficult social situation, let God’s light shine through you and stand back and watch the impact on those around you.

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways,
and sinners will return to You. (Psalm 51:10-14 — HCSB) 


In what, or who, do you put your trust?

20 08 2007

>I was flipping through my Bible yesterday and landed on a passage that I set out in a box with a star next to it. I am not sure when I marked the passage, but it was perfect wisdom for the thoughts that have been on my mind.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on
your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you
on the right paths. (HCSB)

It is a pretty simple message, and one that I had cruised over many times before I set it out in this Bible. Life in the flesh is like that. For one reason or another, we cruise right past the signposts pointing us to better life. I was not consciously avoiding the lesson, but for a long time I missed it nonetheless.

This does not mean that I failed to understand what the verses were saying, but I failed to grasp what they were saying to me. Does that make sense? I hope so, but let me explain.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. According to the Bible, the human “heart” is not only the center of all spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. The “heart” in the Bible is more than an organ that involuntarily (that is, you can’t control it with your will) pumps blood throughout your body. The “heart” is the seat of the conscience (Romans 2:15). If we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart, that seems to say that there should be no room left in our heart for trust in other things at the same time. That means we are to port over our trust in other things and people — to move them over to God.

There is no room for you to trust in your own abilities, no room for you to trust in self-help books, no room for you to trust in your spouse, no room for you to trust in your investments, no room for you to trust in your pastor…

That sounds harsh, right? But it isn’t. Removing trust in the ones you love does not mean you stop loving them, or even that you stop trusting them. But you stop trusting in them. There’s a difference. All of your trust for your life – every aspect of it – must be placed with God. If you are trusting in anyone or anything other than, or in addition to, God, then you are relying on your own understanding, which the verse tells us specifically not to do. Why? Because when you decide to trust in something other than God, you are making a determination, and you are flesh. If you’re like me, there’s a pretty high likelihood that if you’re deciding, your flesh is going to get in the way and you are bound to stumble.

But what if you place all of your trust in God? What if you think about God in everything you do? The Hebrew word that is translated “think about” in the verse is “yadah”, which means “know him.” The word includes both mental awareness of God and submission to God. The idea, I think, is trusting in Him for every event in your life and relying on Him for guidance in the way to go. So how do you know the way to go when you are in that kind of a relationship with God? I think in some ways, you just know. I also think that the more you come to know God through His word, the more you know the right way to go — you become more and more obedient because you know His desire for you and you desire to travel that path.

Start today. Ask God to be your rock and with your words place your trust totally in Him. And as you go about your life, involve God in all of it. He has numbered the hairs on your head, He cares about the small stuff. Set your mind upon building a relationship with Him and your faith will be deepend from within, from Him.