It has been exactly 1 year, 6 months, and 28 days since I signed off on this website in search of what else God had in store for my life. Then again, whose counting.
A year and a half ago, I asked the hosting service to delete my site, but in retrospect I am glad they did not. As I looked at my last post, I saw this statement made by a slightly younger me who was feeling somewhat dejected and lost in the face of moving out of a season of serving my church’s students.
Sometimes what makes us truly ready to listen is realizing that God doesn’t necessarily speak to us when we’re consumed with asking questions. (Source: “Listening Through the Noise“)
In the months following the transition of the student ministry to a new group, in my head I knew the individuals taking over had a great team and had a heart burning to serve our students. What I didn’t know where things involving decisions made by individuals and what I could have done to prevent the perceived need for change. I had so many unanswered questions and, being the inquisitive individual that I am, I let that consume me. Maybe I should have reread my own blog post from November 2014. I came up with a lot of potential answers and explanations for all the questions buzzing inside my head, but in the end only one explanation seemed to matter: God will use you regardless of any decisions or circumstance thrust onto you.
Paul, Silas, and Overwhelming Circumstances
Consider Paul and Silas who traveled to a city and were imprisoned for performing miracles and driving out demons (Acts 16). The two apostles found themselves the victims of the decisions of others; decisions which most would view as ‘unfair’. In our current society, we love to play the victim. You see places popping up at college campuses called “safe places” where students can wrap themselves up in a victim mentality and shield themselves from the harsh realities that the world offers. Paul and Silas had no such ‘safe place’ and likely did not enjoy their status as the victim of an unbelieving mob which caused them to be imprisoned.
Given the circumstances they had thrust upon them, they could have done one of three things:
- Refused to accept their current circumstances and attempt to escape through legal or illegal means.
(The “fight the system” approach to life’s challenges.)
- Resigned themselves to their current circumstances and simply give up any hope of what might occur.
(The “victim”/”safe place” approach to life’s challenges.)
- Neither accept nor refuse the current circumstances, but instead surrender the circumstances to God and be on the ready for whatever opportunity He might unveil.
(The follower of Christ’s approach to life’s challenges.)
Paul and Silas chose the third option. Starting in verse 25 we find this…
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. (Source: Acts 16:25-34, NLT)
Despite the circumstances thrust upon Paul and Silas, they didn’t take matters into their own hands by either accepting or rejecting their place in prison. They didn’t protest or fight and they didn’t sulk and discuss among themselves how unfair life was. Most importantly, they did dwell on their circumstances and spent hours questioning God’s plan. Instead, they stood at the ready by praising and worshiping God. They refused to be consumed by questioning their current situation and were prepared to worship and serve God regardless of their surroundings. As a result, God provided them a path out of their hardship and opportunities to further serve His kingdom.
Now we bring this back to the subject of this entire site. I was not imprisoned nor was anyone persecuting me for my beliefs. An unfortunate part of working for the 501.3C charity we call “the church” (little “c”) is that we go through seasons of unity and seasons of discord. Sometimes the discord is simply a result of someone having a vision that may not be transparent to you. This is where things like poor communication and other administrative shortfalls can result in confusion or, worse yet, hurt feelings. What continues to be a shame in the contemporary church are the numbers of believers which are satisfied to abandon the Church (big “C”) altogether simply because they went through a season of discord. The choose option number 2 (from the previous list) by playing the victim and leaving the collective Christian body in righteous indignation. “How dare those Christians treat me this way?!”
For me, my season of discord brought me to several places. I served as the Master of my Freemason lodge which gave me many opportunities to discuss things like morality and belief with other people. I became more active in a Christian branch of Freemasonry, the famous “Knights Templar”, and had an opportunity to minister to others in that capacity. At church, I was able to start a periodic (about once a month) Bible study looking at the Old Testament and Hebrew traditions as they relate to the foreshadowing of Christ. On the home front, the entire episode involving my dismissal from this single ministry caused my wife and I have to longer, deeper conversations about our faith and what we felt it meant to serve and be served by a church family. I was able to benefit from these opportunities of service and personal growth, but only after I dropped my own poor attitude and stopped sulking about the circumstances I felt had been thrust upon me. At one point I even remember my wife sitting down at dinner and telling me I had a fixed time limit I was allowed to complain about church before I had to drop the conversation for the rest of the night. She was right; I needed to stop being so consumed with asking questions and instead just focus on how I can worship and serve God in my current capacity. What followed was a rewarding journey of growth and ministry over the following year and six months.
Comfort Not Assured
Christ does not assure comfort emotional or physical comfort. In fact, many of the first Christians were subjected to horrid tortures which cost them their lives and the lives of many they loved. Some were crucified on crosses and others were sewn into animal hides and left to die a crushing death as the hides dried and shrank in the hot sun. What Christ does guarantee is spiritual comfort.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Source: Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
No matter how emotionally or physically we may feel torn down, no matter how dejected or upset we may feel at the consequences of our actions or the actions of others, and no matter what we may have done or wrong we may have committed, we know that Christ’s yoke exists to relief our souls. I ended my last post by stating “Sometimes what makes us truly ready to listen is realizing that God doesn’t necessarily speak to us when we’re consumed with asking questions.” Today I reiterate that in a more positive tone by stating that when we surrender our circumstances to Christ, He will speak to us and give us guidance in His time. Until then, all that our yoke requires is that we keep focused on Christ and never lose faith in His unfailing love.