Monday, May 27, 2013

When the feelings aren't there

In looking at Ephesians 2, I see that while I was dead in my sin and trespass, Christ died to make me alive in Him.  When I first understood what this meant, it radically altered the way I viewed God, and gave me a jolt of compassion for those not in Christ.  It meant that people who have Christ have life everlasting, while others are running headlong for hell.  I could do nothing but feel sad for them, and a burden to share the gospel knowing the joy I had in Christ.

Fast forward, and while I still believe that truth, the overwhelming feelings aren't there all the time.  In fact, many times I feel dead, while I look at the world and can feel like I'm missing out on all the world has to offer.  I often think of how one psalmist "Better is one day in your courts..." and hang my head, knowing that most of the time I'd rather have thousands of days elsewhere.  Psalm 73 even mentions this.  The author, Asaph, is confessing that he wished he could live large like others.  He mentions that he almost 'slips,' wanting to go the way of the arrogant and proud.

But he doesn't!  In the end, he says two things that stick out to me:

The crowd that escapes by living large doesn't actually find refuge:  In Psalm 73, Asaph notes that they have no pangs until death (v. 4), they don't have the same amount of trouble as others (v. 5), and they sit loftily and speak maliciously against others and God (vs. 8-11).  They seem in control and have everything they want.  Except they have set themselves against the Ultimate Authoritative being of the Universe.  Verses 17 and 18 share Asaph's sentiments, as he realizes that God has set them in 'slippery places,' where they will fail and be ruined.  Ultimately, those who have the 'easy life' is merely ignoring reality of living in a broken world that is in need of Cosmic Intervention both on a personal and universal scale, and will ultimately be destroyed by their own devices if they do not repent.

The Honesty of the Psalmist:  If you look at Psalm 73, the honesty and vulnerability of Asaph is refreshing and real.  He speaks of how he wished he could be like the "in" crowd (vs. 2-11), and how he went against the Lord in his thoughts and heart (vs. 12-15, 21-22).  He looks at that crowd and thinks, "this is appealing."  But then, he remembers both the folly of the crowd, and the deep love of his Heavenly Father.  He (Asaph) knows God will do good to His people (v. 1), he remembers that God will put an end to the wicked (v. 16-20, 27), and he remembers that it's God and His power, not the will or the strength of Asaph's faith, will ultimately deliver him, even if Asaph fails.

How does this apply?
Our Faith isn't dependent on the strength of our feelings or circumstances: I love v. 26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  This is immensely freeing.  If God is the strength of my heart, than I don't need to feel guilty when my feelings aren't strong.

Be honest:  If you're like me, it's easy to hide sin or other 'sinful desires,' because certainly God wouldn't want someone who is tempted to want to be like the wicked.  The truth is, we are far more wicked than we dared imagine... and we are far more loved because of Christ (Romans 5:8).  Be honest with God about lack of passion, about how you struggle, and why you don't have what the wicked have.

Submit to God's view:  One thing about the wicked is that they question God's knowledge and authority in an arrogant way.  It's ok to ask God questions, but it's sinful to question His authority in doing so.  So be honest, but also realize that God has far more knowledge and wisdom that you do.  He has put you in your specific situation for a reason, and ultimately it's to draw you closer to Himself through Christ, and for you to give Him glory, even if you don't feel like it.