Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

            A few hours ago a friend and I were musing about the difficulties we’ve experienced in our lives over the past year. “I wonder if God is taking a nap,” may have been uttered. Both of us have been through our fair share of suffering, but if it was a contest I’d have to say she is the winner, hands down. So in a lot of ways I remind myself that as bad as I think my situation is, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be (don’t we all try to make ourselves feel better with that statement?). Our conversation sort of ended with a, “Well, life sucks, time to go take a shower now.”

            As I’ve been doing a lot lately, I stood in the shower after our talk and stared at the wall, thinking, praying, complaining, questioning…and finally I just had to ask, “Why does it have to be like this, God? I mean, why does it have to take thirty years for someone to find out they’ve been married to a monster? Why has it taken me over a year of suffering without any answers or diagnosis? Why, if we have to suffer, can’t it just be quick? Why couldn’t she have found out about her spouse a year into her marriage? Why couldn’t I have gotten a diagnosis last year when this all started instead of being turned away time and again by doctor after doctor? Why, why, why?”

            Of course I know better than to ask “why,” but for some reason I chose to go that route with God anyways. And as it happens when things like this are going on, God has been strangely silent during my prayer times. But this time (maybe He’d heard enough whining?) He chose to speak to me. He said, “What if it’s not about you?” And that was it. He allowed me to stew on that one for a while. So I stood there staring at the walls, having just received a verbal crack upside the heart with a truth so simple yet so profound I couldn’t even respond.

            Then I thought of Job, how he probably suffered more than any human being in the history of humanity (besides Jesus), and how he never had the privilege of knowing the “why” behind his tragedy. Not that he didn’t ask, but God never answered him specifically (at least, not on this side of heaven). And then I think of how many people throughout the course of time have been helped because of Job’s story. How many people have suffered and turned to the pages of that book to find the answer to their “why” only to stumble across chapters 38-42, and realize they probably won’t ever know their “why” either, but somehow gaining a measure of hope from his story.

            Then I think of how much my friend has suffered, and I consider how much my spiritual life has grown just through knowing her, and as a result of watching her suffer. Maybe, just maybe, my suffering isn’t about me at all. You know, we say it all the time (and I hate hearing it, honestly) that “God is just teaching me a lesson right now, I’m trying to listen to what He’s saying” as if God is some cosmic sadist getting some sort of pleasure out of causing us pain, just to teach us a lesson. That is not the God I know from the Bible, my God isn’t a sadist. My God came to give me life to the full (John 10:10), not cause me misery in order to teach me something. But, that doesn’t mean pain or suffering isn’t a part of the process of life, in general. And who am I to presume to know the plans and purposes of God, anyways? How do I know what God is doing in someone else’s life as a result of my suffering? The truth is, I don’t know, and neither do you. We don’t know who is watching us or being ministered to through our pain. We don’t have a clue as to what God is up to about 99% of the time. We only know what we wish He were up to, or what we expect Him to be up to, and most of the time (at least in my experience) he rarely delivers as expected (I find He delivers far better than expected).

            I sit here and think of all the people who have influenced me in my life, and many of those people suffered a great deal. A lot of what God taught me had to do with watching them respond to their circumstances. And all of this gives me pause. Because if my suffering isn’t even about me, that means God is using me for some greater purpose in someone else’s life, even if I’ll never know who, what, or why. Who am I to be used by God? All of a sudden my “why” turns into an “Oh, thank you, God, for choosing me!” Not that I am happy about suffering (who is?) but knowing all of this actually has nothing to do with me gives me some measure of peace within the ugly process of hurting.

            Throughout the past few weeks God has brought a verse to mind repeatedly, and it’s worth noting here, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” Ephesians 5:16, NLT. The reality is we are all going to suffer. Some of us will experience great loss. Some of us will die younger than we had thought. Some of us will be considered “Modern day Jobs” by our friends. Some of us won’t really suffer much at all. But one thing we all have in common is that from the moment we take our first breath, we are already beginning the process of losing time and dying. So as William Wallace shares in the movie Braveheart, “All men die, not every man truly lives.”

            Within the process of suffering a pathway to true living exists, through embracing the pain (not with a giddy, happy, la-la kind of feeling, but in an embrace of surrender) and trusting that God is choosing to use us in His master plan in ways we won’t be able to comprehend. That maybe this journey we’re on isn’t even about us, it’s about Him and seeing how intricately he fits the pieces of our puzzles together to bring ultimate life abundant to us and others, all for His glory. Like Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What Satan meant for harm, God used for good.”

            Then again, maybe none of what I’m saying here makes sense to anyone but me. I don’t know. I just know that at least in my suffering, I am gaining a bit of relief in knowing it’s not about me at all. And I’m finding a way to be thankful in it, even excited about it, because I know God is working something incredible out. And whether I know what it is on this side of heaven or on the other, I will understand it eventually, and when the final picture is brought together, I know I’ll be smiling as Jesus looks at me and says, “It hurt, but it was worth it, don’t you think?” Yeah, it is, Jesus, it is.

Advertisements

Stuck: How to Mend and Move on From Broken Relationships

Final_STUCK_cover_2Stuck: How to Mend and Move on From Broken Relationships by F. Remy Diederich can be summed up in one word–brilliant. As a recovering addict, I have been through every step program and healing book out there, from Celebrate Recovery to the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. I have read books on anger and forgiveness written by famous theologians and pastors of mega churches, and though they have been helpful in their own right, this particular one hit home for me like no other has.

Before I read Stuck, I would not have characterized myself as a bitter or angry person. No, having been through the twelve steps every which way from Sunday, I would have said that I had NO problem with anger or forgiveness. And then I read the first few pages of Stuck and my heart sank (in a good, convicting way). Within approximately ten minutes of posting a Facebook status that said, “Frustrated” I read in Stuck what being “frustrated” really means, and as I honestly examined my heart I had to agree with the author’s conclusions on the issue.

Another aspect of Stuck I thoroughly enjoyed was the thought-provoking questions included in each chapter. I have a tendency to read books quickly, like what I read and even be convicted by it, but then forget everything the next day without any tangible life-changes. But in Stuck, the carefully chosen questions popped up everywhere (in a good way) which challenged me to think about what I had just read. In essence, the ball was in my court and I had the opportunity to either make a conscious change or ignore what I read and move on.

Whether you think you’ve conquered forgiveness, anger, bitterness, and broken relationships or not, this book is a must read. I guarantee you will be challenged to look within yourself, examine your motives, and make a lasting heart-change.

Initially I was interested in this book because of a personal situation I had been dealing with (in other words, a bad relationship) for the last year. This situation had become what I considered to be “impossible”. The truth presented in Stuck helped me discern what move to make next in regards to this relationship while having the confidence to know my decision would honor God. I believe in divine appointments; that there are no “accidents”. When Stuck landed in my hands (through circumstances only God could have orchestrated) my spiritual life began to transform in ways I didn’t even realize needed transforming. Perhaps when we reach a point where we think we’ve got it all figured out in a particular area is when we truly need help the most, having been blinded to our own short-comings

I can’t really rave enough about this book, and would strongly urge you to pick it up. It will be well worth your time and resources, especially if you actually apply what you learn. As I mentioned before, this opinion comes from one who has walked the road to recovery, and read many books on anger and forgiveness out there.

I look forward to getting my hands on a hard-copy of this book, as well as using it in a life-group (or small group) setting. I plan on reading it again and keeping it handy when those old familiar “feelings” resurface.

You can purchase Stuck: How to Mend and Move on From Broken Relationships by F. Remy Diederich on Amazon by clicking here…but for an even better deal check out this post by the author (if you’re reading this before December 18, 2012).

RemyF. Remy Diederich is the author of Healing the Hurts of Your Past…a guide to overcoming the pain of shame and STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships. He is the founding pastor of Cedarbrook Church in Wisconsin, the spirituality consultant at Arbor Place Treatment Center, and offers retreats and seminars based on his two books.His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble
Cross Point Publishing. (Stuck will be released in stores on Tuesday, December 18, 2012)
I encourage you to follow Remy on Facebook or Twitter and follow his blog: http://readingremy.com
You can also email Remy at: remydiederich@yahoo.com

(I received a free copy of Stuck for review purposes only. I was not required to give anything other than an honest review, and the opinions I have expressed here have been heartfelt and sincere. I do not know the author personally, nor am I a friend or relative. I am simply a grateful reader who was privileged to come across such and amazing book.)

Affliction: My Teacher

 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 (NIV)

Affliction: My Teacher

“I never knew the meaning of God’s word until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best teachers.” –Martin Luther

It has been said that Psalm 119:71 is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 which tells us, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Affliction often catapults us into God’s word to find comfort, understanding, answers, to make sense of our circumstances, or to find wisdom to make the next major decision. Without that painful affliction we would not have experienced that faith deepening moment with which God spoke clarity into our hearts. I would venture to say that affliction may even be one of our greatest teachers-often bringing us closer to Christ than any other situation could. In fact, our sanctification often comes through our deepest pains. We need to be at a place of trust where we can say with joy and confidence, “It was good for me to be afflicted!”

No one looks forward to pain or affliction, and certainly we don’t ask that God shower afflictions on us in order to draw us closer to Him, but we can be certain that when we do experience painful circumstances that God is most definitely working them in a systematically ordered way for our greatest good, that we might better learn His decrees. Ask God to open your heart to the character he wants to build in you, and the blessing he wants to bestow on you or others through your trials. You may never fully understand, but you can find rest in trusting His Divine wisdom.