One Year Ago or This S*** Sucks

One year ago I had this to say, “I’m looking forward to this Christmas as well as the new year. I’m content and hopeful and encouraged and ready to see what will happen this next year.” If I had known then what I know now I’d have probably hidden out under a rock to let the year pass by and come out again like Rip Van Winkle. I can’t remember a worst year in the entire Book of Eli. My failures have spanned all disciplines; girls, house, cars, work, girls. It has just kept on coming. The discouragement has been overwhelming at times and at the end of the day I’m not sure if I’m stronger in my faith or just weaker as a person.

Francis Schaeffer wrote,

The Christian life is not an unbroken, inclined plane. Sometimes it is up, and sometimes -we must all acknowledge if we are not deluding ourselves – it is down. While it is not possible to be more or less justified, it is possible to be more or less sanctified. Justification deals with the guilt of sin; sanctification deals with the power of sin in the Christian life, and there are degrees in this.

This is somewhat of an encouragement to know that my justification has not been undone even though the discouragement has definitely resulted in a decrease in sanctification of myself and life. There have been times this year of great satisfaction and contentment; earlier this summer, I can’t remember if it was before the disappointing appraisal or after, I picked up bike riding again and I can remember sitting on my stoop after a particularly long ride taking in the summer air with a cool gatorade. I’m fairly certain I even audibly voiced my contentment with life even if it meant staying indefinitely at chateau de Woodgate(my crappy cheap apartment). These simple moments are what are stolen so easily; whether by distraction or deception Satan has drawn my eyes and heart away and the contentment disappears.

Schaeffer goes on to say, ‘When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God or have ceased to be submissive to him.’ Ouch I didn’t need that conviction too. Where has my contentment fled and what’s in the way of my submission? Trust? Have I trust enough to be led in a ways that I would not choose? Is what I fear about the future robbing me of the present? The very real possibility of never finding a wife, never building a house, never racing a rally car, no thing for which I had hoped. I stare at these prospects somewhat paralyzed. I’m the first to rejoice at the blessing of others and I would say the last to covet what another has, but the root of this sounds an awful lot like coveting.

Schaeffer…again,

Does this mean that any desire is coveting and therefore sinful? The Bible makes plain that this is not so – all desire is not sin. So then the question arises, when does proper desire become coveting? I think we can put the answer down simply: desire becomes sin when it fails to include love of God or men. Further I think there are two practical tests as to when we are coveting against God or men; first I am to love God enough to be contented; second, I am to love men(mankind) enough not to envy.

So I’ve got that second part, but I think somewhere along the way I skipped over the first. I am missing part of the equation and probably the most important part, emphasized here by guess who. ‘”The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” The order is in three steps: rejected, slain, raised. “And he said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” The order – rejected, slain, raised is modeled for us in Christs substitutionary death and is the order of true spirituality.’ Again, ouch. When the heck was it that I thought this cross and denying of self would include indulging oneself in whatsoever satisfaction one can garner out of this life and his surroundings?

As Christ’s rejection and death are the first steps in the order of redemption, so our rejection and death to things and self are the first steps in the order of true and growing spirituality. As there could be no next step in the order of Christ’s redemption until the step of death was taken, so in the Christian there can be no further step until these first two steps are faced – no in theory only, but at least in some practical practices. Rejected, slain.

One thought on “One Year Ago or This S*** Sucks

  1. I have not undergone the grand scale that you have this year. Though in no way is it the same, being the parent helplessly observing brings about a definite sharing in the suffering and thus His instruction. And so, I keep returning to this post with wonder over the insight in it, letting it speak to me again and again.

    Though in many ways you pick it up throughout the text, in your first paragraph it reveals still a slight non-recognition of this one aspect that in your personal weakness, you are in a good place. As Paul brought to us in 2 Corin. 12 9-10, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” In this we find that our strength is God’s rival and our weakness is His servant. In recognition of our weakness, God finds opportunity. We find that we must draw upon His resources in our weakness. Drawing upon His resources means we must surrender & align ourselves with His pathways and in the end, we show forth His glory. And so what feels at first to be a bad thing- -our weakness in the end is the best thing—His glory. And of course in compatibility with His nature, dwelling in the presence of His glory, we find joy. It is funny that the things we would never choose for ourselves seem to be the very things He uses in great ways.

    You talk about degrees of sanctification. I am again reading the book Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges and Again am finding it powerfully eye opening to the degree of my need for sanctification. You mentioned that you thought your result had been a decrease in sanctification of yourself & life. But on the contrary, I find that the trials only reveal what was there all along, maybe hidden from view, so that God can deal with it. And that process always brings about a greater sanctification. I saw a good illustration of this once. A clear jar filled with water. The water at first appeared pure and clean. But then a pitcher of truly pure water was poured into the first jar and it began to stir up the settlement of dirt at the bottom of that first jar. The jar began to overflow with dirty water, but the more of the pure water poured in, the cleaner the water in the jar became.

    What a true statement, “whether by distraction or deception satan has drawn my eyes and heart away and the contentment disappears.” Reminds me of the statement of the Baptist in Ivan Denisovich regarding Ivan’s desire to be released from prison & Aloyska’s response that out there in the world are all of the distractions away from God. Oh how easily we look away to our detriment! And how often we do let the fear about the future rob us of the present—especially of that present moment’s relationship with God.

    Thank you again for your challenging insights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *