Striving Together

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”  (Hebrews 4.11)

One of the blessings of this interruption has been to watch friends and families do more together.  Playing board games, going for walks, and eating together (all within socially safe distance of course!).  As a relationship guy that encourages my heart.  It’s great to see us pulling together, but there’s also something that can pull us apart, namely-striving.  Striving is a buzz word for Christians, however striving to a psychologist is very important.  In Psychology, the practitioner is interested in how you push yourself through challenges and changes.  To make life a little more interesting, we all strive a little differently.   So, in the course of this big challenge our close friends and family will strive differently from us.  Some people will strive by reading everything they can find on the virus.  Another group will not want to read anything.  Close friends may want to talk it, while others won’t talk at all.  One group will stockpile goods, and another will resist that.  Chances are if you are sharing life with a person who strives differently eventually there will be a collision.  The difference will become an irritant.  So, what can we do about that?

  1. Get grace! Hebrews 4 concludes with an incredible invitation: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  We need that grace so we can practice point 2.
  2. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you… After studying thousands of couples, Dr. John Gottman discovered that nearly 2/3 of relationship conflict is about perpetual, unsolvable problems. This doesn’t prevent happy relationships—it’s how couples manage perpetual problems that makes the difference. (see: https://www.gottman.com/blog/reaching-compromise-second-part-state-union-meeting/)
  3. Receive the difference as a gift. Our thinking typically has bookends to it.  We know where we are stuck and we mentally project to a point we’d like to get to.  Then, that becomes our mental focus.  However, it is limited.  It’s just one possibility.  That’s where we can get stuck in our thinking and irritated by someone who thinks differently.  But, having relationships with different kinds of thinkers can liberate us from that entrenchment, IF we can accept their approaches as a potential gift to us.

This virus has demanded massive amounts of striving from all of us.  Let’s not forget that we are in this together.  That each of us may hold an encouragement, idea or plan that helps us negotiate the challenges more gracefully.

Holy Interruption…What Do We Do Now?

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. (Proverbs 16.9)

One of the first things mom drilled into my head was, “DO NOT interrupt others!”.  I still hear her voice in the back of my head!  So, God must not have had that conversation with my mom because He interrupts all the time!  For example, Noah, stop what you are doing.  No more normal life.  Instead you’ll build an ark.  Moses you are done with shepherding, it’s time to become Israel’s deliverer.  Esther you might think you want a simple life, but off to the palace you go.  The disciples?  They were expected to drop their nets and follow.  Interruptions everywhere!  As for Jesus, it appears that his earthly ministry was a parade of interruptions.  A quick count of Mark’s sixteen chapters produces at least 32 different interruptions.  The fact is Jesus’ interruptions had interruptions!

So fast forward to today.  Feel like your life is interrupted?  NBA interrupted.  NHL interrupted.  Caribou coffee interrupted.  Work interrupted.  School interrupted.  In the midst of all these interruptions what are we to do?  Short answer-allow God to direct our steps.  Before I expand on that, let me say clearly that I am not saying God sent this virus.  But I will also say that God absolutely knows all about the virus.  He’s not caught unaware.  We were.  Since He knows all about it, He may have a pretty good idea of how to help us walk through it.  That’s where the direction of steps is important.  That’s where what feels like an interruption to us, will actually be a course correction from Him.

So, to help you discern let me offer you four features of a divine interruption:

  • A divine interruption grabs our attention.  For example, Moses needed to see why the burning bush didn’t consume itself. It captured his attention (Ex. 3.3).
  • A divine interruption has a compelling nudge to it. (See Paul in Acts 16.6-10)
  • A divine interruption gives us our next step. (The disciples in Mt. 4.19-22)
  • A divine interruption doesn’t provide the complete plan just what you need to know now. (Abram in Gen. 12.4)

Now it’s not essential to have all four of these markers evident in a divine interruption.  God’s aim is to get your attention and shift your direction.  But here’s the sobering question: will we be available to God?  In Isaiah 6.8, there is a picture of a very rare quandary in God’s throne room.  The prophet writes, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Do you see it?  God is wondering aloud about who will go?  God has a plan.  God has the provision.  It comes down to who will be willing to go.  Isaiah responds in a way that I imagine all heaven applauded, “Here I am.  Send me.”  Beautiful!

Chances are, in this crazy big interruption God has some smaller interruptions He’d like us to attend to.  Keep your eyes open and your hearts ready!  Send heaven into thunderous cheering as you say, “Here I am Lord.  Send me.”

 

PS: If you are interested, a more expansive sermon on this topic was preached at City Hill Fellowship.  See: https://www.facebook.com/cityhillchurch.ep/videos/807193710100974/?t=0