Sunday, January 8, 2012
New Week, New Verse
Here it is, Sunday, the first day of the week once again. I have great determination and zeal to get through the new week at work with peace and contentment, to finish the article I have awaiting me, to tear down the Christmas decorations (yeah, they're still up...) and to lose a few pounds. Don't remind me yet that that zeal will fade somewhere around my first cup of coffee on Monday. Just let me bask in this moment of possibility and potential.
My new verse for the week is, and let me see if I can type this all from my brain already without looking:
"Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."
I feel that context is important. A lot of times, people will just pick and choose a verse and decide it's going to be their go-to verse, without ever really having a clue what the context of that particular verse is. You can take the verse "Jesus wept" and decide that you need to be an overly sensitive person, crying whenever emotion strikes you, breaking down and letting things get to you, because Jesus wept, so why shouldn't you? In this particular case, He was so fully overtaken by empathy for another person that He wept. He wasn't just a crybaby. So, it's important to know your context. Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." Does this mean you can walk out of your house and lift up your car? Does it mean you should uproot your family, throw caution to the wind, and move to a foreign country to raise alpacas because you want to try it? Does it mean that you are invincible? No. Don't be an idiot. God's not strengthening you to do whatever you want to do, He's strengthening you to be who He wants you to be.
Are you going through a lot of junk in your life right now and you can't figure out why? There's a reason. Are you having a hard time with a family member? Are you in the middle of an ugly divorce? Is it cancer? Is it death? Do you feel like you can't function anymore, and you don't know how you're going to find the strength to open your eyes and wake up in the morning?
This is your verse. Read it in context. In whatever situation you're in, be content in the fact that God has you there for a reason. You might not like it. It might be uncomfortable, hurtful, or painful. But when you get through it -- with HIS strength, not yours -- and you're looking at it from the other side, what will you have learned from the experience? Who will you be able to help see another day because He helped you see another day? The counsel and advice you can give on your own pales in comparison to how you can counsel and advise someone after you have been through what they're going through.
A very well-meaning pastor once tried to counsel me during my divorce. He told me that love is a choice, not a feeling. This is all well and good, and I agree. But this pastor had never had the heartbreak of a failed marriage, or gone through the depths of despair in the relationship that I'd gone through. There is no trite, concise answer to divorce that will magically make everything all better with one flip of a switch inside of your mind. However, having gone through that particular heartbreak of devoting eight years of my life to someone only to have it not work out, despite prayers and attempts at reconciliation and sacrifices galore on both our parts -- I am now on the other side, looking back. God has given me a handle on how to help others cope, on what a fresh start means, on what sort of foundation a marriage should be laid. There's also not a chance I would ever have appreciated the man I have now and the marriage covenant I have now if I hadn't gone through the long and winding road of divorce the first time around.
What trials have you been through that will help you help others? What scars linger forever on your heart that will make you stronger, enable you to be the man or woman God meant for you to be when he knit you together in your mother's womb? What atrocities have you seen or been a part of that you're thankfully on the other side of now, looking back at the wreckage, sometimes feeling it as though it were yesterday, but also knowing it's over and done with -- that sense of relief, that sense of strength, that breath of fresh air that your life has meaning, that sense of purpose that, regardless of how painful it was, you went through it for a reason...
This is your verse.
"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."
How do you know? Because you did. And if you haven't yet, you will.
Trust me. You will. Whatever circumstance you're in, be content -- take up that particular cross and follow Him. You won't be ashamed, and you won't regret it.