Friday, February 29, 2008

Realistic Expectations

"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling..." (v.5)

It's a problem as people face marriage. It's a problem as people think about the workplace. It's a problem as couples anticipate the birth of their first child. It's a problem as we think about our friendships. It's a problem as people think about their life in the church. What is the problem that I'm talking about? It's the problem of unrealistic expectations. Why do we have unrealistic expectations for all of these inescapable dimensions of human life? We have them because we don't take seriously what the Bible has to say about the condition of the world in which we live. Here it is; sin has cast this world into trouble.

There's no escaping it, this world isn't functioning as it was designed to function. The Bible warns us that we're living in a world that's literally groaning, waiting for redemption. We live in a world where disease and death exist, neither one of which was part of the initial plan. We live in a world of deceit and disappointment, neither one a part of God's original intention. We live in a world of rebellion and sin, neither a part of the "good" that God created. We live in a world of suffering and loss, both so far from God's plan. We live in a world of violence and war, surely not the handiwork of the Prince of Peace. We live in a world where lust and greed motivate hearts, not what God intended the heart to do. We live in a world where all of these things touch all of our lives. No relationship is free of disappointment. No institution is totally free of corruption. No location is free of difficulty. No moment in our lives exists untouched by the fall.

Why is this so important to acknowledge? First, much of the disappointment we face is that we've carried unrealistic expectations into the situations and relationships of our daily lives and we do that because we've not taken seriously what the Bible says about the fallen world in which we all live. Here's an example I've seen again and again as I've worked with struggling husbands and wives. Couples enter marriage not taking seriously the fact that they're both flawed people, living in a fallen world. Because of this they don't prepare well, as individuals or as a couple, for the difficulties of building a healthy, God-honoring relationship. Consequently, they're caught short and unprepared as sin within and difficulty without rear their ugly heads in their marriage. Their unrealistic expectations lead to a lack of preparation, which cause them to react rather than act carefully. In the end they're not only suffering the troubles of life in this fallen world, but also they're suffering the fact that they've troubled their own trouble. All of this creates the tendency for a husband and wife to play to one another's weaknesses instead of their strengths, instead of preparing themselves with the wisdom principles of God's Word and seeking the enabling power of God's grace. God's Word is very, very honest about how broken the world we live in actually is. This honesty is God lovingly helping us to be aware and prepared as we live with one another and wait for the ultimate restoration of everything that is.

But there's something else. Unrealistic expectations cause each of us to live more independently and self-sufficiently than we ever should. In reality, we're all in need of daily rescuing, forgiving, and empowering grace. We need that grace because none of us is free from the presence and power of sin. This means that, moment by moment, we need to be rescued from us! We also need the grace of God so that we'll be able to love the weak and failing people that we're always in relationships with. But there's something else here. The Word of God is intended to be a "lamp to our feet and a light to our pathway." We'll only live properly in this broken world when we're being guided and protected by the light of its wisdom in the situations and relationships we live in every day. When I live unaware of how profound my need is and how broken my world is, I don't hunger for the brilliant wisdom of God's Word and I'm left to my own foolishness. And in my foolishness, I respond to things in a way that only deepens and complicates the troubles that I'm already struggling with.

You can be sure of this; your day of trouble will come. Yet, in your trouble God hasn't left you alone. What is it that he gives you in your trouble? He gives you himself! He is what will keep you safe. He is near and he comes to you armed with transforming grace and liberating wisdom. But its vital that you live with eyes and heart open to what Scripture says to you about you and the world in which you live. If you do, you'll live in a way that's humble and needy, seeking the grace and wisdom that you so desperately need and that God so willingly and lovingly gives. Be realistic. Remember, there's amazing grace for every realistic thing you'll be called to face.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Psalm 27: Fearless Forever

"The Lord is my light and salvation - whom shall I fear?" (v.1)

In a world that is held
in such deep darkness
where the light of truth
often seems more of a flicker
than a flame,
in a world where
and foolishness
divert and distort
the lives of so many,
in times when a myriad
say so
about so many things,
where confusion seems
readily available
and clarity seems
hard to find,
in a world where opinions
rise to a place
where only truth should be,
and every voice
seems to get an equal hearing,
in the constant cacophony
of ten thousand
contradictory voices,
it is a wonderful
and amazing thing
to be able to say
with rest and confidence,
The Lord is my Light!
My heart has been lit
by the illuminating
and protective glory
of His
powerful and transforming grace,
my mind has been renewed
by the luminescent presence
of His truth-guiding
Holy Spirit,
and my life has been guided
down straight paths
by the ever-shining lamp
of His Word.
I am not afraid,
but it is not because
I am strong
or wise.
I am not afraid,
but it is not because
I have power
or position.
I am not afraid,
but it is not because
I have health
or wealth.
I am not afraid;
but it is not because
my circumstances
or relationships
are easy.
I am not afraid
for one glorious reason;
I have been lit by the
Lord of Light.
In the darkness
of this fallen world,
I no longer walk
in the night,
but I have been given
the Light of Life.
I am not afraid
because Light lives in me.
This one amazing reality
gives me rest;
I have been rescued from
and transported into the
and I am not afraid.