Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Running to, or running away?

Distress - great pain, sorrow, or anxiety - it is the condition of such acute pain or suffering which is characterized by our extreme need.  When we think of distress, we often think of something which "drives" us to do something we might not otherwise have considered.  In fact, there are two paths we take in our distress - the one ends in further misfortune, the other in seeking help for a way out.  

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.  (2 Corinthians 7:10 The Message)

Paul lays it out quite well for us in this passage - distress that drives us to God turns us around.  It "rights" our focus and gets us on the right path again.  In fact, no other "solution" for our distress will ever bring us the satisfaction and peace God affords as we bring it to him.

Look at what Paul says about distress - it can either drive us toward God, or away from God.  When we are moving toward something - it is in our view - we have hope of attaining whatever it is we are looking for.  There is an expectation which builds.  When we move away from something, we usually do so because we see it as a thing we fear, or we really have not come to the place where we recognize what it is we are trying so desperately to run away from.

Wrong decisions have a way of confusing us.  We make decisions, some on the spur of the moment, without much thought.  Then, when we see the results of the decisions, we may not be pleased with what the decision has produced.  We have a tendency to do a lot of "self-talk" when we make these wrong decisions. It varies from berating ourselves for our poorly thought out actions to hiding them away under a load of shame and regret.  The problem with these responses - they both produce more confusion for us.  Our emotions get caught up in the "distress".  Left alone in our misery long enough and our "acute" pain begins to become "chronic".  We live under the load of guilt, shame, and pain - just because we don't turn to the one who can remove it all.

Paul spent quite a bit of time helping the Corinthian church deal with unwise decisions.  He encountered their members engaged in sin, with the hopes they'd run right to God.  He engaged them in considering the other people in their lives, in hopes they'd take their companions to Christ in prayer when they were incapable of turning to him themselves.  He encouraged them to embrace the one who needed to be restored, in hopes they'd understand better the grace and mercy of our compassionate Savior.

I wonder who God has placed in our path this week who is experiencing great "distress"?  It may be emotional, physical, or spiritual - a really huge weight on the shoulders of the one caught under the burden of distress.  You might be called to be the voice of exhortation to them - speaking words which serve as a warning spoken in the tenderest and most loving way.  You could be the one awakened by an awareness of their need - moved to spend time lifting them up to the Father, battling with Satan for their very soul.  Still, you could be the arms of grace - embracing and restoring the one who has been buried for so long under the weight of their sin and shame.  

What we do with our own distress determines if we will be free from it, or continue to be weighed down under its load.  What we do when we recognize the distress of another may very well determine if they will be free from the weight they are bearing up under!  Be the hands and feet of Christ today.  Your movement toward the one in distress could be the very thing which turns them in the direction of God's grace and deliverance!

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