In the face of troubling circumstances which seem to be going from bad to worse, I have frequently heard people say something like, "I thought I did everything right". They equate where they are at with something they did or did not do. In time they may come to realize they did everything "right", but still faced some troubling or uncontrollable circumstances. Man thinks he can control what he faces - but indeed he cannot. We live in a world which comes at us in unparalleled force and speed these days - to think we can control it is absolutely silly. When these things come which set us on our fannies and leave us a little stunned, God isn't caught by surprise. In fact, he knows they are coming and has often prepared our hearts for them long before they do. What we can do is ride them out - not in our own strength - but in the power and strength God places deep within. He knows what is in our hearts - we just have to trust him to bring in out when we need it most.
We may think we are doing the right thing, but the Lord always knows what is in our hearts. Doing what is right and fair pleases the Lord more than an offering. Evil people are proud and arrogant, but sin is the only crop they produce. If you plan and work hard, you will have plenty; if you get in a hurry, you will end up poor. (Proverbs 21:2-5 CEV)
God also knows when the things in our hearts are less than desirable - sometimes bringing just the right set of circumstances to bear which will expose it for what it is. In those times, we can just flatly deny the presence of stuff which is less than desirable, or we can settle into whatever God is desiring to teach us in those moments. When we try to "hurry our way through" life's challenges, they just get more difficult, not easier. The time we take to get things "right" in the season we are in, the better we will "fair" when the next season is upon us.
The heart is capable of wearing a mask of sorts - kind of keeping things "under wraps" and out of sight. We think we have stuff dealt with - but all we did is bury it a little deeper or hide it become some clever mask. The times of trial go a long way to expose what is really there, though. If we were to begin to be honest with each other a little, we might just find we are working very hard to hide the same stuff because nothing is really unique to one individual - there are pretty common "roots" to our worries, hurts, and the like.
Yesterday, I spoke about the three forms of thought - meditation, contemplation, and recollection. Recollection plays an important part in how much of our heart we are willing to share. If the recollections are painful, we often don't want to reflect upon them again, so we bury them deeply. If they are warm and fuzzy, we call them up time and time again. The troubles of today might just be what is going to call to the surface something of the past we have buried deeply in our hearts. If that is the case, we better be prepared to trust God to handle what is brought to the surface - since no one is better able to handle it than he is!
Sometimes we just want to bring God some form of "offering" - like we can pick and choose what it is God puts his finger on at some particular moment. The truth is quite different, though, for God is capable of putting his finger on just the right thing he wants offered. Oftentimes, the thing he chooses is something we think is not worthy to be given to him as an offering - those things we have buried quite deeply. Now, you may say that God doesn't want an "offering" of the garbage hidden deeply below the surface of our heart, but I will disagree. There is something quite satisfying to him to see those things finally placed upon the altar. He is finally able to touch them and consume them, transforming them into something new. This is the idea of beauty for ashes - his consuming power turning to ash the things we have buried deeply, hidden away from the "inspecting eye". In turn, he takes the ashen remains and replaces them with beautiful grace, love, and peace.
You see God at work in the lives of those around you and in time you want to see this seem manifestation of his work within you. This is why we need each other and why God has given us community in which to grow and develop. He wants us to be stirred by the transformation we see in others. If we were totally honest, we want the freedom release brings, we just don't want the vulnerability it requires. God asks for us to simply trust him - not because we have to, but because we want to. Obedience is not a "have to" kind of thing - it is a "want to" thing. Plenty comes in trusting, not in trying. We get this wrong most of the time - for we think in the trying we will get to the place of plenty in our lives. In the trusting we come into this place!
We cannot control the circumstances, but we can control the steps we take to walk obediently and trustingly through them. We cannot control the outcome, but we can trust that the one who does is going to bring the best outcome possible. We CAN control how we respond in the trial - either by giving freely of ourselves, or by turning tail and running away. We CAN control how we face steps which are harder than we'd like them to be - for obedience is a choice - not an easy one, but a necessary one. We CAN control our response, but we cannot control the season. Time may be necessary to yield the crop we need to see most in our lives. We just simply have to trust God to control the yield! Usually the best crops require the deeper watering. Just sayin!