Friend or Foe?

My troubles turned out all for the best—they forced me to learn from your textbook.  Truth from your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine.
(Psalm 119:71-72 The Message)

We've all probably heard it said that we learned a particular lesson in the "school of hard knocks".  This seems to be the way many of us learn!  We struggle, muddling through the bad stuff, until we can ultimately say that we "made it through".  We don't get a diploma to show we made it through, but we have learned a lesson or two that we probably were desperate to learn in our lives!  

Where we turn to in the "school of hard knocks" is what determines how well we learn the "lessons" of those times!  David says that the hard times forced him to learn from God's textbook - the Word.  Amazing how that works, huh?  We find ourselves in the midst of a moment of indecision and THEN we look for the answers!  I think many of us head down a path without any clear indication as to where it will lead us!

I visited Virginia this Fall with a friend.  We "explored" parts unknown to us at our leisure.  One day in particular, we found ourselves on the way from one destination to another and stopped at a park.  There were multiple trails visible from the roadway indicating trail numbers.  When we reached the end of the rather long roadway into the part, we thought we'd explore a little.  In doing so, we took the first path we saw.

What we did not realize that all the paths had a particular purpose to them - some were for birders who could take in the beauty of water fowl, still others would provide ample opportunity to catch the scenes of other birds higher up in the tree limbs.  Neither of us were "birders", so this all seemed rather foreign to us.  We enjoyed the walk anyway!  What we didn't expect was the huge, rather ominous looking black snake pictured above!  

The path was marked as a "birder's" path - yet it held some pretty unfriendly things!  Life is kind of like that at times - "labeled" one thing, but presenting us with other things that just don't make the journey all that exciting!  In those moments, what we do with the "snakes" on the trail is what often determines the outcome!

My traveling companion chose to throw acorns at it, arousing it from its slumber.  I chose to walk on down the path, determined to ask the next "local" I ran into just what species of snake we had encountered!  See, I'd rather know what I am "waking up" than have it awaken and me not be ready to deal with it!

I think that is what David pictures for us in this passage.  He had developed an appreciation for the Word as his guidebook for living.  He knew the road would be riddled with "snakes" of all kinds.  He developed a trust in the "guidebook" to point out those that were to be encountered with extreme caution and those that could be ignored as harmless.  

At the moment we encountered the black snake, notice if you will, I did stop long enough to shoot three or four shots with my camera!  So, as you can see, I have a curiosity for the things that may harm me!  This is human nature - pure and simple!  We know things may hurt us, but we stop long enough to admire them and consider them.  David certainly had learned this lesson the hard way when he was involved in admiring what God clearly said he should not admire.  His "romp" with Bathsheba left him with a sticky situation to deal with - he'd taken another man's wife, finds out she is with child, and now he must cover up what he clearly should not have embraced!

Sin is like that - it presents itself, affording the opportunity to admire what we should clearly leave alone.  We make the decision "in the moment" as to how we will deal with what it is we are admiring.  Either we walk away, or we stand around long enough to get taken in!  The more we turn to the "textbook" BEFORE we encounter the "snakes" along the path, the more we will be ready to avoid them on the path!

The "school of hard knocks" is certainly not the best school to learn our lessons of life.  It is much better to learn them at the feet of Jesus so that we avoid as many of those "hard knocks" as possible.  Soak it in, my friends!  You will need the knowledge you gain today for the lessons you will encounter tomorrow!  


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