Advice to a Friendby submission to Book Ministry on 10/01/11
A visitor to Book-Ministry recently sent a message seeking advice and support. I've removed her name for confidentiality, but the message applies to many who have similar issues.
I hope you don't mind me sending you this lengthy response to your email. I don't want to overload you with information, but I do want to try to address your plea for help.
As I have been prayerfully pondering your message, one verse keeps popping into my consciousness: "Looking off and away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of the faith" (literal translation of Hebrews 12:2). My first impression from reading (and re-reading) your concerns is that you have your eyes looking in the wrong direction - everywhere but "off and away unto Jesus." I make the same mistake often, and must remind myself that I DIED - I WAS BURIED - and there is where I STOPPED living and CHRIST STARTED living His life in me. That's what baptism is all about, our recognition and belief that we died when Christ died, we were buried when Christ was buried, and were raised in newness of life: "It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us; and the life we now live in this body, we live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us, and gave Himself up for us" (paraphrase of Galatians 2:20).
Another great passage to keep in mind: "If (assuming it is so) that you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep setting your mind (keep thinking) on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:1-3) I don't want to hit you over the head with Bible verses, but - in spite of the fact that your life sucks (mine does too - so does EVERYONE ELSE's in Adam) - the life of Christ DOESN'T! It's HIS life in us we need to be occupied with. Christ is the ONLY Person in the universe that can live the Christian life. You are finally discovering this for yourself. That's actually a good thing, discovering there is NOTHING good in you, that is, who you are in Adam - a natural, fleshly creature. But, assuming you have actually been born from above (born "again") - then there's a whole other life you now have the opportunity to discover as your own - IN CHRIST.
The Apostle Paul had some difficulties he wanted removed - but God showed him His grace was sufficient. Later he realized it was just what God needed to use in his life to keep him from getting puffed up with pride. So many times I find myself whining and complaining about my circumstances (we won't compare, but I've got way worse things I could mention than you mentioned in your list) and having to be reminded that God is having to take me through these trials to perfect, strengthen, and equip me. You must read Deut. Chapter 8. Years ago, my pastor gave me that advice when I was complaining about how my life sucked (very similar to your current situation). Wow - did God open my eyes to see what was going on. HE knew what was in me - how wretched I was - how full of myself I was - but he wanted ME to see what He saw.
I am sorry you are yet childless - but maybe that's a blessing from God - a time to prepare you to be a great mom, occupied with serving and loving Him rather than being occupied with your problems and struggles. He's sovereign - He's in charge - not me - not you. If and when He wants you to conceive, He'll make it happen. Meanwhile, be occupied with HIM. His word to you is to quietly and submissively love and serve your husband and without a word (of complaint or contention) you may bring the changes he needs in his life.
God IS seeing you through these trials. Isaiah 63:9 "In all their affliction He was afflicted." He's right there in you, experiencing the trials and sorrows with you. Another (perhaps more accurate) translation reads, "In all their affliction, He was not an adversary." In other words, God is not against you - He's looking out for you. Romans 8:28, a familiar but often misunderstood passage says, "God causes all things to work together for the good (not always what you think is your good) to those who love God, called according to His purpose." Not all Christians love God. Those who love God are those who obey Him (John 14:21).
As the pressure comes, put it off onto Christ. Let it be His problem, not yours. You belong to Him. Your problems are His problems. Love your parents - serve them as Christ serves, washing their feet, manifesting (not talking about) the love of God in Christ, expressed faithfully through your hands, your feet, your tongue, your ears, etc. You are His possession, His instrument, His temple, His body. Allow His nature, His love, His patience, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His peace, His presence ... to manifest through your body. Quit trying so hard to be a Christian and allow Christ to be the Christian in you He wants to be.
I'm done preaching. I hope you didn't mind too much. This morning, Lori (my pastor's wife) sent this copy of "Open Windows" daily devotional (T. Austin-Sparks) which I think very well confirms my train of thought:
"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." (Romans 8:9 NIV)
"Perhaps the major problem of most of the Lord's people is to keep that line of division between what we are in ourselves and what Christ is in us. The great line of attack on the part of the enemy is to bring what we are ourselves continually up into view and occupy us with that, and by so doing obscure Christ. The great object of the Holy Spirit in His opposing of Satan is to bring Christ into view and to occupy us with Him to the obscuring of ourselves. That is where the great difficulty arises for most of the Lord's people. There is always this beat back, this drive back to get us occupied with ourselves, as to what we are, to keep us from being occupied with Christ and what He is; in some way to get that gap, that gulf, that separation filled up, and the line of demarcation obliterated, so that there is confusion. God begins with the Firstborn. That implies something altogether other than what we are, and it is important to see what God says, and how God views those who are represented as being in Christ, and in whom Christ is....
"When Christ is in us, God views us through Christ. Oh, that we might recognize this, that in Christ in us, there is the embodiment of God's thought, and He is able to speak so of us. His activities with us are all in relation to the Christ who is now by the Holy Spirit in us, and in Whom we are. The fact that the Firstborn is invariably connected with death and resurrection is God's way of saying that what we are in ourselves by nature is buried from His standpoint, and it is His Son alone who obtains where we are concerned as a risen One, the only One who lives before Him. All else are dead and buried in the sight of God, and God would have us take that attitude. Remember that we are dead and buried."
I've appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with you, my friend. I am convinced that in the flesh, I'm the last person who should be giving advice. Apart from Christ, I'm nothing! (John 15:5) - but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me from within." (Phil. 4:13)
May God unveil to you His incomprehensible love and affection for you, and may you discover REST as you become diligent to enter in to His rest (Matthew 11:28) cp. (Hebrews 3:1-11).
Your Brother in Christ,