Saturday, October 17, 2015

Life is Messy

Life is messy. There. I said it.

I bet you're reading this and nodding your head. If not, you are young enough to have not experienced enough of that mess that comes with life. Enjoy this time. I'm serious! Enjoy it!

Most of the messy stuff comes from relationships with others.
     Unmet expectations.
All of these things contribute to heartaches and that overwhelming feeling of . . .

Life is Messy!! Make it stop!!!

We only need to watch the evening news once to see the messy part of life in high definition, full color, and surround sound. There are plenty of reports of lying, cheating, stealing, murder, and the list goes on. Most of these acts are against another human. This brings to mind a B.J. Thomas song: Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song. Country music is full of lyrics about people doing wrong to others.

Yes, I'll say it again, most of the mess comes from relationships.Someone gets angry at a neighbor or spouse and acts upon their anger. Suddenly they have become the subject of a breaking news story. I'll bet in many cases those people would never have thought that would happen.

The truth is that we live in a fallen world. I know. That's Christianese that I'm speaking. So let me define that phrase for those who don't speak church language. A "fallen world" is the result of Adam's sin as recorded in the book of Genesis. Because of that first sin by Adam, we are all born with that nature to sin. And this sin nature continues to come out in each of us. [I don't want to turn this into a theology lesson so I'll stop here, but that isn't the end of the sin story. I suggest reading the book of John in the New Testament to find out about the remedy.]

Now that we've established that our sin nature is behind most of this messy life, what's next? Let me bring this back around to where I started. Relationships are often difficult. People disappoint me and I disappoint others. Relationship woes have been uppermost in my mind over the past few months. These woes have touched every aspect of my life from coworkers and neighbors to loved ones.

There are two things of which I've been reminded through all of this:

  1. We are not battling people, we are battling an Enemy greater than that. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." To put all of this in perspective I must remember when someone I love hurts me, that there is this sin nature at work and Satan is always there ready to tempt me into retaliation. 
  2. Retaliation feels good--for a moment. Ephesians 4:26 tells me, "And 'don’t sin by letting anger control you.' Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry." Why should we not let anger control us? Because, as verse 27 so aptly points out, "for anger gives a foothold to the devil." Yep. As soon as I let anger take over, Satan is right there ready to "help me." His kind of "help" may ease the sting temporarily, but nothing good comes from his "help."

Case in point, someone I love dearly did something so unexpected and hurtful to me. After the shock wore off I began mounting my defense. In my mind I began rehearsing what I would like to say and explain how hurtful those actions were to me. In the midst of my hurt I heard a still, small voice in my heart say, "Be angry and sin not." I realized at that moment that while I was planning my own defense I was about to unleash my anger and do something hurtful in return. Yes, it would have felt good at that moment, but only for a moment. Eventually I would have felt worse for inflicting pain. I don't say this to brag about self-control. I say this to confess my own sin nature. It's always lurking.

I was angry because I cared. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Think about it. If someone we don't know makes a flippant comment that makes us angry, we're more likely to shrug it off. When someone we love makes the same comment to us, we take that more seriously and are more likely to retaliate. It's those close relationships that we need to be more guarded about.

When those hurts come flying at us like arrows, the book of Ephesians reminds us that we should be wearing our breastplate of righteousness to defend against those arrows. In fact, we are to "Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Whether we are dealing with a colleague at work who has it in for us or simply dealing with a loved one who has seriously disappointed us, those relationships have a way of provoking our peace. 

How did I handle the situation mentioned previously? I prayed about it and the Lord showed me that I had already explained my side of the story, in detail, prior to this distress. For now, I should remain silent. If there's any vindication, the Lord will handle it. In my situation I am able to put space between me and this person, but if you are unable to distance yourself from the one who offended you, I urge you to seek God's help and direction on how to handle the situation.

For His glory,

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings 
condemnation for everyone, 
but Christ’s one act of righteousness 
brings a right relationship 
with God and new life for everyone.
Romans 5:18