Thursday, December 09, 2004

From Devastation to Elation

The Journey Back to God

OK, so it’s last Friday, and I am utterly collapsing (or so it feels to me…) under the cumulative weight of a dozen different problems that have added up to become one gargantuan spiritual crisis. Everywhere I turn, things look disastrous: my relationships are in ruins, my responsibilities are overwhelming, my resources are spent, blah blah blah. Fast-forward three days to Monday, and it’s hardly recognizable as the same life. There, see me? Yep, I’m the dude whistling as he trots up the sidewalk to the office. Life is goood! Why the drastic change? Well, it was a combination of causes…

First, I got in the word, because I know that “the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps 19:7). Moses said it just like I experience it: “it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Dt. 32:47). If I don’t get in the word when I’m struggling, I’m dead! In fact, most of my struggles start precisely because I’ve been neglecting the word.

Second, people got in my face. Well, not just “people”…rather, people who know me well and love me anyway. And with their God-centered words and God-filled lives, they brought me back to a Godward orientation. Not all of what they said was fun to hear, but I guess that’s because salt usually stings as it cleanses: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6).

Third, I surrendered. God had been asking for something, I knew it, and I just wasn’t going there. And so that lead-balloon feeling in my gut began to intensify. I resisted pretty well until the steel girders of my soul—hope and joy and peace—were twisting and cracking from the stress. The inexpressible relief and buoyant feeling when I finally surrendered was like… well, (to alter the image a bit) it was kind of like the pleasure you get when you finally stop smashing your thumb with a hammer.

And fourth, I worshipped. Psalm 73 provides one of my favorite biblical illustrations of the stabilizing power of glimpsing God in worship. Asaph’s soul is reeling from doubt and confusion in the first half of the Psalm, but in the last half he’s all fixed up. The change comes in verses 16-17: “when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God…” And what was significant about entering the sanctuary? It’s where Asaph saw God.

Seeing God has a wonderful way of reorienting your soul. It’s like dropping a massive ballast into the bottom of a tipping ship or drawing all the planets into orbit around the sun (both analogies from John Piper). In fact, I would argue that glimpsing God is at the heart of every one of these corrective influences in my life: the word reveals God, people communicate God, surrender opens the heart to God, worship unveils God…

And so what I conclude from all of this is that the “gargantuan spiritual crisis” of Friday was fundamentally a shortage of God in my life. And that’s the basis for my appeal to you. If you read the description of my Friday and said, “Yep, that’s me,” then take that as a little “heads up” that, in one way or another, you need more of God. So get in the word, talk to your wisest friends, surrender what He’s calling for, worship, or whatever—whatever it takes to reorient your life with God at the center.

So why not get going on your journey back to God? One more thing… For those of you who feel like you have too far to go and you doubt whether you can make it, here’s a promise to spark your hope and steel your resolve: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Can’t beat that for a little assistance along the way!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated your time and to tell you that I cancelled my email account because I felt that I needed to deal with some stuff on my own. Pete