Posted in Christian

God Doesn’t Hand Out Crutches

3

What is a spiritual crutch?

A spiritual crutch is anything you turn to for comfort, for peace, or for security.

Looking at that basic definition, we may not be quick to say that we use spiritual crutches. By that definition, these crutches sound an awful lot like a false god and we know better than to worship lifeless idols. Don’t we?  But let’s look a little deeper at what they are and see if we don’t have a pair of worn out crutches sitting in our room.

Do you ever turn on the tv in order to find something to distract you from your troubles? The tv has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever grab a book to read in order to hide from issues surrounding you?
A book has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever create art: paint, draw, knit, color, etc. to escape and unwind?
Art has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you exercise to deal with the things you can’t handle in life?
Exercise has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you eat in order to better handle a bad day?
Eating has become a spiritual crutch.

Clearly, we could go on and on for days but I think you get the point, and maybe by now you even have your finger on the spiritual crutch or crutches in your life.

Why are spiritual crutches wrong?
Spiritual crutches are a problem for the Christian because we are trusting in something to woo us back into our happy places instead of relying on the Living God to do what He said He would do.

Have you noticed that spiritual crutches look an awful lot like hobbies? So…are hobbies sinful? Are we to give up the things that give us pleasure?
Hobbies are not sinful. I believe the Lord gives us desires and talents and allows us to enjoy them. And why wouldn’t He? He gave us taste buds to enjoy food. He gave us the sense of smell to enjoy the wonders around us. He gave us sensual pleasures to enjoy the duty of procreation.
He often showers us with delightful add-ons just because He can and it pleases Him to do so. So what’s the problem with these hobbies-turned-crutches?

The problem is when you turn to your pleasures instead of God when you’re going through difficult times. The problem is when you reach for your “fix” instead of your God.
How often do we say something like, “I’m having a terrible day but a good cup of coffee will make it all better.” Or we might turn up the radio and drown out the sorrows. Let the base rock the tension out of our shoulders.

The problem is not in the things. It’s in our placement of these things. Here’s a good example:
I’m around readers through several social platforms, and I’ve heard this dozens of times. They’ll say something like, “I can’t concentrate on this book I’m reading. It’s a great book, but I have so much going on at home (dog died, sister is in the hospital, child ran away, and they lost their job). I just want to get into a book and get lost. But I can’t and I’m frustrated.”
Of course, they’re frustrated!! Why wouldn’t they be? They’re trying to cover the gaping hole in their heart with a Looney Tunes band-aid! It doesn’t work that way. We don’t work that way. We weren’t created for this at all.

The Lord is our safety net. He is our perfectly sized, never falls off, medicated band-aid. The truth is, you don’t need anything else. You don’t need a backup plan. You don’t need God and that cup of coffee. You don’t need the smell of paints and a little Scripture.

You need to put your focus on Christ and only Christ.
Recite scripture to yourself and see how quickly your day turns around. No need to spend $3.99 for yummy calories.
Sing praises and hymns and watch your mood shift from night to day. You won’t even have to use a bookmark or recharge your kindle.
Read the Bible and notice how clarity floods your soul. You won’t even have to pull out your art supplies.
Pray to the God who is always listening and see how quickly peace enters in. There’s no need to hit the gym again on your way home.

It’s not that hobbies are bad. It’s that we often accept them in place of something so much greater. I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying things you love. But I am saying that the next time life overwhelms you, turn to God first. Let Him heal you in a way that only He can. THEN enjoy all the extra stuff. You can’t empty your mind by numbing your mind and that’s what these crutches offer. Instead, empty your mind by handing over everything that is bugging you. Hand it over in prayer and turn those prayer requests to praises.

How can I be so sure that God can heal me, mend me, and turn my attitude and my perspective around? Here is just a sampling of what God says in His Word:

Psalm 121: 1,2
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 120: 1
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”

Psalm 71:1, 5, 14, 23, 24
“In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame…For You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I whom You have delivered. My tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 62:5-8
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 54:1, 2, 4
“Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth…Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

Psalm 42:5
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 28:6, 7
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In the face of such evidence, how can we continue to turn to a donut for comfort? All we ever have need of is hidden in Christ. Let us remember this the next time we reach for a crutch. After we have been healed and our hearts are whole, we can enjoy our hobbies. But as believers, we have to stop letting our hobbies become the crutch that allows us to hobble through our day. We were never meant to hobble.

2

 

Advertisements
Posted in Christian

The Blessing of Sorrow

 6

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

If comfort comes after mourning, why are we so quick to run from sorrow?

I have found myself making a habit out of trying to escape. I cannot count on both hands how many times in the recent weeks that I have been heartbroken over the sad events around me, or how many times I have searched for a distraction to separate myself from such pain.

Let’s get honest with ourselves for a moment. How often do you come across a painful situation, and after only a moment of weeping you leave that place behind in search of something more light-hearted? Something to distract your attention from the painful events? We all know someone that has a loved one that is terminally ill. Have you ever skipped over their facebook post because you weren’t in the mood for more bad news? I know I have. Over and over again, there has been one question that has convicted me every time. Why am I so quick to run from pain?

What’s wrong with hurting? Let’s face it, most of us are self-centered people that would happily live in a bubble all of our lives without getting our hands dirty with the despair around us if we could. It seems healthy at the time to fill our lives with only good news, so we never have to feel sorrow a moment longer than necessary. But is this really healthy? What does the scriptures say about this?

How many of the psalms start off with a grief-stricken heart only to end in joy? Is there something to be said by allowing grief to run its course instead of running from it? What good could come from hurting?

Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

It’s a known fact that the very thing that strengthens the Christian the most is not the hill top experiences but the valleys. The deep, dark and depressing areas; this is where we find strength, courage, and endurance. This is also where we hunger for that close relationship with our Lord. Do you not seek the Lord more earnestly when you are hurting compared to when you are satisfied?

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance,; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

If there are such great benefits from walking through the valley, then why are we so quick to run from it? Maybe it’s because we have a choice. When the problem at hand doesn’t touch our lives very closely, it is easy to brush it aside and move on. How many prayer requests do we see on facebook that we quickly scan past before searching for the game requests?

Am I the only one that has found themselves weeping over a situation only to dry my eyes and harden my heart? “I have to forget this,” I tell myself. “I’m not strong enough to carry this and it hurts to bad to think on it any longer. I don’t want to hurt anymore.” So I reach for something mindless and fluffy. Something that will bring the smile back to my face. Something that will help me to forget.

God has convicted me again and again. Just because I can walk away doesn’t mean that I should. What would happen if I shared another person’s sorrow just a little longer? What would happen if instead of stuffing my feelings aside and reaching for happy entertainment, I allowed my grief to bring me to my knees? Do you think that maybe that’s why we see so little change in our nation? In our friend’s circumstances? Don’t you think that God can see through our superficial sympathy? What if our sympathy turned into empathy?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that in order to be super spiritual we should be seen with long faces, complete with sad and solemn personalities. But I am suggesting that instead of running from pain, we embrace it instead and allow it to do what God had designed it to do. Allow it to turn into prayer. What if it turned into sending an encouraging word or visiting with one who hurts? When was the last time your fears and sympathetic feelings led you to fasting and prayer? If you have walked through the valley at all in your Christian walk then you could easily testify to finding a closer relationship with Jesus during that time. And isn’t that the purpose for pain?

The Lord has been teaching me that to be healthy, I must stay broken. When I’m broken, my heart is tender. When my heart is tender, I will ache for those around me. When I ache for those around me, my pain (if not ignored) will turn to prayer. And prayer always turns into action.

James 4:2 “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

When was the last time you cried on behalf of another? When was the last time you were broken over your own sin? When was the last time you cried during the preaching of the Word? When was the last time you came to church with puffy eyes and a tear stained face from having a heart to heart with the Lord Jesus before the service ever began? What a difference our churches would experience if we allowed ourselves to feel pain. Pain over sin. Pain over neglected orphans. Pain over our country. Pain over the state of the Lord’s Church. Pain over the childless mother or the mother that just buried her child. Pain over the lost and the perishing. Pain over twisted laws that threaten our faith. Pain over the safety of our schools. Pain over the common message offered to our families through the media.

Do yourself a favor: Let go of your pride and let go of your comfort. Come broken before the Lord and allow Him to heal you. And maybe then, we will finally see the changes that we all desire.

Psalm 30:5 “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

Posted in Christian, History

Civil War Letters: Doubling Sorrows

2013_05252013spring0025I’ve browsed, read, scanned, and studied countless civil war letters over the past two years. It’s been entertaining, to be sure! I’ve found myself growing, not only in my love for the history, but also in knowledge. I’ve grown to admire the people that have endured so much. I’ve often found myself laughing out loud at some of the descriptions or at trash talk that was often exchanged between enemies. But sweeter than that, were the rare times when these faded words spoke Truth to my heart.

I was blessed to get my hands on a copy of Old Enough to Die by Ridley Willis II. This collection of family letters were extremely helpful to me in my research. And it was within these pages that I found a beautiful nugget of truth that deserves to be shared. This particular letter is addressed to a sister. And he writes:

I am sorry that you allow yourself to have the “blues” which you complain of having, in your letter. It is a disease, which like chills, will become chronic if allowed to continue unchecked. I have, in my younger days, sometimes indulged myself in gloomy dreams and fancies but I have quit the bad habit.  I have suffered more intensely from the anticipation of evils that never came to pass, than I have ever from actual, real sorrows.I have learned that real happiness has its source in the heart and not in external circumstances….Happiness is like the sunlight, free to all, high and low, rich and poor alike, and is only denied to those who willfully shut themselves up in the darkness. Have the blues no more. Turn your thoughts more upon the blessing which you have, rather than to those which you have not; never double sorrows by anticipating them but wait till they come upon you and then, forget them as soon as possible.   -J.L. Bostick