Friday, February 13, 2009


What do I believe in my head? What do I know in my heart? And how does any of what I believe work itself out through my fingers and my feet and my words? In the midst of some very difficult relationship issues, I find that I ask myself those three questions almost daily. A close friend and I find ourselves facing the complete breakdown of a many-years relationship, and, although we both value this messed-up relationship enough to cling together and try to see it through to a more glorious end, we also both find ourselves exhausted, frustrated, and woefully inadequate for the task at hand. So, what are my thoughts today - as I sit here with a broken heart and try to write? Well, for starters, there's nothing like a broken heart to peel away empty words and vain expressions of faith and expose instead what I truly believe. It's one thing to say "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteous" - but it's an entirely different matter to effectively appropriate the grace of the gospel of Christ to the bruised, bleeding, nearly pulse-less heart in my breast. And, oh, for the supernatural power to minister grace to my friend!

Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, outlines four (really three) ways that believers tap into the grace which is theirs in Christ: reading and meditating on the Word of God, prayer, submitting humbly to God's will, and having friends who will remind and encourage us to read, pray, and submit.

Last night, as I lay grieving over this painful situation for the umpteenth time, I found myself engaged in a too-familiar mental monologue of despair. "There really is no hope for this relationship. I can't do anything to fix this, to make things better. Anything I say or do is always the wrong thing. I can't even trust my own motives. Doesn't scripture say that the heart - even my heart - is 'deceitful above all things and beyond cure'? I am so angry and hurt, but I know that 'man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.' There are things I need to say, but what are the right things? I have too often proven that 'Where many words are present, sin is not far off.' I am too broken, broken beyond repair - this is just all too messed up to be fixed." Like Jeremiah, I weep and cry out, "Is there no balm in Gilead?!"

But God was so good again last night, for the umpteenth time, as He brought to mind other verses. "God is greater than our hearts (even my broken, sinful heart), and He knows everything." - 1 John 3:20 And, "Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved..." - from Jeremiah 17. And Paul, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." On and on, the claims of scripture pressed upon me until my despair subsided enough so that I could rest.

And what about prayer? I seem to often find myself having the same internal battle when it comes to prayer. "God, I have come to you over and over and over again with this....and nothing changes. I do not see your hand working here. My faith is weak, and I am weary of coming." Or, "How misdirected my prayers have been before - I don't even know what to pray anymore, for I am certain I shall ask amiss." Or, "My concerns are of little consequence in the great eternal scheme of things - You would not be bothered with them, Lord." Then I remember that Christ Himself intercedes on my behalf. That He sanctifies all of me, even my twisted, stupid, off-mark prayers. That God in His word commands me to pray, and to pray continually. And so, I am compelled to pray. The practice of prayer, by its very nature, affirms the truth that God is, and that He hears, and that He cares - and so I am strengthened again for another step in this difficult labor of life.

Well, what about submitting? Oh, that I could submit easily, quietly, graciously, instead of with all this bawling and flailing! More grace, I need more grace! 1 Peter 5 says: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." Suffering is temporary, conforms me in some way to Christ, is directed by my Father (He will "restore me" when the time is exactly right), and produces in me a longing for glory.

Meditating on the Word of God, praying, submitting,....does this faith have any real impact on my life? Well, the relationship issues mentioned above are still not resolved - everything is as messed up today as it was yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. And yet, the relationship is still not abandoned. And all hope is NOT lost. God is on His throne, and through His Word has assured me that, as Sheldon VanAucken put it, "all shall be very well."

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