Response Time Matters

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxGod’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? This is the first post in Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Response time matters in emergencies. It also matters in non-emergencies, because the time it takes you to get through a grocery line, wait in traffic, or fix a meal impacts other plans and responsibilities you have. Sometimes a fast response is essential. Sometimes, to give or expect an immediate response is premature, invasive, and inconvenient.

It’s important to invite God to determine the best response time when you’re dealing with issues among your church family. Let God tell you when and how to respond instead of your default comfort settings becoming the driving force. You might prefer to let things simmer for a while and see what the impact will be before addressing the issue, but carefully listen to God’s promptings. He might agree with you, but it’s also possible that he knows if you approach a particular person right away, the behind-the-scenes whispers will be quieted and the eventual roar will be eliminated with the early action. On the other hand, you might prefer to jump in and solve issues right away, and while that might be the best option at times, God will also encourage you to wait at times, because he knows approaching the hot fire will cause the flames to burn higher and hotter, making it more visible and dangerous for those otherwise unaffected.

Responding isn’t about your preference or comfort. God knows what’s best. Responding in his time is what matters, because he knows everyone involved, including yourself, much better than you do. Response time matters because people matter. Response time matters because your relationship with God matters.

Listen to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples—and us—about responding to others. Be sensitive to his leading and trust him. God knows best.

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them. (Mark 6:11)

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27, 36)

Beyond Your Comfort

images (2)Who do you do life alongside? Who do you reach out to, encourage, invite, meet, involve? Where is your focus? When you’re in a group of people, do you stick with the people you know, or do you look around for people you don’t know? Do you stay in your comfort zone or step outside it? Is your response about you and what you’re accustomed to or what you want, or is your response and focus about reaching out to someone, meeting him/her where they are?

Where we focus is where we’ll go.

If we focus on the situations and the relationships with which we’re most comfortable, we might invest deeply, but we will miss out on the opportunities of new situations and relationships. If we only brush up against people and are never willing to get to know people on a deeper level, investing ourselves in them and letting them invest in us, we’ll miss out on the accountability, challenges, and growth of friendships.

Relationships atrophy without investment.

Without intentional authenticity, confrontation, and commitment, we won’t grow in relationships, which means we won’t grow as God intends. He created us for relationships, and we learn a lot about him as we live out his will among others. He’s not going to keep you in your comfort zone all the time. You’ll have some people who just seem comfortable to get to know. You’ll continue to invest and want to spend more and more time with the person. Sometimes, that’s great, but God sometimes brings that person into your life for a limited season so you get a snapshot of the possibilities of relationships. It doesn’t mean that person will be in your life for an extended time. In fact, if the comfort of the relationship becomes a crutch for you, making you unwilling to reach outside of it to other people, it can quickly become unhealthy. If the ease of the relationship becomes a measurement standard by which all future relationships are compared, it can quickly become unhealthy.

God only has one standard for relationships: Himself.

He determines the when, how, what, and why of the relationship. He guides us to connect or disconnect, but in order to hear and respond to him, we have to remain connected to him. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to stay and talk to the great friend standing in front of us and when we’re supposed to leave the comfort behind and walk across the room to introduce ourselves to someone new. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to invest deeply into someone’s life even when it demands a sacrifice of time and effort and when we’re supposed to trust someone to invest in us as we authentically share.

Relationships involve you, but they’re ultimately not focused on you. They’re focused on God and his will for the relationship, and until we fully yield, we won’t have the relationships he wants us to have. He will create a rich myriad of relationships in your life–some will be long-term and some will not, some will take intense effort and some will seem easy, some will be tied to location and circumstances and some will seem to transcend distance and situations. But in order to begin and develop the relationships he wants for you, you have to take your focus off yourself and your assumptions about those around, be willing to step outside your comfort zone, focus on God, and respond to his timing and guidance.

God is preparing you beyond your comfort zone. Take a step of faith.

The (Un)Easy Path

downloadImmediately the Spirit drove (Jesus) into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)

It happened right after Jesus was baptized. Off the the wilderness He was driven, and there He was for 40 days, with wild animals, being tempted by Satan.

And that’s how faith feels sometimes.

Vulnerable.

Tested.

Alone.

Following God doesn’t presume an easy path. When it gets hard, we want to run from the wilderness and find something that makes sense to us. We want comfort. We want something different. We often run to something, anything, that gives us temporary relief. We might find a path that is slightly easier, at least for a short jaunt, but in the long run?

In the long run, avoiding the not-so-easy path in the wilderness catches up to us. There are lessons we need to learn there, ways we need to reach out to and trust God. ways we can’t experience when we’re on the easy path, surrounded by what feels a bit more comforting to us. God gets to decide what we need and when we need it. When we avoid that, we avoid Him. And that comes at a great cost.

In fact, pretty much everything of great value in life comes at a great cost. Discerning the truth of the spiritual cost we’re paying takes effort and humility.

Where are you, and what is it costing you?

Comfort for the Oppressed

1275416Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun.Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

I feel this way sometimes, glimpsing oppression around the world today. I don’t see it all. It would be too overwhelming if I could. I feel anger, compassion, and justice swell within me.

Young girls being sexually exploited, fathers separated from their families to work for wages that only keep them trapped, mothers who are taken advantage of when their only goal is to care for their children. People, treated like objects, a means to an end.

Solomon declared there is no one to comfort them. And when I think of the oppressed in situations where they are isolated, I wonder where they might get comfort. What they believe as comfort isn’t the same as what you and I would see as comfort.

We cannot fix all the ills of the world, but we can do something. We can refuse to be silent. We can pray. We can keep our eyes open for warning signs. We can refuse to believe we can swoop in and save everyone, but we can persistently find ways that will truly help in the long run. We can be patient but refuse to be passive. We can get informed.

We can see, and we can notice, and all of our efforts together may just count as a balm of comfort.

Refusing Comfort

1499637_10151853953097263_1945225604_nI refused to be comforted. (Psalm 77:2b)

Why refuse to be comforted?

We need to insist on being comforted in the right ways by the right people (Person) for the right reasons. Consolation and feeling better are not the best goals. Only God can give what we need when we need it: His Presence and His Peace. He provides, and we can trust Him.

But God

indexBe gracious to me, Lord, because I am in distress; my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow—my whole being as well...But I trust in You, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Psalm 31:9,14)

We’ve all felt it at one point or another: distress, anger, or sorrow that wears us out.

…but God.

Distress, anger, or sorrow changes us; at least, what we do with it changes us. When we sit in it, it becomes attached to us. It begins to define us. Oddly, we might even begin to get comfortable with it, as if we can’t imagine our lives without it.

But when we trust God through it, we let His perspective ease our own. His truth ebbs into our experiences. We claim His authority and trust Him to guide our next steps, no matter how blinded by darkness and confusion we might be.

No matter what we experience, we can claim, “You are my God,” then trust Him.

 

No Accountability

8de42990496baa9a481a9f2828a10f83In all his scheming, the wicked arrogantly thinks: “There is no accountability,
since God does not exist.” (Psalm 10:4b)

No accountability. It’s what a lot of people think, and I wouldn’t categorize all those people as “wicked.” Maybe we all agree to some semblance of accountability, but it’s often accountability we determine as allowable. People are often willing to be accountable to what or whom they agree with, what’s acceptable and comfortable enough for us to handle.

But if our basis premise is wrong, what good is the accountability? If we hold ourselves accountable to the wrong things, is it actually accountability?

His ways are always secure. (Psalm 10:5a)