April 18, 2014

When Things Get Difficult

It is Good Friday, the day our Lord went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. I should be thinking about His sacrifice, His great and merciful gift of redemption, but as usual I am thinking about myself and my difficulties today. Perhaps there is reason for this, and perhaps there is a life lesson to be learned today.

This past week has been filled with MIGHTY POWERFUL distraction. I have tried in my own strength to combat the distraction and to remain focused on my work, the Lord's work. Alas, I have failed to do that and as a result I am now pushed to the wire to finish a major research paper. Yes, I have my data, and I have about half the paper completed. I have today and tomorrow, and I am not concerned about finishing it. It is just that I wasted a good number of hours procrastinating, and spending time in my head, day dreaming, rather than remaining engaged and on task. I do this occassionally, especially when I become overwhelmed with the work load or the amount of pressure I am facing. It is a habit I formed in childhood, to disappear from the scene for a while and to go to a make-believe place where I am in control of all the demands placed on me. I call the shots, I save the people, I behave heroically, etc. I have created places in my mind where I write stories, all kinds of stories from the wild west, the desert places, the fairy tale forests. I create characters from the best stories -- King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, legions of Roman soldiers marching to battle, epic stories of love affairs with princes and princesses. In my mind, I am able to write the dialog, to create the scenes, and alter the outcome to suit my desires. If I don't like the way a story is being written, I just change it. I turn the tables, I upset the apple cart, but in the end, the story draws to a close the way I decide is best. This safe place, this solitude has always been my go-to place when I was scared or when I needed to get away from LIFE.

As I have matured, I don't always go there anymore. Frankly, my story vault is a place where I go on extreme occasions only, and unless the pressure is overwhelming, I usually skip it. This week, however, I retreated there and found solace for a time. Unfortunately, my story place consumed precious time and while I was away creating stories I was not focused on my real work, my paper, my classes at Regent. I have felt guilty for not staying in the moment, and for letting this paper slide until the very end of time. I know better, I so know better.

I confessed my sin before the Lord today:

Psalm 32

A psalm of David.

1 Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude
6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
    that they may not drown in the flood waters of judgment.
7 For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude
8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
   but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

I know I am forgiven. I know that my slate is clean. The Lord Jesus Christ took all my sin: past, present and future sin upon him at Calvary's cross. I am forgiven. I am washed clean. My conscience is sprinkled with His blood and I can stand in His presence. He is good, so very good. All the time, the Lord is good.

So with renewed vigor I approach the difficult road ahead, the road made difficult by my own hand. I know what must be done, and I know the One who must do it. I cannot do it. I tried in vain to accomplish a major research paper using my own skill, my own mind, and my own wits. I failed, and I retreated to the place of safety where I thought I would be refreshed. Instead, I only wasted time. I should have marched into the throne room of God, sat at His feet, and confessed my need, my utter need to Him. He would have given me rest from my troubles, and He would have provided the refreshment I needed. My soul delights in Him. My soul magnifies His Name. I cannot do this work without His force, His control, His influence. I am utterly unable to do this work, and this week, I was reminded of that fact.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

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