Keeping Focus

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[Our daughter after winning second prize in a cookie baking contest.]

Last night, I got to hang out with a friend who moved away from Nicaragua a year-and-a-half ago.  It was great to see him.  He shared some miracles God has done in his life–his wife was literally dying and now, not only is she well, they have a beautiful baby girl–and the challenges of transitioning back.  

He also told me something that encouraged me tremendously.  He reminded me of something I had shared with him about God’s redemption in our lives, he quoted it virtually word for word, and then said, “I’ve probably told twenty people that.”  

I used to really hate the whole Power of Positive Thinking deal. It seemed to me like a way to convince yourself that things aren’t really as bad as they are. Before I became a Christian, I prided myself on being able to face reality and admit how horrible the world is. I listened to angry music and read depressing literature. And guess what? I was unhappy.

I don’t think the goal in life is to be happy. Knowing God, being a disciple of Jesus, and partaking in the work of God’s Kingdom, those are a much deeper calling than “happy,” especially when we realize how little God is committed to keeping us comfortable.  “Comfort” can be a harmless-seeming idol.  As can “security.”

But the truth of the Gospel is that Life overcomes Death, Grace triumphs over Sin, Love is actually the most powerful force in the Universe because God is Love, First John tells us. God is Love. Not that everything we call love all adds up together and equals God, not that Love is God, but that the one true and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in fullness, is Love. That means wherever love is present, God is in that—there is no love without God. God is light and in Him there is no darkness. Jesus came that his joy might be in us and that our Joy might be complete. Joy is deeper than happines. Happiness is the emotional experience of what is happening—same root word—now. If it’s going well for me, I’m happy. But joy is the knowledge and confidence that God loves us more deeply than whatever happens to be going on in life right now (he doesn’t love us when things go well and not love us when things go badly) and fullness of Joy is our faith that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing.

We need to be reminded of these big things because sometimes we’re just living in the trenches and all we can see is that the enemy is shooting at us. The truth of the world we live in is also that we’re constantly in a state of spiritual warfare—I Peter says
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

If we only pay attention to the spiritual war going on around us, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Worse yet, if we get focused too much on the daily grind, we forget the spiritual reality and get tunnel vision for all the constant struggles and aggravations and the things that aren’t going right.

We’re in a war, and Satan is real and would like to devour the people we love, and God is so much bigger and His Love literally rules the universe and will have the final say.  It’s easy to forget this and think that these disagreements we’re having with other people are the only reality.  They aren’t.  

My friend encouraged me by reminding me that these truths we speak to one another matter.  Words have power.  We strengthen one another’s faith.  

That’s some pretty big thinking for Monday. It’s also the Truth, Capital T, that we need to root our lives in. In light of this truth, which is the truest truth I know, how we speak to ourselves and how we speak to one another really matters. We can remind each other of this Reality we live in or we can distract one another. We can reinforce that God’s Love rules our lives, or we can lose sight of that. Losing sight of it doesn’t make it any less true, but it does make having faith harder.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had people start to tell me something positive and begin with, “Well, it’s a small thing, but…” or “I know this doesn’t really matter, but…” And I just think, “No, any time we remind one another of the Truth, it’s a big thing. Any time we share the Light God is showing us, it really matters.

So, Monday, take a moment. Tell the person near you something hopeful, something beautiful, something of God you can see right now. Anything. It matters. God’s love wins. Speak that, in whatever form you see it. Let’s take a minute to remind one another. And if you’re feeling like crap and you can’t see a single thing that’s hopeful, acknowledge that. Sometimes we just need some light spoken into our darkness. God’s love isn’t diminished because we feel this way, but sometimes it can be stinking hard to see. So we speak the truth to one another and we ask Jesus for eyes to see. 

Amen?

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