THE LOW POINT

Posted 5/1/09

(I don’t come across great here – but it’s a cop-out that most confessionals get written in hindsight once the author feels OK again…)

Written Christmas Eve 2008.

OK – it’s time to say it out loud… I’m struggling with it all at the moment. There are times when you have to ask… Is my spiritual slump down to circumstances, or are my circumstances down to my spiritual slump?? That’s the question I bring to the table today – should we treat our occasional misfortune as divine discipline?

So what’s been going on? Well circumstantially – the month has seen us have to spend thousands we don’t have on kitchen repairs as we continue to battle the damp (having had to unpleasantly fire the man we initially hired to sort it), has seen my car stereo stolen from the car, has seen colds, injury (I’m currently on crutches) and a generally miserable mood on my part, leading to a greater incidence of marital tension. Now I’m not here looking for sympathy – Nina’s insistence that I should count blessings more is very true. Looking at the above for example – we are indeed able to get the necessary kitchen work done (albeit on credit!), the car stereo will be replaced by one better by virtue of a Christmas gift from the wife, my foot is not broken when it could have been etc etc. Perhaps above all, the church community has really shown its value – people have selflessly agreed to tend our cat over the holiday period, to drive me to casualty as soon as I asked and are generally brilliant whenever called upon to be so…

More to the point has been the worrying slump in my Christian life. This is literally the first time in a couple of years that I have totally failed to carry out quiet times in a week; that I have felt taken over by a feeling of ‘enough already! Whatever…’ in terms of the standards I seek to maintain. Now it’s not terminal – my faith is secure, as is my salvation, and I’m dead keen to jump back on the boat after my little period of wallowing. However, neither is it out of the blue – the year has been marked by taking things for granted; a lack of engagement with ‘church life’ and a lack of passion for the issues that matter. Sermons aren’t being listened to, paperbacks aren’t being read and, worst of all, blogs aren’t being written! Thus, as I have said, I am interested by whether a recent run of bad luck can be viewed as a case of ‘get your act together’ from on high. I don’t for a second think this is always the case, but Hebrews 12 makes very clear that we do sometimes receive a rap over the knuckles for our own good:

5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
   “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”[a]

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

When I read that I am mightily and heartily encouraged. It is worth the loss of any number of car stereos or ankle ligaments (don’t worry, mine are still there!) if to benefit my relationship with the God of all creation. Perhaps things do just happen to us in this life, everything evens out in the end and we shouldn’t read too much into it. However if we truly believe God to be lord and sustainer of this world then clearly he did allow, or even predestine, a relatively tough old month on my part and I am accountable as to how I respond. This is not to say that those typhoid-riddled Christians of Zimbabwe are particularly sinful. Neither that they necessarily feel particularly removed from God’s blessing anyhow; accounts from any number of impoverished or persecuted churches – indeed even my grandfather’s wartime reminiscences – are full of reminders that often in the midst of hardship God’s children are most aware of His kindness and mercy. Anyway, back to the point…

So, back in the saddle. I must repent, and with it I must change. And my New Year’s Resolution is to work a little harder at all this, even whilst understanding that my salvation is by grace and by no effort on my own part. I want to put in a better shift in order that others may know my God is one worth putting in the hours for, and because He deserves that and infinitely more from me in 2009! And if this car stereo survives a little longer, well all the better…

PS Written 5th January:

In a spirit of honesty I have to say that having written this, things didn’t get better – they got worse. The mistake of me calling my repentance a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ was one my sinful nature latched onto, implicitly granting me permission to completely let things go to seed for the remainder of December… I can’t justify my ugly thoughts, my sudden strange aversion to picking up the Bible, or the inappropriately full-blooded seasonal celebrations I have engaged in. However, it is reassuring that I feel utterly worn down, fed up and damaged by it. The greatest lie of all is that the unsaved have a life to envy. The truth is I desperately miss the thrill of letting my light shine. I just wish I wasn’t such an idiot. Good thing I have such a saviour in Christ…

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