Sunday, April 20, 2008

Being happy when others obey God

Something I’ve been pondering for the past year or so is how to keep focusing on God and loving others even when I struggle with what God’s doing in their lives.

How do I react when a close friend goes on a several-month mission trip that doesn’t provide a lot of time/ability for them to keep in touch with me and I know they’re getting close to other people over there? What if a friend goes away to the college I wanted to go to? What if a friend feels that God is leading them to stop communicating with me for a season in order to give more of their time and focus to God?

I’m so grateful for all of these people and their obedience to God! But sometimes isn’t it hard to be genuinely happy about the practical aspect of others’ obedience and how it touches us?

When God leads our friends to make sacrifices that affect our own lives too, it’s hard. When I’ve encountered this kind of situation, it’s almost like I wasn’t expecting it –for their journey to touch my own sense of happiness and well-being in that manner.

It reminds me of something that upset me when I was little. I had a friend whose parents would punish her by canceling her playdate with me when she misbehaved. Her learning process was affecting my plans and pleasure. I never really thought that was a fair punishment (and still don’t) because of how it punished me, too, even if I’d been helping my mom get ready and clean for company.

But in a just way, even now there are times when the tests and learning experiences God brings to His other children touch me as well. It’s not usually that the other person is facing consequences for anything wrong they did. It’s just that sometimes when the path my friend is on takes a curve, my own nearby path takes a curve as well to accommodate the pathway being carved out for them. Ultimately, this direction is going to be used for my good as well, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case at first.

A Bible story God really used to teach me about this was the story of Abraham and Isaac. I wonder what Isaac must have felt when he found out that Abraham’s sacrifice was HIM. I’d imagine it must have been relatively easy to go out of his way to support his father on the journey before he realized that the journey could have a serious impact on his own life and future.

In a similar (but so much smaller!) way, it’s so much easier for me to support people in making sacrifices for God if those sacrifices don’t involve me or my happiness. I want my life to be a sacrifice to God, but when it feels like it’s other people sacrificing me and my desires it’s not so easy to be selfless. I’m not saying that we should let ourselves be abused by other people. I’m just saying that when God asks someone else to serve Him in a way that touches my emotions, affects my day, or puts a wrench in my own plans, I need to focus on God as the source of my joy and hope. There’s no excuse for me to be angry at other people for delivering to me an opportunity from God to seek Him and find my satisfaction in Him.

When the test and journey God has for one of my friends involves laying me down for a time, it’s not easy. Honestly, it can be such a struggle to keep the right attitude, not be angry at the other person, and not assume it means they just want to get rid of you. The first time I actually recognized this kind of thing for what it was, I still didn’t do so well with it. ;-) I’m obviously not capable of doing well in my own ability.

But God is a good teacher and He’s since given me more opportunities to learn and grow in this area (yay? ;-)) and to let Him keep me happy. I’m really trying to be consistently satisfied in Him even when other people don’t do exactly what I would have wanted them to do, though I still often fail and see my own weakness in this area.

There have been times when I’ve lost sight of the joy and contentment God was graciously giving me, but He keeps being so faithful to uphold with His word, speak encouragement, and remind me that He’s trustworthy.
Our lives are in good hands!
I’m so glad that His strength is perfected in our weaknesses and that He can bring glory to Himself as He enables us to do what we couldn’t do on our own.