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.

8 comments:

Miss Stephanie said...

Aw, Holly - I know how you feel. The little situation we chatted about? Well, it involves that same leaving, waiting on God, that you were talking about. Not necessarily physical leaving, but emotional leaving. Then, adjusting to what God's plans are, waiting for them to show up in [i]His[/i] time. I feel for you, honey! It's always hard (especially as we're younger!) to step back and wait for what God has in store for our lives. But, it will be worth it in the end!!! (sorry, I didn't mean to give you a mini-essay) Loves, and a virtual hug for ya. <3

Rebekah said...

*hugs*

We serve a good, good God. And I'm so glad that He's willing to impart His strength and joy to us. It's hard to cause pain... and it's hard to be the recipient of such "opportunities." Recently I've experienced rejection (which gets old really quickly! ;)) but it has reminded me of 2 Cor where Paul talks about us being comforted by Christ... so we might be able to comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received. (Goodness, I'm rambly!) Which... although I'm not sure *why* this struggle has been permitted, it reminds me that there *is* a greater reason... which is a happy thought.

Blah. SO wordy! Love you muchly!

Bridget Eileen said...

Dearest Holly,

Reading your post reminded me of that "iron sharpens iron" passage in Proverbs...other people's lives affect our own -- and I can imagine that being "sharpened" by a good friend is painful at times (and maybe even a pain-in-the-neck!). Though it's amazing how God has a way of working all these things out, no? :-) Its thoughts like those that can make us happy even during non-happy moments.

You are amazing and inspirational, and I love you. :-)

(this was terribly, terribly belated, but oh well)

Hannah said...

Oooh, good thoughts. That is really difficult to do--to be glad when God's leading in someone else's life goes against our desires or plans.

Thanks for these thoughts. They've given me something new to consider.

pearlsanddiamonds said...

I can relate...it's hard to watch others "doing" things for the Lord. I have a precious friend who has expressed to me sometimes that she envies me the opportunity to "do things"...you know what she does? She spends time praying for me every day! And all those I spend time with. She prays scripture over us. It has boosted me so many times just knowing that she is praying for me.

Blessings!

Abigail @ Pearls and Diamonds

Livia said...

Good for people to know.

Anonymous said...

Others having to sacrifice you and your emtional and physical proximity. Not as punishment, but as being obedient and seeking faithfully. When it is God working in YOUR life. The following part is easy, but when thinking of what they are having to sacrifice as a result of your obedience. This is the difficult part. Family and close friends. Relationships which have grown year after year. Yes, eventually they may continue on as before, but what of the ones that may not? What of the ones which are left "only" for eternity? When it comes time to make that decision what will your answer be? Will you chose to follow without looking back? A sacrifice of you for them, yes, but also a piece of your heart. Often the things we fear the most are those which are required of us. They are also the things which will cause us to grow the most. Listen carefully. Listen in stillness and quiet. Listen desiring to hear with a heart after God's. Do not fear the consequences of hearing in your stillness and patience as to form a callousness around your heart for a callous heart is a dark path. In truth we can know that there is nothing to fear concerning the future.

Holly said...

Thank you for your input, Anonymous...you're so right. I appreciate the perspective you gave from the other point of view. I'm sure that it's just as difficult, if not more difficult, for those who have to sacrifice their fellowship with us in order to follow what they believe God is calling them to do.