Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof,1 yet he did not long abide in this honor; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given to them, in eating the forbidden fruit,2 which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all:3 all becoming dead in sin,4 and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.5
They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation,6 being now conceived in sin,7 and by nature children of wrath,8 the servants of sin, the subjects of death,9 and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.10
The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated;13 and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.14
OK, still trying to get back into blogging but it’s a rainy day on a holiday week and, let’s face it, I don’t really feel like putting that much effort in so…
Anyway, I ran across that tweet a couple weeks ago and have few thoughts.
Seems like an easy enough question but, is it?
First off, I live in Lousiana where it either being or feeling like it is 100 degrees outside is not all that uncommon. And, here’s the thing, I don’t really mind all that much. Yes, it’s kind of oppressive, and yes, I start breaking a sweat if I do literally anything outside for more than 15 seconds. But the grass still needs to get cut and I have no issue doing it even if it means sweating completely through everything I have on including underwear. Also, and though it seems at this point as if I might chose mowing over shoveling, there is a little too much information missing me to say for sure.
For example. How big is the yard I am mowing? Is there any shade? Is it flat or hilly? Push or riding mower? Are there plenty of drinks? Am I in a rush? Have I worked all day, been to the gym, walked the dog?
As for shoveling. Is it a dry 30 degrees like a typical 30 degree day in Montana? Or is it a damp and cloudy 30 degree day like we get in LA sometimes when everyone feels like they are about to freeze to death? Because, I’ll tell ya, it matters quite a bit. And, is it windy and 30 or calm and sunny? I can walk around naked in 30 degree weather if the sun is shining and the wind isn’t blowing, and it would feel great. That is, as long as the humidity is low. So, what’s the humidity like, where isnrhwbsun, and what is the wind doing in this hypothetical Twitter shoveling situation?
And what about the snow itself? A few inches or a foot and a half? Is it the fo a for nothing dry stuff that just blows around all winter or the wet heavy stuff that’s good for making snowballs? Driveway, sidewalk, or both? Long driveway or short? And, am I shoveling in the dark after working all day or at my leisure on Saturday morning?
All that being said, I would rather shovel a fairly small driveway and sidewalk if there was less than six inches of good snowball snow after a few cups of coffee on a relaxing Saturday morning if it was sunny, exactly 30, with low humidity, and there was no wind. If any of those conditions were not met, I would rather do anything at all in 100 plus weather even if I have to take periodic breaks to wring out my underwear. And that includes stadium runs, burpees, and carrying 5 gallon buckets of cement.
Most people today have this vague belief that as long as they are “good” people who do good works and are sincere that these efforts will earn them a place in Heaven. The notion that we can save ourselves, referred to by theologians as autosoterism, may be popular but it is foreign to the Bible. Scripture very clearly teaches that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6) before a thrice holy God. Good works will profit those apart from Christ nothing in the day of judgment and will serve only as damning testaments against their self-righteousness.
Just as the Ethiopian cannot change his skin and the leopard cannot change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23), so we cannot deliver ourselves. Repentance from sin is not something a person can do on his own. Repentance unto salvation is in and of itself granted by God (Acts 5:30-31; 11:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Saving faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross is also granted by God. The Apostle Paul writes,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The “gift of God” in the Greek is grammatically neutral indicating that both grace and faith are divine gifts sovereignly given by God. If we could somehow gin up faith on our own then we would have reason to boast in ourselves. But such self-boasting is exactly one of the things from which the Gospel delivers us.
There is a broad road, Jesus said, and a narrow road (Matthew 7:13–14). There is a right way and a wrong way, but no Third Way. The idea that a church can choose to not take an official position on moral matters that divide us politically is magical thinking. Culture is drawing lines in the sand on moral matters, the church must pick a side, and they must be willing to stand firm on that side regardless of what culture thinks, believes, or says.
There seems to be a trend these days where Christians, in an effort to make themselves and their faith seem less offensive to the masses, try to engage culture by disregarding the blacks and whites of Christianity and, instead, resting in the misguided notion that there are large gray areas where both the secular and the faithful can live together happily.
Problem with this, though, is that it is always the Biblical (conservative, evangelical, fundamental, reformed…) Christian who has to give up ground while secular, progressive Christian, and the Christian-ish, never budge an inch.
What individual Christians as well as the Church need to start doing is standing their ground and stop worrying about the good graces of those who hate God and are dead in sin.
Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!'”
What this assumes is that if enough unambiguous and irrefutable evidence were presented it could, potentially, lead to belief.
That seems intuitive in a worldly sense so I get why someone who is dead in sin would think that way. What supposedly rational people like Russell are unable to grasp, though, is that a lack of evidence is not what keeps people from faith, spiritual blindness is. Here are a few relevant passages from Scripture.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14
To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:18-21 (read to verse 32 for more)
To paraphrase a quote I read somewhere a while back but cannot remember where. I don’t believe Christianity because it makes sense but because without it nothing makes sense. And that is the divide between those who have been called and those who have not.
Granted this will sound like hogwash to those who are dead in sin and hogwash-ish to those who think they are one good evidential argument away from converting the hardened online skeptic they have been arguing with for days. But evidence in the traditional sense doesn’t matter.
In fact, without Scripture and the God of Scripture nothing matters. And not only does nothing matter, nothing makes sense, not even science.
To my point about science, here is something I wrote for school about God and science.
In his paper, Why Scientists Must Believe In God: Divine Attributes Of Scientific Law, Vern Sheridan Poythress opens with the seemingly counterintuitive claim that “All scientists—including agnostics and atheists—believe in God. They have to in order to do their work.” The author goes on to admit that his notion runs contrary to popular American culture and that science is often thought of as antagonistic to orthodox Christian belief and that modern science seems to sustain itself without the help of explicit theistic underpinnings. The only time God is invoked in science at all is when he is necessary to only to account for gaps in modern scientific explanation. As science progresses, the author asserts, the gaps are explained, and the need for God increasingly diminishes.
The thesis of the paper is that God cannot be divorced from science or relegated to gaps in scientific explanation as modern culture might suggest but, instead, God must be seen as being “involved in those areas where science does best, namely areas involving regular and predictable events, areas involving repeating patterns and sometimes exact mathematical descriptions.” The author asserts that the work of science depends constantly on the fact that there are regularities in the world and that the regularities that scientists must rely on to do their work are the regularities of God’s own commitments and his actions. In short, without the regularities that are of and from God, there would ultimately be nothing to study.
Scientists depend not only on regularities with which they are already familiar, such as the regular behavior of measuring apparatus, but also on the postulate that still more regularities are to be found. And it is in these scientific regularities, known as scientific laws, where God can be seen. In order to understand the concept laid out by the author, the reader must set aside the philosophical views of scientists and ponder what all scientists must expect, in practice, from scientific laws. Or, as the article notes, “just as the relativist expects the plane to fly, the scientist expects the laws to hold.” And laws science relies on can only hold if they are universal in time and space. Within the very concept of law lies the expectation that they apply at all times and in all places. Using the universally understood concept of scientific law, the author explains that, “the classic terms are omnipresence (all places) and eternity (all times).” Thus, scientific law, regardless of the faith of the scientist, has two attributes classically attributed to God. “Within a biblical worldview, God is not only “above” time in the sense of not being subject to the limitations of finite creaturely experience of time, but he is “in” time in the sense of acting in time and interacting with his creatures. Similarly, law is “above” time in its universality, but “in” time through its applicability to each particular situation.”
In our increasingly secular society, science is often thought of a discipline where God is not necessary but since the universe conforms to universal laws that exist outside of space and time, as God does, it is easy to hold the opinion that it is not necessary to believe in God or that removing God from the equation might somehow make science more objective. But since nothing escapes the dominion of universal scientific law, non-belief seems untenable. To boil the point down, the author asserts that, in classical language, the law is omnipotent. “The law is both transcendent and immanent. It transcends the creatures of the world by exercising power over them, conforming them to its dictates. It is immanent in that it touches and holds in its dominion even the smallest bits of this world.” The author goes on to write that “the key concept of scientific law is beginning to look suspiciously like the biblical idea of God.” Although some have tried to escape the spiritual discomfort that goes along with “knowing” that there is a God (Romans 1:20) by denying that laws that transcend the world are personal, they can only do so by constructing for themselves idols that are similar enough to God to be plausible but different enough to provide comfort to the secular mind. One cannot be certain if setting up idols stems from willful denial or not but it does imply presupposing that there is no God. While presupposition, bias, and cognitive dissonance seem to be behind the thinking of many of us, an implicit presupposition seems absent from this article. In fact, it seems as though common thought is set aside while what should be more obvious objectivity is explored.
And this objectivity, along with the simplicity of the argument, is how the author makes his case. On its face, the subject may seem like it could easily evolve into a complex philosophical argument, the central idea that scientific laws are transcendent, personal, and have an author is as simple as the Gospel message itself and often only complicated by those who have a desire to lend credibility to the notion that science and God will be forever at odds.
In conclusion, the article states in a clear and concise manner what we all know but many of us refuse, whether consciously or not, to admit. Using the author’s words, “We experience incomprehensibility in the fact that the increase of scientific understanding only leads to ever deeper questions, “How can this be?” and “Why this law rather than many other ways that the human mind can imagine?” The profundity and mystery in scientific discoveries can only produce awe—yes, worship—if we have not blunted our perception with hubris (Isa 6:9–10).” And it is in this hubris, we often find excuses where, according to Scripture, none rightfully exist. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that we are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
I asked an AI writing generator to write a few words about presuppositional apologetics and this is what it came up with. Overall, it’s not bad.
Presuppositional apologetics is a method of defending the truth of Christianity that is based on the idea that the Christian faith is the only logical starting point for understanding the world. This approach to apologetics was developed by Dutch theologian Cornelius Van Til and emphasizes the need to “presuppose” or assume the truth of the Bible in order to make sense of the world around us.
According to Van Til, all people have certain “presuppositions” or basic assumptions that they use to interpret the world and make decisions. For non-Christians, these presuppositions are based on a naturalistic or secular worldview, which denies the existence of God and spiritual realities.
In contrast, Christian apologetics begins with the assumption that the Bible is true and that God exists. From this starting point, apologists can then argue that the natural world and human experience can only be properly understood in light of this truth.
For example, a Christian apologist might argue that the existence of objective moral values and duties can only be explained if God exists. Similarly, the existence of complex and ordered structures in the universe, such as the laws of physics, can only be explained by the existence of a divine Creator.
In this way, presuppositional apologetics seeks to show that Christianity is not only a reasonable belief, but the only belief that can provide a coherent and comprehensive explanation for the world we live in.
Critics of presuppositional apologetics argue that it is circular and self-defeating, since it assumes the truth of Christianity in order to prove the truth of Christianity. They also argue that it is overly dogmatic and fails to engage with other worldviews on their own terms.
However, supporters of this approach to apologetics argue that it is a necessary response to the widespread rejection of Christian truth in modern society. They believe that it provides a powerful defense of the faith and helps to expose the inconsistencies and inadequacies of other worldviews.
In conclusion, presuppositional apologetics is a unique and controversial method of defending the truth of Christianity that emphasizes the need to assume the truth of the Bible in order to make sense of the world. While it has its critics, it remains an important and influential approach to apologetics.
School, work, life, and ministry have left me without much time for the blog. But I am on a break from school for a little over a month and am committed to publishing some content, mostly related to biblical counseling. So, to get things going here is something I find interesting.
For my last class, I had to interview five people from my community who best represent my cognate and…OK, to make a long story short, I asked five people the same 20 open-ended questions about pastoral counseling, then analyzed the answers.
This is one of the questions.
What are your thoughts on this? Instead of till death do us part, how about for as long as this feels healthy, safe, and meaningful for both of us?
When I was teeing this one up I told everyone I saw it on Twitter (can’t remember where) and I just wanted some thoughts.
Most of the replies weren’t very surprising but one of the people said this and it actually did surprise me a little.
I don’t like it because most people don’t even know what healthy even is. Am I healthy? That’s totally subjective. To someone who views health as a number on a scale or a pant size or a shirt size rather than what lab results say. So, while I agree that a lot of people think that way these days, I don’t think people know what health really is.
That’s it. That’s the post, just something I found interesting. I will probably write about this some more soon but I am easing back into blogging, not jumping right in.
*For throwback Thursday, I am reposting something that was originally posted back in May…
The other day I ran into an atheist who hated it when Christians reasoned from, referred to, or quoted their “dumb holy book around her” because she believes it’s a work of fictitious nonsense that has no relevance.
My first thought was, well duh, of course atheists don’t like dumb holy books, why would they?
But is it a reasonable to have any expectation that a Christian should be willing to even temporarily set aside his or her dumb holy book?
Further, should a Christian ever consider not reasoning from, referring to, or quoting the Bible even as an act of good will, congeniality, or in the interest of political correctness?
NO! and NO!
First, setting aside the Bible because it offends the sensibilities of someone who is dead in sin is profoundly absurd. Their feelings about the Bible are theirs and not our concern. They hate it? So what.
I was listening to a presuppositional apologetics podcast the other day and the host, Frank Butler, said that setting aside the Word of God was actually mankind’s first mistake. Granted, Adam and Eve did not have the Bible as it exists today but they did have the Word of God and they blatantly disregarded it before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yes, they were deceived. But would this deception have been possible if they hadn’t set aside God’s Word in order to chat with the deceiver?
Think about that. Had they held fast to God’s Word the outcome might have been completely different.
Second, the Bible is not just a dumb holy book that we should put away when we aren’t at home or at church, it is the rock on which we are supposed to stand. Fact is, the Bible IS TRUTH. This does not mean it simply speaks of truth or it’s “true for you but not for me” but that it IS TRUTH. With it everything makes sense and without it nothing makes sense.
Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.
The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the “God of truth” (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 31:5; Is. 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). He is truth incarnate — the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.
Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
12 years later and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The exact date is a little fuzzy but I do remember it was around five o’clock in the morning, I was broken, and I was on my way to Hell. Not the literal biblical Hell but a personal Hell that was part the product of an overactive imagination and part a reality of my own making. It was dark, drizzling, and there was a damp Louisiana winter chill in the air that cut to the bone. I had tried three credit cards before I found one that wasn’t declined so I could get gas to embark on a journey that would end 13 or 14 hours later with me either in handcuffs or in a body bag. I did not know much but one of those two things was a certainty.
What weighed on my mind as I stared up blankly at the mist swirling around in the gas station lights was not what was about to happen but what had happened up to this moment. I was stumped. How did someone who had tried the best they could to do what was right for as long as they could remember end up so beaten, so broken, and so lost? I was a good person. I meant well. I really tried. But how did I manage to fail so badly that death and prison were the only choices I had left? And why was I completely OK with that?
It took me many years to figure it out but it all boiled down to the fact that I was unable to feel or process emotions in a normal and healthy way and I didn’t like talking about what was bothering me. I had been happy but it didn’t show. I had been sad, depressed, angry, worried…but it didn’t show. Not only did my emotions not show outwardly, I pushed them down as soon as I felt them and never brought them up again, ever. Always hopeful they wouldn’t show inwardly either. But like a late notice from the credit card company I could stuff in the trash I knew full well they would come again with interest and a penalty that had to be paid.
I had a good childhood. My parents loved me and my brothers and we always had everything we needed. I was never abandoned or abused. There were no addiction problems. There was never any job loss or financial trouble. In fact, my childhood was about as drama, trauma, worry free as a childhood could be. But, looking back on it I never felt much of anything. I loved my parents and my brothers and I did get joy out of things such as sports, food, TV, riding my bike, going on vacation…but most of my feelings were shallow and superficial. And those that weren’t, I buried.
I remember when my grandmother died and we didn’t talk about it. A few years later my grandfather died and, again, we didn’t talk about it. I remember lying in bed when I was 10 years old or so being absolutely terrified at the thought that nothing awaited me at the end of this life but a dark, cold grave. And I never talked about it.
Almost everything I felt in my entire life I suppressed, and never said anything.
Thing is I came to think that my ability to suppress emotions and go about life not feeling was a good thing. Emotions were clumsy and cumbersome and people really didn’t need them in order to thrive. In fact, I thought I was better off than needy emotional people who struggled unnecessarily with feelings.
Fortunately, I thought, I ended up in the military where my skill was a benefit more so than it was a hindrance. Finally, I was surrounded by people who never talked about what was bothering them in a place where most relationships were born out of necessity and proximity and were shallow and superficial. Life was good. I had friends and coworkers I was friendly with but no real, deep, lasting bonds were formed.
Then I met the girl of my dreams, fell in love, got married, started having kids, and I felt nothing. Yes, I was happy at times but there was still a deep need that was not being met. And I said nothing.
And that’s how it went for years, everything looked great on the outside, I knew that it wasn’t, and I said nothing.
My brother killed himself, it wrecked me, and I said nothing.
My wife told me for the first 15 years of our marriage that I never disagreed or argued and that it drove her crazy. I know she didn’t want me to be contrary or nit-picky or needlessly disagreeable but she wanted me to act like I was more than an emotionally detached robot. She knew everyone felt something but I didn’t and I liked it that way. From every outside perspective I had everything and I looked happy and well-adjusted but I was literally dead inside, And I said nothing.
My wife and I were a great team and we both excelled at getting things done. We worked full time for the military which involved hours that were crazy at times in addition to TDYs, deployments, working weekends, holidays, birthdays, etc. Through it all we had kids in school and still managed to keep the house spotless, take care of our business, and put up every appearance that we were indeed living the dream. But I always knew it was an act. And I said nothing. Deep down inside life was not very satisfying and I said nothing.
So I swallowed every bit of emotion I had in me, decided that everything would be better someday, down the road, when I retired. And I fully immersed myself in preparing for the next chapter while never being present for a single moment of the chapter that was unfolding before me.
Looking back through the lens of hindsight I realize that I had adopted a “me against the world” mentality that was literally me against everything in the world that stood in the way of my success. And I said nothing. If anyone would have asked me how it was going I would have told them I was fine, everything was good, and that I had no concerns whatsoever. Weak people have worries and concerns, not me.
I was worried about the future but I said nothing.
And I developed an arrogance and a sense of pride that turns my stomach when I think about it now. I stewed in anger all the time. I woke up in the morning and, before the coffee was even finished brewing, my blood was boiling over something. And I did this to myself, on purpose. Anger drove me, motivated me, and fulfilled me. I loved my wife and kids as much as I always had but one questionable look or disagreement and I was quick to bite off heads. They knew what bugged me and they pushed all of my buttons, all the time, on purpose.
I got a reality check that I was losing control one morning when I had my wife and youngest son cornered in the laundry room yelling at them like an enraged madman. I left them crying and scared, grabbed a cup of coffee, reeled back like I was a major league pitched, and fast balled the cup into the garage wall hard enough to shatter it into so many pieces we couldn’t find them. I fell to my knees as the scalding hot coffee burned my back and cried out to God for help. But, to everyone else, I said nothing. As always, everything was as fine as it could be. All you had to do was ask and I would tell you I had never been better. My wife was angry and scared and my son was crying and I said nothing. I offered an insincere apology my wife knew was BS, memory holed the incident, and pressed on.
I thought I would make it up to them when I became the success I was destined to be. But then the months of rejection started flying by. Awesome work experience, great education, killer resume…I could not lose. Yet, I did lose. Week, after week, after week, I did nothing but lose. And the anger got worse as did the self-loathing and utter sense of failure. At every interview I put on a happy face and acted like I had it all together. On the outside I was confident but on the inside I was destroyed. And I said nothing. I told my wife everything was under control. She knew it was a lie. I knew it was a lie. And we never really talked about it. And, to everyone else, I said nothing.
Then, finally, I got a job. Pay was not near what I expected but I was lead to believe it would turn into something bigger and better so I jumped on it. And it almost immediately turned to crap. Gas was the highest price I had ever seen, I drove a full size truck, and the job was an hour drive from my house. And it was Hell on Earth. Normal days quickly turned into 12, 13, 14, 15 hour days and the work was mentally exhausting. I stood there like a prison guard with two other supervisors watching people clock in and then hovered over them while they did their tedious work until a bell rang and they were escorted to lunch where, again, they were watched like prisoners that would riot or escape if we turned our gaze away for more than a moment. Then a bell rang and they shuffled back to work, then another bell, more shuffling, closely supervised clocking out…day after day after day.
The closest thing I had ever seen to slavery, it ate at me, and I said nothing. My phone rang constantly. On the other end was my boss who watched the whole facility hawkishly with security cameras that were everywhere but the bathrooms. Jim, they are fighting over there. Jim, they are smoking pot over there. Jim, they are standing around over there, stealing over there, sleeping over there. Jim, your people, you need to control your people. All day, every day.
One silver lining I managed to find in this miserable existence was that every now and then I briefly thought to myself that it couldn’t get any worse. This occurred to me one afternoon when I realized I was in the middle of a swarm of bees near an overflowing trash can I was standing by when I snuck outside to smoke a cigarette and escape the madness for a minute. Not caring if I got stung, I just stood there, laughing at the cruel irony, or whatever it was, and walked away with a catch phrase that numbed the pain ever so slightly. “At least there isn’t a swarm of bees.” That is, until the bees were replaced with “At least there isn’t a skunk in the warehouse” and then, “At least I didn’t step on a rusty nail.”
That was literally my life. I had now fully transitioned from an arrogant and angry jerk who was going to prove myself to the world to an angry and emotionally unstable failure who counted whether a day was a success or not if a rusty three inch nail didn’t go all the way through my foot. And, yet, I said nothing. I was perpetually, as I had heard a million times in the military, “Living the dream.”
I did have one thing going for me though and that was that I had a target for all my anger. Every hurt, every failure, every wrong, every slight, every bad feeling, every time I fell short…literally everything that had ever not gone my way for whatever reason my entire life was now the fault of one man, my boss, and I hated him for it with a seething passion.
Which brings me back to twelve years ago when I knew for certain that I would either end up in a body bag or handcuffs. I did not go to work that cold and rainy morning hoping not to step on a rusty nail but to end a life, either my boss’s or my own, it didn’t matter which. But instead of sticking with the plan, I walked out and told him I was never coming back. While telling someone I hated to take their miserable job and shove it was satisfying for a moment, reality quickly slapped me in the face when I realized I was now not only barely making it financially, I feared by my family, once again unemployed, and now damaged goods in the job market. Surely, I thought, I would never work again.
So the next day I resolved to do the only sensible thing I could think of and end it all. I told my wife I was going out to buy cigarettes and walked out of the house with one singular purpose. As I recall, I didn’t even look her in the eye, say good bye, or tell her I loved her. I just left, knowing I wouldn’t be back. The next thing I remember was walking into the emergency room, handing the lady at the desk my phone, and being immediately escorted to a room. After a strip search, an ambulance ride, and a week of being locked up without shoelaces or anything else I could possibly harm myself with I was deemed not to be a danger to myself or others and released into the care of the people I had disappointed, alienated, and terrified for at least the past year. I was physically safe, but I was still beaten, still broken, and still lost with no sense of what was to come good, bad, or otherwise. And, still, even though I had just hit bottom and flirted with death, all I could say was that I was OK. And, until now, I never talked about it.
Yes, my story might be extreme, but I think there is a message for everyone in it somewhere and everyone can probably relate somehow. My problem has never been that I was disadvantaged in some way, or not good enough, smart enough, or capable enough. Nor has it ever been that I was not surrounded by people who loved me and wanted the best for me. For years and years I struggled to find something to blame for my troubles, but the reality is that it has been all me and my inability to get out of my own way the whole time. If I had only let people in, told my story, shared a struggle every now and then, or let someone help me carry a bit of the weight of life even for a little while, I am convinced my past would look a lot different than it does now.
There is an old saying that reminds us that there are only two certainties in life; death and disappointment. Ok, technically, it’s death and taxes but maybe it’s time we amend the old saying because, just as we are all going to die and pay taxes, we are also going to experience our share or maybe more than our share or disappointments.
We all know the deal here; disappointment comes when we don’t get what we want or when things don’t go according to our plans. We are confident we are a shoo-infor a job we interviewed for but the phone call with an offer never comes. Or we are up for a promotion, but a coworker gets it instead. Or we put everything we have into practicing and training only to not make the team. The point is, we have all had a hope or a dream get dashed and felt the subsequent hurt. It’s not a good part of life but it is a part of life, and we need to learn to deal with it in a godly manner or we could end up on a slippery slope toward depression.
The problem is not feeling bad because something did not go our way. We are human and it is perfectly OK to feel grief and sadness when something just doesn’t pan out. The real danger is not the disappointment itself but when we fail to properly deal with the disappointment before it turns into the sin of discontentment.
Although we are not under the Law as a covenant of works, the Law is still relevant and applicable today. According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 99, “That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty…” Yes, we can repent of our sins but, unless we know what the sins are, we have nothing to repent from. And, according to the Tenth Commandment, we are to have full contentment with our own condition, and we are forbidden from any discontentment with our own estate.
In other words, if we fail to rightly deal with our disappointment(s), we will be in danger of living in open rebellion toward God. It may seem like the differences in disappointment and discontentment are insignificant or even that the words are mostly synonymous. But one is merely feeling down because something did not go our way, which is OK. And the other is rooted in a self-righteousness that says we know more about what is good for us than God does and that we will never be happy or content unless we get our way.
Several years ago, my wife and I had it in our minds that God was calling us to move to another state. We were so confident this was true that we sold our house and a good bit of our possessions and moved into a short-term rental so we would be better prepared to move quickly when the opportunity in the other state presented itself. Long story short, the opportunity never did present itself, so we ended up staying right where we were. We have since bought another house and are now happy and content but, for a while, we were very disappointed, even a little angry that the move not only didn’t work out but didn’t happen at all. Not going to lie, it sucked being so wrong about something I believed in my gut would happen but, if I am to believe God is sovereign and that nothing comes to be outside of His eternal decrees then I must not only accept it, but I must also be content with it. The hard lesson here is that to feel content, I had to make my wants, desires, and dreams subservient to God’s plan for my life and trust that God knows what is better for me than I do.
As I am typing this, I am reminded of an illustration I heard in a sermon a while back (Can’t remember who the pastor was). Anyway, he recalled a time at the airport where angry passengers were loudly complaining that they were not allowed to board their plane even though it had been sitting at the gate for over an hour. Visibly frustrated with all the complaining, the young lady at the gate announced to all who could hear that the plane had not had power, it was 110 degrees inside, and they were waiting for it to cool down before they let the passengers board. As it turned out, had the passengers got their way, they would have found themselves in a place where they would have been miserable. The passengers were told not now rather than no but the illustration is still a good reminder that what we desire is not always what is best for us.
The great theologian Garth Brooks once said, “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers” and we should all do the same, all the time. Yes, it’s good to want, good to desire, and good to prepare. But, despite our best intentions, God may slam doors we were certain we were going to walk through and that will be tough.
But we have to remember that God is in control, He has a plan, and He will lead you where you need to go, in His time, and according to His will.