Friday, August 5, 2011

Warnings to the wise

Here in Minot it continues - the fatiguing fight against the effects of the flood. At the same time, there is a fatiguing fight inside us - a fight for righteous thinking and living which wars against our presently tired and stressed instincts. So, for those of us who are need-deep in the mucky work of gutting, cleaning, drying out and trying to figure out how, when or whether we're going to rebuild, here are some words of caution to guard our hearts in the coming weeks:

1. Don't discard primary practices of grace. It's tempting for those of us who seem to have every minute of our time taken up with getting our houses in order - let alone time to work our jobs and spend time with our families - to start letting daily practices of grace slide - like soaking in the truth of God's Word, casting our cares on God in prayer and gathering with God's people in weekly worship. These means of grace were given to us by God to build up our souls - to feed them. It would be tragic if we added self-imposed spiritual malnutrition to our current challenges. If ever our souls needed daily/weekly strengthening, that time is now.
2. Don't give in to self-pity's seductive voice. Around Trinity Church it's common to hear people reply to the question, "How are you doing?" with "Better than I deserve." Good theology - but easy to forget when folks around you are angry at the injustice they feel from the effects of the flood or are heaping sympathy on you. It's tempting to start humming a 'poor me' tune in your heart and even become resentful of those who seem to have survived the flood unscathed. Self-pity is especially spiritually dangerous, for it portrays us as innocent victims who deserve the spot light of pity, thereby diminishing God's centrality and sovereign purpose through the flood. Self-pity also calls God's trustworthiness into question. Beware!
3. Keep a proper perspective. Here, two things need to be said. First, it is easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about all the work and planning that needs to be done and decisions which need to be made to get our lives back in order. I am a big-picture planner and have felt the fears and stress mount as I've tried to strategize every step of what it's going to take to get our lives back to normal over the coming years. Though some foresight may still be needed, I've found it helpful simply to step back from the big picture and just focus on the next thing I need to do, whether it be calling an electrician, power-washing my basement or calling FEMA one more time. I can't do everything today. I can't even know what I'm going to need to do next month. But I can do the next thing that's right in front of me and trust God with the rest. There's peace in that.
Secondly, we need to keep the grand picture of history in mind as we work through this. I find comfort in remembering that other believers have faced other - even much harder - tragedies in the past and they've made it through and come out better and stronger. Sometimes I say to myself, "If my friends in Sudan can watch their family members killed before their eyes, spend twenty-two years in a Red Cross camp and rebuild their villages from nothing, I can get through this." We're also helped by remembering the Bible's guarantee that what is ahead for us is so much better than the best of life before the flood, so we should have hope. In Romans 8:18 Paul writes, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Good reminder. Imagine the worst case scenario with your flood situation playing itself out. It almost certainly won't, but if it did, better times are coming in heaven than your best case scenario on earth. Future glory infuses hope in suffering Christian hearts. The right perspective - a biblical perspective - makes all the difference for folks like us, knee deep these days in flood muck. Stay hopeful.

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