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Deliver Us from Which Evil?

Yesterday at church, the opening prayer included one line that really struck me. As Walter was going through the various places from which each of our hearts may have entered the room, he included those “who have lost hope and just don’t have the energy to try anymore.” That struck me because I know that feeling. You feel physically weary, emotionally spent and mentally drained. A clean, plain hospital room with an IV to feed me sounds like the best cure for my “can’t go on anymore” self.

But the next thing that came to mind with that description was that this hopelessness and lack of desire to press on anymore, for me as a believer at least, is almost never because the Gospel’s work seems inapplicable to me in “this” situation. Sadly, that is not the focus of my grieving and despair. No, most often this hopelessness and weariness and desire to give up has much more to do with the fact that my circumstances won’t change the way I think they should and God has yet to perform the external fixes I so passionately desire, nor has He finally given me those various vocational, relational, physical or even material blessings that I so intensely want. My faith is placed in external changes and rarely if ever considers internal transformation as the goal of my faith.

This is not to say that all my wants are bad (we are not Gnostics after all) or that those circumstantial changes and “fixes” wouldn’t be much better. The desire for a tumor to be healed and dissolved, for a marriage to be restored and life-giving, for money to pay basic bills and many other types of prayers for healing and life’s necessities are all very good prayers and beautiful desires. They are the kind of ultimate restoration of all things that we are promised in the future and often get tastes of even now. But my eyes get so fixed on the creation that I totally miss the Creator as He is in fact busily working in and through these circumstances, not to change them as would please me, but to change me as pleases Him and brings Him glory.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:1-5 Doesn’t most of my depression, despair and hopelessness have more to do with the anger I feel about things not working the way I would like them to work? My faith is challenged not because God is not redeeming me and transforming me, but because He is not submitting to my will for my world. What would happen to my faith if I began to see that in the midst of my circumstances not changing, God is very busily, actively and intimately changing me (and others) to be more genuinely patient, more authentically less demanding, more honestly humble? What if by the anger I do feel He is showing me what I worship more than Him? What if by the panic I feel, He is showing me where I trust my control more than His? What if by the disappointments I experience, He is showing me where I trust and place my hope in my plans more than His? What if in each area where He is exposing my unbelief, He is also inviting me to believe His goodness, control, love, perseverance on my behalf, trustworthiness, power and sovereignty more? What if rather than worshipping the creation (my circumstances and all the created things that I look to for life, joy, peace, etc.), I began to see every detail of my circumstances as reminders to worship the Creator instead? What if I begin to have eyes to see through my painful or tedious circumstances to the work God is in fact accomplishing, miraculously, in my heart? His Kingdom is coming, even now, though just as the people of Jesus’ day missed it, so do I. Just like them, I look for it in glory and honor, but suffering is the Gospel doorway to this glory.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…2 Corinth. 1:8-10

Do I want to be delivered from my circumstances or do I pray to be delivered from my self-rule, self-absorption, self-reliance and self-righteousness? Which evil is more offensive to me?

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. 1 Thess. 5:23-25

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