Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miserable in Paradise

I sat with a friend who is in horrible pain recently. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for a year now and have suffered the loss of miscarriage as well. She loves the Lord and is seeking to follow Him. She is happily married, lives in a beautiful home, and they have a healthy, happy daughter and wish to grow their family. Basically all is well in her life except this situation. It all seems so simple. Why wouldn't God want to give them another child? In her eyes, and in mine, it seems perfectly logical and even beneficial to all involved. Yet God is not following her plan or mine. In the mean time, my friend is miserable. Everywhere she turns she finds pregnant women. Worse yet, pregnant women who complain about being pregnant! Day after day there are continuous reminders that she is not pregnant and month after month the days drag on until there is a new opportunity. It is all-consuming and heart-breaking.

After my meeting with her I began to reflect in prayer on her situation with the Lord and He reminded me of a similar situation from Scripture. The first book of the Bible tells us about another young woman who "had it all" and yet there was one thing she couldn't get her mind off of.

Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Adam and Eve were living in paradise and had freedom to eat from any tree in the garden except one. What did Satan do? He caused Eve to focus on the one thing she didn't have and it ended in her destruction!

How can you be miserable when you live in paradise?
Listen to the voice of the deceiver, the father of lies, the accuser, that's how!

How much of your thought time is spent on "the one tree you can't eat from"? How does it impact your mood, your effectiveness, your perspective?

The enemy wants our focus to be on ourselves and our plan because he knows that we are weak and fallen and will always come up short resulting in disappointment, depression, even hopelessness. Here is a "thought recipe for disaster"...
  • Thoughts focused on what I want, need and desire rather than on what God wants, what He thinks and what He desires. Do we really believe our way is better?
  • Thoughts that compare me to someone else. Either I come out ahead and puff up with pride, or I come out inferior and feel like a loser. No good can come from comparisons.
  • Obsessive thoughts that include mental ultimatums like "when _____ happens, then I can be happy/content/useful...etc."
The enemy wants you and I to believe that our happiness is dependent on a circumstance, an event, or an outcome. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you have reason to be JOY-FILLED every day! God's plan is for you and I to choose to focus on HIM today, what He has done, what He is doing, and who He is. When we purposefully shift our focus off ourselves and onto God and others we will have a different outlook and outcome! How can we do that? I always say "what does that look like in real life?" Here are some practical examples of things to do to get your mind off YOU...

  • Get your prayer list from Sunday school and pray for those needs.
  • Call to check on a friend and pray with them over the phone.
  • Bake cookies and take them to someone.
  • Do something special for your spouse. What would thrill him? Clean out the closet, wash the car, pay the bills?
  • Praise God for who He is. Go through the ABC's thinking of an attribute of God for each one (awesome, bold, complete...etc.)
  • Make a blessing list of all the things you are thankful for.
  • Use your gifts to serve someone. Are you gifted in organization? Call your friend who isn't and offer to come by and work for an hour. Are you a great cook? Invite some newlywed gals over for a cooking class!
All of these suggestions are replacements. The Bible talks about "taking off" certain behaviors and "putting on" others. So when you find yourself thinking about that one area of your life that is less than "ideal" you replace that line of thinking with one of these ideas. When you are tempted to call a friend to complain that your situation hasn't improved, instead pray with them about a concern of theirs. It is never enough to vow to STOP something, we must always be ready to START a new way of doing things to replace the old.

I love my "Comforts of the Cross" devotional by Elyse Fitzpatrick. In it she challenges me to focus more on God's love for me rather than my love for Him, more on His obedience than mine, more on His faithfulness than mine, more on His strengths than mine. "I must focus on how I've been loved, irrevocably, eternally, freely, without merit, and rest in the awareness of my perfect acceptance before Him."

As long as we are looking at ourselves we will remain disappointed. We are imperfect and the proof is obvious and plentiful. But thoughts of Jesus will never leave us disappointed, only grateful and amazed. It's up to you.

Why Wouldn't I?