“If Any Of You Lacks Wisdom . . . . “

I can still remember the first time I read James 1:5,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

 I was a new Christian with much to learn as a wife, a mother and a daughter of God Most High.  In my world before Christ, making mistakes or showing oneself as weak was a dangerous thing.  Once exposed, the resulting fault-finding and blame-shifting were elements that tore at the soul of this wounded and confused kid.  I had lived most of my life desperate to please and keep peace at just about any  price.   The thought of not having to guard against being ridiculed for showing weakness intrigued me and was downright revolutionary.   In the thirty-plus years I have walked with Christ since reading James’ letter, I have tested this promise many times and in various scenarios:

Crying out to God in fear. . .
Turning to Him with deep regret . . .
Seeking Him for the comfort and assurance I lacked–
 
God has proved Himself faithful . . .
EVERY . . .
SINGLE . . .
TIME . . . .

In my last post, I wrote to you about humility being the key to helping others as we rely on God for the wisdom and strength we need.  We looked at a picture of relationships being lived as God designed them to be–“Two are better than one . . . “–in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12.  We focused on what happens when we invite God into those relationships as the powerful “third strand.” We marveled at how God’s people are strengthened and how those relationships become cosmic because of His Presence.

As I concluded that post, I promised to write in my next post about a very practical tool/exercise that has been helpful to me and has benefited many others.  I ask but one thing of you–I ask that you apply it personally before attempting to help someone else with it.  I make this request because you will never appreciate the value of what is offered unless you have personally reaped its benefits.  Also, by applying it first, Christ’s admonition that you, “take the plank out of our own eye” before going after the speck in the eye of a friend or neighbor (Luke 6:42) will have been honored.

The goal of the exercise is to discern (or expose) who or what the primary influence ruling your thinking and responding at various times is.  It is based on the assumption that there is always a rule or authority that influences how you think and/or act.  We start with the bare bones:

  1.  Draw a triangle on a piece of paper with a heart placed in the center of the triangle.
  2. Write your name next to the right bottom tip; to the left of the triangle write either “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or a specific problem or concern that comes to your mind.  (The point here is, that this illustration holds merit in both difficult (challenges) and easier (joyful) times.)
  3. Draw an arrow from where you have written your name to the top of the triangle.
  4. Draw another arrow from the top of the triangle to the bottom left where you have written, “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or have entered a specific problem or concern.

Now, put some flesh on those bones:

  1. The premise of the exercise: we rarely respond to the challenges and joys we encounter straight on–draw an arrow between your name and the other side underneath the triangle, then “X” the line out.
  2. Instead, we are influenced by whatever “rule or authority” we hold to at any given time.   Identifying what is at the top of the triangle is the key to determining what rules the heart at any given time.  (When working with a Client I ask them, “who or what” is influencing their thinking about their problem?  The answers vary: pressure . . . fear . . . anger . . . hurt . . . anxiety . . . pride . . . money . . . confusion . . . guilt . . . resentment . . . and the list goes on!)
  3. The next step (remembering James’ encouragement)– ASK GOD for the wisdom you need to identify what is influencing your thinking toward what you wrote to left of the triangle.  (Write those influences above the top of the triangle.)
  4. Now, take a deep breath and consider this: Anything written there that is influencing you (other than God) is probably an idol.  Write “God or Idol?” above your reasons listed over the top of the triangle.
  5. Finally, ASK GOD for the help you need to clean out the excuses and keep Him in His rightful place–“God and . . . ” never works!

There are times when I know my attitude is not right or when I know what my problem is but I feel stuck.  In both cases, when I ASK GOD for the wisdom and courage I lack, He has delivered without fail.  I have learned through this simple exercise that when God exposes my sin He does so, not to ridicule me for my failures, but to free me by facing my sin to enjoy a deeper faith.

Proverbs 16:2 warns:

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

To hold onto our “reasons” for what we do is to lose what we need most–
the blessing of Christ’s Presence in our lives.
 Seek Him for the wisdom you lack to grow and mature spiritually through those difficulties.
He is worthy of your trust!

All to His Glory!

Beware the Thorns of Bitterness ~

 “Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them.  The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.  ~Voltaire~

I enjoy working in our garden as the seasons change and delight in seeing the deep red of cardinals contrast against the glistening white of a first snow.  There have been times, when I have been lost in thought while clearing a spot for something new to be planted, that I have been surprised to hear the hungry ‘peep, peep, peep’ of newly hatched chicks coming from a nest that I did not know was even there!  In recent years, we have had several families of robins raised in amongst the thorns of a climbing rose that grows against the back of our garage.  The amazing thing is that the thorns on that climbing rose are absolutely wicked! Even when I wear my leather gardening gloves to cut some of its crimson blooms, I still often suffer a painful jab or stinging prick despite my precautions.  For a long time l wondered at the placement of the nest among those nasty thorns, but have realized that while nests in other parts of our garden have been raided by bigger birds, the robin’s nest remains unscathed.  It would appear, that those wicked thorns actually have shielded several generations of robins in our garden from outside predators! .

Yet, where the rose thorns serve to protect our robin fledglings, when people give reign to the prickly thorns of bitterness in the “garden” of their lives for self-protection, the opposite is true.  Instead of protection, such self-reliance often ends up becoming a prison of isolation as depression and loss of hope darken the senses.  The chilling result of depending on any resource other than God for protection is well expressed in Jeremiah 17:5 & 6,

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.”

Having battled depression several times in my life, I have experienced the awfulness of that lonely wasteland.   I know what it is to be blind to any provision of kindness from God as I have been overwhelmed by bitter despair.  I also know the blessing of His forgiveness as I have confessed my foolish sin and sought His help in dealing with my problems.  Indeed, I have learned to heed the warning to guard our hearts from serving idols given in I John 5:21 (The New Living Translation):

“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

Idols can take a variety of forms, many of them appearing quite reasonable.   When we serve idols such as self-justification, they take God’s rightful place in our hearts.  Ultimately they lead us to doubt God’s goodness, when it is we who have abandoned Him!  I ache for Clients who come in with wounds that have never healed because bitterness had held sway far too long.  The truth is that the thorns of bitterness are at the root of much of depression.  Bitterness deepens scars rather than bringing about healing.

So is there a remedy?  Yes . . . and no.  It all depends on who we choose to trust–Ourselves or God?  If you are looking to go deeper in your faith and desire to be healed of the bitterness that has been a damaging influence in the “garden” of your life for all too long:

  1. Go to God in humility and faith; confess your sin of handling past hurts and disappointments in your strength instead of HIS.
  2. Ask Him to touch your mind and heart to begin the healing process that has been put off far too long.
  3. Give thanks daily for His forgiveness and His faithfulness as you move forward in obedience and faith.
  4. Enjoy His Presence and Peace daily as you stay close to Him through prayer and reading the Scripture.*

Consider these Scriptures for the help you to move forward:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:43-45a)

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”  Hebrews 12:15

And finally, Roman’s 12:17-21 assures us that when we forgive God’s justice will none-the-less prevail against those who remain unrepentant:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Be encouraged and enjoy the light of His love . . . .

All to His Glory!

*The Journey Notes Praise Journaling process was designed to help Clients get back on the right path–check it out!