I’d been feeling unhappy and without even realizing it had slipped away from intimacy with the Lord by feeding my heart—or attempting to—from other sources. Things that are not in and of themselves sinful can become deadly attractions when we allow them to keep us from putting the Lord first.
So I decided to go on a 24 hour fast from all reading material but the Bible. And even though I was imperfect in this—I checked my email awhile ago and watched an episode of Cook’s Country on TV—the Lord honored the tiny effort I did make and a thought came into my mind that is definitely from Him. This is an enormous, life changing truth that came with a warning: accept it and you will be happy in Jesus; deny it and you will struggle along, knowing God is with you because you belong to Him but feeling lonely nonetheless:
If you belong to Jesus and do not abide in Jesus, there is no happiness for you anywhere
Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we belong to Him; and the world loses its pleasure for us. We no longer belong in the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it like this:
“…those who follow Jesus will be different from the world…They will be offensive to the world. That is why the disciples will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Not recognition, but rejection will be their reward from the world for their word and deed. It is important that Jesus calls his disciples blessed, not only when they directly confess his name, but also when they suffer for a just cause.”
We can’t belong in the world’s club any longer, and we need to lose our desire to do so. We won’t be accepted when we do a Really Good Job for the Lord, in fact; we’re liable to bring criticism down on our heads from worldly people who think we are prudes for waiting until marriage for intimacy or unrealistic for being pro-life. But aside from these great big issues, there are a gazillion other ways we are different from people in the world and they sense it. Our differences either elicit a hunger for what we have or hatred because they have made the choice to find their happiness in this world and do not like to be reminded there is a greater happiness to be found. Through all this we have to be steadfast in living for Christ and not compromising who we are. It is a fine line to walk; we don’t condemn them, we hold out life to them.
But if we stifle our real beliefs in order to belong, and if we try to partake of the same pleasures they do, we end up feeling awful. When I used to do that—try to be a member of the “in” group back when I was in school for example—I ended up feeling like even more of an outcast than when I just gave up and sort of let my freak flag fly. Oh well. I’m different. Can’t belong to your club; I know it, you know it, but I have happiness you don’t know about (I started wearing a cross around my neck about then in case anyone wondered about where my happiness came from).
The only antidote for the awful feeling of not being at home in the world is to be at home in Jesus. The quickest way to be at home in Him is to be obedient to Him. Obedience is like a magic key that opens the “Happy in Jesus” door.
Our walk with the Lord is a love relationship. We don’t have much to give Him but our praise and obedience. Though the way it works out for each individual person varies, our relationship with the Lord should have these elements: prayer (tell Him what’s on your heart), Scripture (even just a verse or two), meditation on that Scripture (open your heart and mind to Him and apply it to your life), and very most importantly, obedience. Obedience is golden. Obedience has such wonderful rewards that Satan will work hard to keep us from it. His favorite tools are resentment and rebellion; if you cannot be told what to do this is a red flag that the devil is having his way with you (a wonderful way God has taught me to do what I’m told is to put me to work for my Alzheimer parent. She’s great at issuing orders and I’m still working on handling that with grace…).
Monitor yourself. How do you respond when a loved one asks you to run an errand, put out the trash, help with a household task or whatever? Submitting to one another in love is Scriptural. The Lord put that command in the Bible, I think, because He knows that submitting to one another is great practice for submitting to Him.
Ohhhh the Lord has such a sense of humor. My mother called and asked (demanded) that I come into her apartment for a visit just as I finished writing that sentence above.
Remember the old hymn Trust and Obey? “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” That hymn has excellent advice and I suggest you follow it. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to/get to go visit with my mother for awhile.
Love you guys.