Spiritual Growth

New Year / Same Old Stuff

It is a brand new year.  Not even a full week has past and it seems people are already fretful, burdened, and weary.  Why is it when we face a new year full of potential and positive opportunity we tend to lose momentum so quickly, become burdened down and stressed out?  Could it be that we are living in such a “gotta-have-it-now” culture that we have forgotten how to be still and wait?

I have taught children for years.  One particular lesson I remember teaching concerns the real Christmas present of Jesus’ birth; it never gets old and never goes away — we benefit from it all year long.  But, I can almost bet a dollar-to-a-donut when some children are asked what they got for Christmas this past year, they will not remember.  Less than a month has gone by and that ultimate “I-gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-die” new gadget or toy will be old news, thrown in the corner or perhaps even broken and discarded.

I say this very nonchalantly about children, but the same can be said of those of us who are adults as well.  Perhaps we remember our new Christmas gadgets simply because they cost more, but what about remembering the wonder and majesty of celebrating Jesus?  During the Christmas season it is easy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, get lost in the worship and honor of the newborn King, and give all our burdens to Him — knowing He is the promised and fulfilled Messiah.  But within the first two weeks of the new year, what happens to the wonder?  Where is the trust?  Why are we fretful, burdened, and exhausted?

Perhaps the answer is the same as it was for Martha.  We are so busy “doing” that we forget to simply “be” with Jesus.  I know I do.  Life gets me so tangled up in deadlines, appointments, errands, family activities, and “stuff” that I quickly forget that Jesus told Martha to come and enjoy His companionship for just a little while.  (Luke 10:38-42)  Jesus’ words shoot straight to the heart… “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things….”  Same old stuff, Martha…. same old stuff. Jesus’ solution for Martha is the same solution He offers to me.  “Come, choose the good part.”

If I do not stop and relax with the Lord (the good part) on a regular basis,  I begin to show signs of spiritual starvation.  These signs show up in my character as fretful, tired, weary, sharp-tongued, unsatisfied, frustrated, worried, fearful, self-pitied, and depressed.  Granted, not all of these symptoms will hit me in one fell swoop, but given time, if I don’t hand them over to the Lord, they ALL creep in.  They quietly sneak up and start to nibble away my peace and if not confronted they become like ravaged wolves devouring every godly reserve in sight.   Pretty soon, I am pitifully famished in desperate need of spiritual replenishing.

Surely, I am not the only one who suffers from the “same old stuff.”  As I visited with a friend this morning who is dealing with some heavy decisions, I reminded her of a passage God always brings me back to in times that I cannot seem to shake off the struggle of worry and concern.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God…”  One translation says, “Be Still and know…”, yet another says, “Let go, relax and know…”   Hmm… cease striving.  That gives the picture of a tug-of-war.  Me pulling on one end, while the Lord is pulling on the other.  Now seriously, do I really believe I will win a tug-of-war with the King of the Ages?  Get real.  When I cease striving, it is as if I relax and let the rope go limp in my hands.  All the tension is released from my arms, my hands and fingers begin to feel the strength of blood pump through them again and surprisingly, my back, shoulders, knees, and yes even the bottom of my feet are at ease and in comfort again.  The tension is gone.  Amazing.  I have to ask myself, “Why didn’t I let go and relax a long time ago?”  Silly girl. When will I ever learn to let go of the same old stuff?

When I am in a relaxed state, I can enjoy the company and companionship of the Lord — in a way I believe He desires.  Does He leave me when I’m fretful?  Certainly not.  But I am not able to drink in the deep richness of His goodness and enjoy Him to the fullest if I am fearful, worried, concerned, or striving.  Why?  Because I am focused on myself and my own circumstances.  My focus is not on Him and the simple enjoyment of His companionship.  My heart is certainly not focused on pouring myself into others.

There is a beautiful example of focus given by Jesus  in John 13. I am amazed by it.  In this setting, Jesus is with the disciples for the Last Supper, but only He knows it is the last, the disciples don’t have a clue.  He is fully aware He is about to die an unbelievably cruel death, yet amazingly, His focus is on service and passing on truth to the disciples.  He washes their feet for cryin’ out loud!  This is mind-blowing to me.  On the forefront of persecution, scourging, crucifixion, and ultimate death, Jesus is pouring Himself into others and serving them in the most culturally humbling way possible.  His focus was not fretful, fearful, worried, or striving.  From all indications, it seems He was exercising Psalm 46:10 — no tug-of-war here.  He knew Who was in control of His circumstances and was content to let God be God.

New Year…. same old stuff.  As long as we are on this earth we will have trouble.  The Scripture promises us this truth in the next chapter of John (14).  But with this trouble there is a great promise.  Jesus tells us not to let our heart become troubled.  If we believe in God, we should believe also in Him.  He has gone to prepare a place for us.  A place void of trouble — yes, even the same old stuff — physical, emotional, spiritual trouble — all gone.

In the meantime, glory to God, while on earth we are given a choice on how to handle the trouble we face.  In 2013, wouldn’t it be great if we, the people of God, started acting more like trusting children of God and ceased striving and let God be God?  Honestly, in a game of tug-0-war, who is really going to win?  New year?  Same old stuff?  Martha, Martha (I’ll insert my name here)… let not your heart be troubled… cease striving.

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