I spent a portion of today utilizing a set of splitting wedges on some well-seasoned logs. It’s been a while since I learned how to use them on the farm, but they come in handy with difficult sections, especially when hydraulics aren’t available. I love to hear the crack of the fibers beneath each successive blow of the sledge. As I was working my mind wandered off to thinking about the things that divide our heart, conquer our spirits and split us in two.
Yesterday I had the brief pleasure of talking to a guy in a pizza joint. I was there for lunch with a colleague discussing work. As we were about to depart, my colleague – who is far more outgoing than myself – struck up a light conversation with the man. It wasn’t a long dialogue, but one thing struck me as I listened to the man’s words filtering through his heart. He grew up in a religious institution and eventually drifted away, although he still considers himself “spiritual”. What bothered him the most, apart of the void of relationship in the faith, was the disconnect between faith and difficulty in life. Week after week of ritual covered over the honesty that’s so often lacking in religion, especially Christianity. I could completely relate to the guy!
I was recently reminded of the words of Jesus,
When we dole out Jesus with a “backloaded” Gospel – when we don’t tell people up front that the world is evil and life is hard and that Jesus will not always rescue us from it – we do them a great disservice. Many times in my life I’ve heard Pastors and evangelists speak about the peace and joy of God found only in Jesus and that if we just surrender our lives, everything will be okay. Perhaps in the big scheme of things this is true, but when Christianity becomes the wedge that splits your family apart, the joy of life gets a little jaded.
If Jesus said we would have troubles, we’d better buckle up. Yes, there’s comfort in knowing we’re reconnected to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus. But that may not be the tonic to all our emotional ills. Wish I could say it was, but our humanity gets in the way – and other people do, too.
You see, not only did Jesus say life would be hard, but he also said that we would be tempted. He never promised to remove temptation from the world. In fact, he gives a sharp warning to those through whom it will come,
The pain of life often cracks us to the core. Our days and weeks are filled with unexpected deaths, marital disappointments, financial ruin, even lesser troubles that when stacked one on another just bring us to breaking points. Toss on top the evil so predominant in the world and the daily inundation of temptation, it’s amazing that many can make it through at all. So, how do we deal with – not avoid, but face – these wedges?
First, let’s start by simply admitting that life is hard. It’s difficult. There’s pain, loss and great sorrow. That’s not fatalistic it’s reality. Jesus didn’t have a cushy life and wound up being crucified for speaking good truth. Don’t expect better, but be blessed when you do!
Second, accept that temptations are necessary and God allows them to come! That’s a truth that’s been rarely preached because it’s not pleasant. But it’s an essential certainty that we must come to grips with. God promises, as hard as this may be to swallow, that all things work to the good for those who love God and are called to his purpose (Romans 8:28). During my parent’s divorce I had to repeat that to myself as a mantra because the darkness of life was so utterly encompassing at times. (For a great resource as to why there’s suffering, I refer you to Ravi Zacharias’ book, Why Suffering?)
I know of many, many people over the years who’s lives were completely shipwrecked because they not only gave into temptation, brought it upon others, or were completely blindsided by it themselves. There’s a world of hurt waiting to divide our lives. They often start in the mind and make their way into our hearts. We would do well to heed the caution of the writer of Proverbs,
Third, find honest, trustworthy people to walk with in life. Don’t gather around you people who will just tell you what you want to hear. That won’t help at all. We need to love ourselves and others enough to be genuine and truth-speaking.
Lastly, know this, some people are wedges just waiting for the opportunity to split you and yours apart. Fact of life – there are many evil people in this world. Avoid them, regardless of whether they call themselves “Christians” or not. Cling to Jesus, only he has the tools and plan for us to overcome the world.
I know this is a tender topic for many. Please share your thoughts - I believe many will be encouraged.