Discomfort as an Invitation to Spiritual Growth

healthy_livingContinued from here.

As part of my ponderings over this very uncomfortable topic (pun intended again), God led me to a different perspective: discomfort is actually God’s invitation to spiritual growth. Whenever I experience discomfort, whether it’s simply annoying to severely painful, God is inviting me to grow in my dependency upon Him. He’s inviting me to move away from where I have been comfortable and into a new place of deeper intimacy with him. Perhaps this is how Paul was able to say:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).

We only delight in weakness when we recognize that it drives us to deeper dependency upon God, who can be fully trusted. We must give up the illusion of being in control over anything and rest knowing that God will empower us to be strong in our weakness.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered.”

Lewis goes on to say:

We cannot therefore know that we are acting at all, or primarily, for God’s sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful, and what we cannot know that we are choosing, we cannot choose. The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination.”

To put this in simpler terms, restoration to a relationship with God requires us to let Him define what’s “good” rather than our own inclinations. To accomplish this, God must repeatedly place us in situations in which our inclinations differ from God’s will. It’s only when we choose His way over our own – when we forgive those who hurt us, for example – that we are restored to the place of restoration with God. My will must surrender to God’s will, even when it hurts. In this way, the discomfort I experience in my day-to-day life becomes an invitation to breaking my self-will, surrendering to God, and developing deeper dependence upon Him. As I do this, intimate relationship is restored between the Creator and the created.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace eating a salad over the words, “Healthy Living.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Advertisements

The Role of Discomfort

Continued from here.

If God says that discomfort is “good” and should be my expectation, with comfort being an exception provided in the short-term to refresh me, then there must be more to discomfort than I’m seeing. (Not sure I would have received this message well on the tour bus after my fourth hour of nausea!) What positive role might discomfort serve in our lives?

I’m very comfortable in my bed at night. After a busy day of work, I relish curling up under my quilt and burrowing myself in my pillows. Left to my own devices, I would never leave the comfort of my bed in the morning. Why do I leave it? Because of the discomfort of my full bladder. The discomfort in my bladder when I awaken in the morning motivates me to leave the comfort of my bed. In other words, comfort lulls me to stay where I am whereas discomfort motivates me to move.

When I sin, I generally enjoy the immediate, selfish “benefits.” What motivates me to repent? The discomfort of conviction. If God let me remain comfortable in my sin, I would continue to do it because, quite frankly, it takes no effort to do whatever I feel like doing in the moment. However, it requires considerable effort (at least at first) to make countercultural and counterintuitive choices, such as blessing someone who wrongs me, obeying laws I don’t agree with (such as the speed limit), or humbling myself when everything within me wants to assert my rights.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it…pain insists on being attended to … it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In other words, discomfort is the cattle prod God uses to drive me toward spiritual growth. If God removes the cattle prod, I’m inclined to stay comfortably where I am … and as I am. Since God’s will for me is spiritual growth (transformation into Christlikeness), He must keep me uncomfortable to keep me motivated to change. Thus, discomfort is actually GOOD for me. (Again, I don’t like this message any more than you do!)

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.

 

Looking Forward to Heaven

haloContinued from here.

I’m not sure how good of a job I did in explaining C.S. Lewis’ views of heaven in his book, The Problem of Pain. I encourage you to read his book for yourself – it’s one of the most profound books I have ever read!

As I said when I started this series, I don’t generally spend much time thinking about heaven. I have enough to keep me busy here on earth, and all I need to know is that heaven is going to be good. I have never really seen the point in speculating about it. However, after reading Lewis’ perspective, I have a different mindset because what he shared resonates deeply with me.

I have experienced much pain in my life. Yes, I know that everyone experiences pain, but I have lived most of my life believing that God went overboard in allowing as much pain into my life as He did, particularly in my childhood. It seemed so unfair. However, when I can view what I am learning here on earth through that pain as preparing me for the rhythms of heaven, I am able to view my circumstances and experiences differently. God isn’t “picking on me.” He has actually given me a gift that drove me into His arms, and that yearning I feel inside for something just beyond my reach will one day know fulfillment.

I love the notion of being able to experience God in a deeply intimate way that that takes nothing away from your ability to experience Him in an equally intimate, and yet different, way than I do. That’s a concept I don’t have to wait to get to heaven to start applying – I can do that now. In this earthly body, it’s ingrained that whatever is given to you must be taken away from me and vice versa, but you and I can both become our truest selves with deeply personal and intimate relationships with God that are very different from one another. What’s even better is that I benefit from your deepening relationship with God just as you benefit from mine. This helps me better understand the Body of Christ and my role in it. Thanks, C.S. Lewis!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace wearing a halo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Creating a Heavenly Symphony

saxContinued from here.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis uses the analogy of a heavenly orchestra in which all of the individual instruments play together in harmony as one to create beautiful music together. If you, I, and everyone else in heaven were the same, it would be comparable to all of us playing a C# on a flute. That would not be a very interesting piece of music to listen to. The beauty of a symphony comes from many different types of instruments playing different notes in harmony, creating beautiful music that wouldn’t sound that great if you only listened to one of the instruments in isolation.

The music we create comes from continually giving of ourselves so we may fill up with God. The process of emptying ourselves creates the music that we add to the harmony of heaven,

…and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance ‘makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.’”

Lewis then ties this concept in with the premise of his book by pointing out that the suffering we endure on earth is preparing us for the dance of heaven:

All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight.”

I have even considered the orchestra in my own life. My life has had many low notes on the bass and tuba from the painful experiences I have been through, but I have also experienced the high notes of the flute and violin through the joys. As I look back over my life, I have the ability to see both the joys and pains from the perspective of the totality of my life that I have trouble grasping during any particular season, whether joyful or painful. Every experience, woven together, has created a song that is my own – one that only the Father hears. As I continue to learn to empty myself and fill up with Him, I prepare myself for the dance of heaven.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing the saxophone. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Union Rather than Sameness in Heaven

sameContinued from here.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis goes on to point out that “union exists only between distincts.” In other words, if you and I were exactly the same, there would be no need for union: we could simply merge into each other and become one, which is the belief system of some religions … that we are each one drop of a large ocean and that we return to oneness when we die. However, as Lewis pointed out,

God created: He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him, and achieve union instead of mere sameness.”

So, Lewis believes that when we get to heaven, we will become the best versions of our distinctive selves, more “ourselves” than we have ever been with our sin nature removed. And it’s in that distinctiveness that “the union of reciprocal love” brings us into unity with the Trinity – parts that are different and yet One in their distinctiveness through reciprocal love. So, according to Lewis’ theory of heaven, we aren’t all going to be doing the same thing in the same way – no rows of us sitting on clouds playing our harps. Instead, my “job” in heaven will be perfectly suited for me, and your “job” in heaven will be perfectly suited for you as we love another along with everyone else in heaven as we do their own distinctive “jobs” and bless one another in unity, sealed in harmony through reciprocal love. How amazing does that sound!?!!

And, interestingly, we will become our best selves as we pour ourselves out. Relish these beautiful words by Lewis:

And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment—an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself.”

I will fill up with my own intimate understanding of God and pour it out for you and everyone else in heaven, and you will do the same. As we do this, we will simultaneously because the truest versions of ourselves we have ever been as we sweetly surrender ourselves to God. As Lewis puts it, as we surrender ourselves, we become our truest selves, continually emptying ourselves as we become more ourselves as we fill up with God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace pointing to herself and saying, “Same!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

C.S. Lewis’ Speculations about Heaven

Continued from here.

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis shared a very different view of heaven than I have ever heard anywhere else. The last chapter of the book is on heaven, which he sees as a place where God will enjoy those He loves. What a great starting point!

He then points out that each soul is unique – thus, each of us must have a separate, individualized role in heaven. Soak in the beauty of his words:

Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions … God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.”

Lewis believes that each of us has “experienced only the want of” whatever will fill us in heaven during our lifetime on this earth and that my “want of” is different from your “want of” and everyone else’s. God has placed inside of me the key to unlocking one aspect of His character that only I will get to experience one-on-one, which I will then share with everyone else in heaven. And then your key will unlock another aspect of His character that is personal only to you. I’ll have no need to envy whatever is in your room, nor will you need to envy mine, because everyone in heaven will share with one another whatever we discover/experience. Lewis words it this way:

Each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.”

In other words, each of us will get the experience of being God’s “first love” and God being our “first love” because each of us will experience an aspect of God intimately in a way that nobody else ever has or ever will. Lewis quotes the Book of Revelation in support of this theory:

I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” ~ Rev. 2:17

I love the idea of having a relationship so intimate with the Father that only He and I are privy to this name while, at the same time, not taking away from your intimate relationship with the Father.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Musings about Heaven

 

angelIronically, if I subscribed to this blog, I probably wouldn’t bother to read a blog entry on the topic of heaven. I’m not one of those people who has ever been particularly interested in trying to figure out what heaven is like. I figure that it’s going to be great, and I’ll just find out when I get there.

One of the reasons for my attitude re: speculations about heaven is that the aspects of heaven that appeal to me seem to differ from those that other people tend to talk about. For example, I have no interest in inheriting a mansion in heaven unless God also plans to provide a cleaning crew to do the housekeeping. I’ve done enough housekeeping in this lifetime, thank you very much. I also have no interest in sitting around on a cloud playing a harp – sounds pretty boring to me. Now, I can get into the idea of having an intellectual discussion with C.S. Lewis or singing along with Rich Mullins as he leads a worship band, but I’m much more interested in being with God in heaven than reuniting with other people.

To the extent I think about heaven, I think about how AMAZING it will be to worship God. Think about the worship services! I can just see Rich Mullins leading the praise & worship songs as thousands upon thousands of people sing along with the angels and pour adoration out of their souls toward God. I think about how incredible a Beth Moore Living Proof Live or Joyce Meyer event is and imagine the worship experience being exponentially better than even that. Wow!!

I actually don’t care about how many treasures I have stored up in heaven. The only treasure I care about is being in the presence of God Almighty forever. I don’t know if we will have “jobs” in heaven, but if we do, I’d like to be one of God’s priests – the equivalent of a Levites whose inheritance is God. That makes me weird, I know, which is one reason I don’t generally choose to engage in conversations about heaven. However, C.S. Lewis wrote about his own perspective of heaven in his book, The Problem of Pain, and it’s one that excites me. I’ll share his theory in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed like an angel. Courtesy Bitmoji.]