Tag Archives: struggle

To win, you must surrender

Appomattox Marks 150th Anniversary Of Surrender Of Lee's Army In Civil War

People resist the Bible because they can’t get the paradoxes. They feel like God is going to rip them off, that He’s a tyrant, a killjoy, a cruel taskmaster whose greatest delight is to snoop for mistakes and send lightning bolts — or pestilence, famine and bad luck.

If you don’t have a mind prepared to understand paradoxes, you’ll have a tough time. You’ll be snapping at God about “catches” and raw deals.

One of the great paradoxes is that we are in warfare. But the irony is that the way to WIN is to LOSE. When we surrender to God, we obtain victory on other fronts. When we fight against God, we lose on other fronts.

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Batter my heart, three-personed God

batter my heart, three personed GodJohn Donne cries in anguish about his inability to please God. Concurring with Paul’s flesh-vs.-spirit war described in Romans 6-8, the metaphysical poet says that God has been too gentle in dealing with him.

Something more drastic is needed “knocking, breathing, shining and seeking to mend.” Donne says nothing less than a violent overthrow can help him, beset by sin. In witty oxymoron, he says, “I’ll never be able to stand unless you knock me down.”

Despite the war talk, the poem is about love. It is a holy sonnet. “Dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,” he says. But such love is troubled by a triangle. I “am betroth’d unto your enemy,” and only a divorce can resolve.

The poem is chock-full of conceits, startling — even disturbing — paradoxes. But it ends with the most striking. For Donne to be free, God must imprison him. For Donne to be (spiritually) chaste, God must ravish him (insinuation: rape). So violence, love, unfaithfulness and longing for faithfulness are all tied into one.

This is the human condition. Temptation lays hold of even the best of us. Serving God, then, is desiring to do so and praying for God’s help. Here’s the whole sonnet:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

A struggler’s planet

178595941443505487_MaCT5h5E_bNobody escapes it. Each has his own struggle.

This one struggles with money. That one struggles with addiction. He has no self-esteem. She is losing her marriage. Injustice stalks us all; don’t think anyone leads a charmed life.

But if the common denominator is struggle, there are too many options for numerators. He masks pain with rash behavior, abandonment to hedonism. She locks into power struggles, putting down others to plop herself on top.

antwaterdropI pray. I avoid the self-destructive “remedies.” And pointless one-upping.

It seems the vast majority go everywhere except the Answer. I go to God, the answer. Call to me and I will answer you — Jer. 33:3a NIV. Despair not your struggles; everybody has them. Just go to the Answer.

Life without struggle

 

Without struggle, there is no life.

Get used to struggle. Feel comfortable with it. Don’t run away, whine or complain because struggle is bound to be part of your life. We live in a fallen world. Life without struggle? No such.

Prayer is a key to triumph, not avoidance. David had his struggles. So did Noah. Daniel didn’t slip past it. Elijah went to the cave because of it. Jesus had the mightiest of all struggles. Paul was stoned and left for dead. John was exiled to Patmos.

Nelly and Pastor Ludving

My greatest, latest struggle has been for Nelly, the wife of the pastor who took over my Guatemalan church. She has off-the-charts arthritis and a recurring hernia. I grew anguished as I heard about her difficulties. But I was just in Guatemala and saw her laugh. She delighted in cooking food for me. We shared wonderful fellowship with her husband. I realized everything is going to be all right. My faith had been slipping. The struggle is great. I should keep my faith level high and not grow discouraged.

If we realize we can’t avoid struggle, we can embrace it. It is like the gym. Lifting weights makes muscles grow. Struggle makes faith grow.

 

From struggling to stubborn faith

The disciples tried but could not dislodge the demon. The epileptic’s father is unsure if Jesus, who just descended the mount, will be able where others failed. Wavering, he addresses the Lord: “IF you can do anything…”

This struggling faith does not sit particularly well with Jesus, who chides him. The man quickly realizes his mistake and musters faith: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” — Mark 9:24 NIV.

Struggling faith always comes up short. Stubborn faith is an unmoved confidence that God will perform His promises. Struggling faith is somewhat convinced that God MAY do something. Stubborn faith “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” — Heb. 11:1 NIV.

Struggling faith almost never gets a miracle. Stubborn faith impresses God so much that He is pleased: “Great is your faith!”

Most of us struggle to have more faith. We need the same sincerity of this man: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Trying is doing, putting effort is achieving. Jesus was pleased with this man’s attempt to shore up his struggling faith.