Ordinary Days: a shift in expectations

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” – M. Scott Peck

I feel like my life is full of moments where I am re-learning this reality. For some reason, I am shocked when the seemingly fruitful endeavor I am pursuing turns out to be a waste of time. I get discouraged when despite my best efforts, my son seems to totally forget everything I taught him in one brief moment. I want to throw my hands up when I get told “no”, “maybe later”, or “this isn’t for me”.

For some reason I have bought into the lie that everything should be easy and things shouldn’t take a lot of work to accomplish.

life is hard_1238521179Yet, the scriptures this week point to something else. We see the young disciples of Jesus come face to face with the reality of their expectations of Jesus compared to what was really true. We find the prophet angry that his enemies have made life so difficult for the people of Israel. The Psalmist wants to prove to God that he is perfect and blameless, even though the truth might prove otherwise. Paul points to the truth of love beyond the empty words and platitudes where we often allow it to exist.

Life is difficult. But, as we see in the scriptures, we find great freedom in understanding what is actually true about what God is wanting from us. With this understanding we can embrues the difficulty.

There are no shortcuts, free passes, or entitlements. Let’s explore this reality together.

Matthew 16:21-28

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Then I said,

“Lord, you know what’s happening to me.

    Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors!

Please give me time; don’t let me die young.

    It’s for your sake that I am suffering.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.

    They are my joy and my heart’s delight,

for I bear your name,

    O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.

I never joined the people in their merry feasts.

    I sat alone because your hand was on me.

    I was filled with indignation at their sins.

Why then does my suffering continue?

    Why is my wound so incurable?

Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,

    like a spring that has gone dry.”

This is how the Lord responds:

“If you return to me, I will restore you

    so you can continue to serve me.

If you speak good words rather than worthless ones,

    you will be my spokesman.

You must influence them;

    do not let them influence you!

They will fight against you like an attacking army,

    but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze.

They will not conquer you,

    for I am with you to protect and rescue you.

    I, the Lord, have spoken!

Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men.

    I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”

Psalm 26:1-8

Declare me innocent, O Lord,

    for I have acted with integrity;

    I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.

    Test my motives and my heart.

For I am always aware of your unfailing love,

    and I have lived according to your truth.

I do not spend time with liars

    or go along with hypocrites.

I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,

    and I refuse to join in with the wicked.

I wash my hands to declare my innocence.

    I come to your altar, O Lord,

singing a song of thanksgiving

    and telling of all your wonders.

I love your sanctuary, Lord,

    the place where your glorious presence dwells.

Romans 12:9-21

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;

    I will pay them back,”

    says the Lord.

Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.

    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap

    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Prayer –

Father, I don’t want to spin my wheels

I don’t want to spend my life frustrated

Let me see the beauty in the struggle

Defeat the false assumptions I carry

Show me this week how you work in difficulty

Help me trust you, even though hardships come

Give me patience when things don’t go my way

Knowledge to understand what you are asking,

And grace for myself when I don’t measure up.

Amen.

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