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October 23, 2007

The Trouble with Harmony



An infestation of fleas in our house. A large, newly identified plantar wart on my foot. A persistent and painful overgrowth of yeast afflicting my seven-week old daughter's mouth and my breast. Welcome to my life last week: invasion of the parasites.

My budding pest situation reminded a friend of the Egyptians' 10 plagues in Exodus when Pharaoh wouldn't give the Israelites their freedom. I heartily agreed. (Meanwhile that same week, my friend's toddler son stuck a coin in her computer DVD drive and killed her computer, her car engine died, and her house was broken into. Oh, and she's eight months pregnant and has raging sciatic pain.)

Why is life so difficult sometimes? We feel needled to death by a thousand aggravations and annoyances sucking the air out of us like leaky balloons. Worse, a patch of frustrating circumstances often generates a doomsday mindset in which we constantly wonder what will go wrong next.

Lamenting my irksome misfortunes - really just common, low-grade nuisances - and pondering my response, I started thinking about what I want in life when I'm honest with myself. What I really want is simply for THINGS TO GO WELL. More than being famous or rich, I just want a smooth, satisfying life. Don't we all? You know the types of things I mean: health for myself and my loved ones, a lack of catastrophes large and small, good weather on my vacation.

In a nutshell, I want harmony. If I could just get harmony in my days, then I wouldn't need to trouble God for anything else.

The desire for harmony is Eden-old, seen throughout the Bible. The psalmists' prayers for harmony are not unlike my own: "Remember me O Lord when you show favor to your people? let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones; (Ps 106:4-5) and "May the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful." (Ps. 90:17). In my case, "successful efforts" to get rid of my fleas, wart, and yeast infection are exactly I'm looking for from God!

The problem is that my quest for harmony often becomes worship of harmony: Harmony, the idol. I am looking for annoyances to dissolve, for an easy life, for things to go my way. I am NOT looking for God ? at least not very much.

Know who did not have a smooth-sailing, harmonious life? Jesus. Also Peter, John, Mary, and virtually everyone else in Jesus' circle. The very lack of harmony that these individuals encountered caused them to cling ever tighter to their strength-giving God. They could never have fulfilled their callings or maintained their joy if they had not.

The fact is that this world is not supposed to be easy; God actually told us directly after our Eden failure that living on earth would be tough. Though he loves us deeply, cares infinitely about our every concern and tear, and wants to carry our burdens for us, he won't remove the impact of the curse from our life experience or immunize us from this sin-stained world. To the contrary, he allows us to be exposed to all manner of difficulties and frustrations in this life to develop his character in us - he told us this directly as well (Heb 12:7-8). So I might as well get used to it.

While it's not wrong to wish for things to go well or pray for harmonious circumstances, I'm realizing that time and effort could be a lot better spent. It could be spent welcoming the challenges, developing an ever-greater capacity to laugh at myself, and relinquishing the reigns of my life from my clenched palms back to God. (And the time I spend complaining about things that go wrong definitely has to go.)

Big picture perspective helps in this, I find - after the 10 plagues had passed, the Israelites got to leave Egypt for the Promised Land. Likewise we will one day have passed through the time of our earthly "plagues" and be in heaven. And just as Moses kept his eyes fixed on the Promised Land and refused to let the plagues of Egypt deter him, so we as leaders must do the same. For if we allow ourselves to lose perspective and become consumed by desire for harmony and annoyance about inharmonious circumstances, we will be unable to help those we lead to become more Christ-like.

Comments

This rings so true for me. Rather than focus on God's blessings, I get grumpy about the problems/irritations that I want to GO AWAY!

I'm going to post this quote and read it daily. If I can conquer any one of these goals, I'll be that much closer to living life as Jesus taught us. - "It could be spent welcoming the challenges, developing an ever-greater capacity to laugh at myself, and relinquishing the reigns of my life from my clenched palms back to God." Thank you for this awesome reminder and life lesson.

Thank you for sharing with such honesty. We all have different parasites, and it is good to be encouraged to approach them with God-given grace.

What you say is so true. Without the struggles, we tend to go off on our own. God uses those parasites--and, some would argue,sends them-- so, with His help, we can learn, as Paul did, "to be content in whatever circumstances," knowing His Kingdom is eternal. Now, if each day, I would just renew my mind with this.....

It is true that as Christians we still suffer. However, as we die to ourselves and look completely to Jesus, He takes away our suffering. Especially compared to people who don’t know Him. In fact, for a person who does not know God, no matter how easy their life may seem on the outside, it is really Hell compared to the suffering God allows his faithful

This article reminds me to lean into the aggravations of life and accept them as part of God's ultimate plan - in building character in the midst of a a broken world.

Ah, but you're so right, Susan. We often do well withstanding the big onslaughts of life, but are flattened by the (as you say)"common, low-grade nuisances". What a good reminder to take a deep breath and to humbly approach the throne of grace. Otherwise we get blindsided, and end up passing on the harm and hurt. Great post!

You are so right, Susan. We often withstand the big onslaughts of life, while we crumble in the face of (as you say)"the common low-grade nuisances" which beset us. Thankfully, they too qualify under the "in time of need" clause of God's call for us to "approach the throne of grace". He is so gracious to make no distinctions between big and little needs. Great post!



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