Monday, February 2, 2009
Choosing how to Respond
We have a real choice in how we respond to the daily situations of life. Many Christians exclude God and make terrible decisions when the circumstances of life intrude on them. Our lives can go from wondrous to disastrous in a moment, and we do not respond well. A parent has died. You've lost your job. You've learned a good friend is dying of cancer. How do you respond to such tough developments? Many Christians choose to respond by blaming God. They feel that God has "messed up" their happy lives like some kind of divine Grinch. Thus, when they face trouble, they have a true choice: to go God's way or their own. Some people refuse to go God's way, saying, "His way isn't practical" or, "It doesn't make sense." Some argue, "God's way is too hard." Thus, they reject God's directive. They exclude or ignore God in their decision making. You can be sure Satan will jump in at that point with his own alternative. How can we move in the direction of choosing God's answers for our problems? Through doing two things: knowing God and talking to Him daily. Almost every client I have counseled did not know who God truly, is. The enemy had distorted their perception of who God is; he still does that. In fact, every lie of the enemy is a distortion of either God's Word or His person. Furthermore, most clients I've counseled did not have a prayer life. People who drift away from God are never prayer warriors. They have replaced dependence on God with self-sufficiency, thinking they are masters of their own destinies-a big lie of the enemy that leads to prayerlessness. To counteract such lies, I try to help counselees build into their lives two resources: (1) a knowledge of who: God truly is, and (2) a dynamic prayer life. As we lay this twofold foundation, God fortifies us for the day of battle. The harsh situation you may be in may not be your choice; but your response is. The truth is that we have a choice about how we react in every situation. We can choose to trust God or blame Him; we can go His way our our way. But we are never "forced by circumstances" into some action. We can and must choose to trust God. Carol's problem reflects the unwillingness to let God control her life because she did not know Him well. She struggled with a sleeping disorder for twenty years and eventually ended up in a mental hospital, diagnosed as being schizophrenic. A doctor placed her on anti psychotic drugs, but after years of medication, another doctor said she was misdiagnosed; she had a bipolar dysfunction. When Carol changed churches, she learned her root problem might be spiritual. She told her minister about her treatments and the changed diagnosis. "My new pastor shared with me that mental illnesses may be real, but sometimes they are the results of harboring sin, bitterness, etc., in one's heart." At that point this pastor referred her to me. Carol waited several months for an appointment, and during that time the Lord began working in her life. Before her visit she sensed God leading her to a number of verses. One from Deuteronomy 10:12 was an eye-opener: "What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." During our first session, Carol was open and revealed her childhood experiences of sexual abuse. Carol felt justified anger toward the people who had hurt her and believed that anger, a form of revenge, was right. In the process of our sessions, God revealed this lie the Evil One had placed in her heart. At first, though, she struggled. Because of her childhood abuse, she felt a deep-seated anger toward God. In time, Carol forgave her mother and a number of other people. She repented of her anger and hatred toward those who had offended and abused her. And she repented of her anger toward God and for doubting God's willingness to keep His word. The morning after our session in which she'd expressed and done these acts, Carol told me "My time in the Word was sweet, God gave me a special verse. "Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; yet they have not prevailed against me" (Psalm 129:2). The next week an issue between Carol and me came up. She felt I spent too much time teaching her about the issues of repentance and forgiveness and she became angry with me. That evening she attended a mid-week church service and heard her pastor say "When you are under pressure the real you comes out. Your choices reveal what you really believe. True repentance results in a change of heart, not just some modification of your behavior." Carol sat there stunned. Had the real Carol shown herself in her seeking to perform for God? Was doing the things to impress Him what really mattered her her? Was control the thing she always had to have in order to feel safe? That night, Carol repented of wanting to control every situation. She sensed God's forgiveness and for the first time she felt truly free. She had learned to accept doing things God's way, not her way. Later she wrote me about what she was learning through her times in the Scriptures and prayer: "God is teaching me how to die to self and surrender to Christ daily, I am learning in a new way that God is sovereign and in control....I have learned to allow Christ to live His life through mine. The Lord will continue to enable me to over come bitterness and anger in my life. Praise God, for only He could set me free. Carol saw for the first time that following God's way through her Scripture and prayer time fulfilled her. By submitting to Him, she would enter into His plan and live out the reality of life in Christ that she had always wanted. I marvel that God's Word and power can cause such amazing changes in as person's life. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.