Being a Christian is easier said than done. We deal with devastating setbacks followed by incredible opportunities, the death of loved ones followed by the birth of new loved ones, situations we can’t control followed by moments of knowing exactly how to help, and seasons of isolation followed by times of fruitfulness and friendship.
These ebbing and flowing tides affect our minds, bodies, and souls. And we often seek to navigate the tension between the good and bad in life by seeking balance.
It’s a lot like a two-sided scale.
On one end of the scale we have the compassionate, life-changing, love of God. The Bible is filled with countless examples of this love, some of which we will examine in the rest of this blog. But on the other, sometimes heavier, end of the scale we have fear, disappointment, and pain. And when the scales tilt in favor of that negativity, it’s difficult to remember there was ever anything else.
Let’s look at the scales in greater detail, and hopefully remember to put more weight on the side of the true love of God, who looks at us as His children. Indeed, the Bible has plenty of examples of Paul and even Jesus Himself referring to God as “Abba.” And that name is important; it is not a rigid, cold name like “Father.” No, it’s a name that presents God as more intimate, accessible, and loving. It’s closer to “Daddy,” the term I hear my own daughter using anywhere from 10-1,000 times in a given day, whether she is happy, angry, scared, or joyful. And I would do anything for her when I hear her call me that familiar, loving name. How much more, then, would God do for me upon hearing my call?
Romans 8:14-17 (NIV) effectively demonstrates this loving, close relationship we have with God and how that should make us live: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
How comforting it is to know that no matter the trials we go through, we ultimately are children of God and receive His glory.
But…do we really believe that? Do we really believe that we no longer have to “live in fear again,” as Paul said? Those are the questions I’ve been grappling with over the last few days.
At my very core – when no other distractions are present – I know that ultimately I am loved by God and should live in freedom. And sometimes I’m able to do just that: Live life knowing I don’t have to be afraid of anything.
But then there’s the other side of the scale, and it’s often filled to the brim with doubt, sadness, spirit-crushing anxiety, and disappointment. How quickly I forget about God’s love and question whether I should approach Him at all when dealing with such negative emotions. Indeed, running to God crying “Abba” seems completely out of question when depression and heartache are in control.
The negative side of the scale holds a vicious cycle, one comprised of 1) feeling anxious, 2) feeling guilty that I allow anxiety to be such a large part of my life when I have an eternal, loving father who has redeemed me, and 3) filling my time with “stuff to do” until I no longer even think about God at all.
A compartmentalized God who only exists when we’re happy is not God at all. God wants all of us, our joy, our pain, our trust, our confusion, our inadequacies, and our skills. I submit Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) as evidence: “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The aforementioned verse is important not only because it reminds us that we should be frequently praying but also because it reminds us to live in peace.
When we give all of ourselves to God, the scales begin to tilt back in favor of the beauty in this world. I see it in my own life (when I have the courage to live the way I know I should, that is), as I feel my burden become lighter when I simply give my worries to the loving God of the universe.
It’s funny how the weight is lifted when the heavy side of the scale is on God’s side. But as Philippians 4:7 says, God’s peace “transcends all understanding.”
My challenge to myself, and to anyone reading this blog, is not to let life become a balancing act of weighing sadness and hardship equally with God’s love. Instead, let’s be present in the here-and-now, placing our lives entirely in the hands of the one we are lucky enough to call “Abba.”