FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of Decisions
For those who know me, you would know that I love the beginning of anything. The fresh starts motivate me. It is new, clean, and untouched from the elements of life that will soon enter. I was the kid that always loved the beginning of school. My bookbag was clean, my clothes were new, my folders were empty, and my #2 pencils were sharpened. But a few weeks into school, my bookbag was overflowing with miscellaneous items that I should have thrown away, my clothes wore the evidence of too much fun at recess, and my folders were crammed with papers in no certain order. So as much as I like newness, nothing ever stays that way. Regardless of how hard we try, life just happens –we become busy, overwhelmed, and so often walking through times of trouble. And seeing how much I like new beginnings and fresh starts –what better place to start this blog series than where challenges and difficulties first began?
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
On the sixth day of God’s creation, we see the first man, Adam, come into existence. This flawless perfection existed because his Maker spoke it to be. Undefiled, unharmed, unflawed, and unblemished. This was the beginning of humanity, and it was amazingly beautiful for one reason alone. That reason is that the first human man ever to walk the earth was formed in the image of a Holy God, for a perfect purpose. In addition to this, God had created a magnificent environment, fully suited for Him. In this place, Adam could walk in the cool of the day with his creator. Alongside him was Eve, the first woman that God created to be Adam’s companion. No task was left unfinished, no detail was left undone, and no design was incomplete – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5
And even in the presence of so much perfection, there still existed an enemy whose ultimate desire was to consume and destroy. In the Garden of Eden, these two first humans were given free will to make decisions. In this glorious space, a choice had to be made. Eve caved to the temptation that came in the form of a serpent and she chose flesh over FATHER. She believed the lies of the enemy and justified what was right and wrong in her own eyes. God told her to enjoy every gift that was given in abundance in the garden, except for one –just one. She had all the food she can ever want, but she still chose to eat the fruit from the one tree that she was told not to. And here we see difficulty entering the world. As the result of one wrong decision, the perfection that existed was now defiled and the result was that Adam, Eve, and the entire existence of the human race would suffer for as long as they walked the earth.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6
God had a plan for Adam and Eve, and it did not involve disobedience. When they stepped outside of the parameters of what He asked them they were then subject to the consequences of those actions. Do you ever look at your decisions or maybe the areas of sin in your life and believe that It’s just one insignificant decision or one tiny sin? Adam and Eve’s decision directly disobey their Father’s command changed the course of the human race. The result of one tiny choice led to difficulty, pain, and separation.
“To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19
And when I look back over my many years, I see that a large majority of the sadness, sorrow, and difficulty that I have faced existed simply because of my disobedience. I know the right thing to do, yet I do the exact opposite of that. I would tell you in those moments, my desire is to serve myself over Christ. I take my eyes off my purpose and long for the fulfillment of an unfillable flesh.
So, I sit and ask myself, how could one walk in a perfect world with the God of the Universe by their side, speaking to them and telling them just what to do, and yet still mess it all up? And then I look in the mirror. The person staring back at me was designed by the same HOLY God that breathed the breath of life into the first man and woman. And just as He created them for a mighty purpose, He did the same for me as well. And though I do not get to walk in the garden with God, I was gifted the power of the holy spirit to live and dwell in me. Amongst creation that failed God, He still made a way for us to be with Him, through a baby named Jesus. God’s son would live a life of perfection but die a death for every person that existed after the first fallen man. And in His place, we were given the gift of His Spirit to live inside of us and direct us down the road to fulfillment in Christ alone.
Please do not hear me say that every difficulty that you face in this life with be a result of your own sin, because that is simply not the case. Through the duration of this blog series, we are going to analyze the possible causes of difficulty in our lives by examining various people in the Bible. We will then look to gain an understanding of why those painful, life-altering times existed. And lastly, how they overcame it.
But as for Adam and Eve, their trials were a direct result of disobedience to God. From my perspective, the world is filled with men, women, teens, and children who are overcome with the difficulties of life primarily because they keep feeding the beast. Unfortunately, the beast is unfillable. Once you taste the forbidden fruit you are left wanting more. The more you have the more you want. The cycle is endless and exhausting. But with God, you will find a fullness that will never exist elsewhere. You can spend your life searching for joy, peace, and contentment in a broken world, filled with sinful people, or you can seek GOD and find a true, unending source of joy. What the world views as right and acceptable changes hourly or so it seems. But God, He never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment,like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” Hebrews 1:10-12
Are you facing difficulties that are fighting to drown out your joy? I encourage you today to examine the root cause of it. If you are entertaining areas of rebellious sin, repent and turn away immediately. The Gospel makes clear that we have all sinned and are in need of a Savior. You are never so far lost from Christ that you cannot repent and turn back to your Creator that is waiting for you. If you find yourself in this place here are some practical tips to give you the knowledge to recognize the sin in your life, the strength to turn away, and the understanding of how to surrender your heart and run towards joy only found in Christ.
1. The more you know and understand the unfailing love of a Holy, Mighty, Powerful, Wonderful, Loving, and Just God, the more you will want to know Him. So, seek Him daily.
2. Look around you, His sovereignty and goodness exist everywhere. Praise Him for that.
3. Ask that He help you to recognize any unrepentant sins in your life.
4. When He does so….AND HE WILL, ask Him for the strength to walk away and remove that desire in your heart.
5. God’s Holy Word is a gift. Know it, understand it, and apply it. Use HIS words to fight off the enemy. Nothing is more powerful.
6. Find friends that hold you accountable and lovingly point you toward Christ, when you are struggling with sin and temptation.
This week, the daily readings will focus on recognizing and avoiding sin as well as repenting and turning away from current sin.
If you have questions or things that you don't understand, please email them to me and I will add them to the Q&A section. I can't promise you that I will have all of the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them if I don't have them.
Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.