Last Thursday, moving some stuff around in my new office space, I did something foolish and injured the muscles or whatever on the left ribs. Nothing that won’t heal, and as best we’ve seen thus far, no fractures, but a good deal of pain. Basically it hurts to: breathe, sneeze, cough, lift with my left arm, sit, stand, lie down, sit up, or bend for any reason whatever. Besides that, I am perfectly fine….
But HERE is this interesting thing…
Thursday, when I did this and was in such pain, I was between appointments and waiting for my 7:00 meeting as I sat at my desk. I felt silly, having to “plan” getting up from my chair or whatever… and I knew I have projects coming to a head in these next weeks, and this challenge could have better timing in my life… So I prayed…
“OK, Lord. I love you. This is fine. But REALLY? This? Now? Really?” and I laughed… “Lord, just show me… where’s the glory here? Where’s the glory in my pain?”
And clearly, gently, quietly, the Lord answered me… “There is none. There is absolutely NO glory to Me in your pain… None at all. No… the Glory is in how you HANDLE the pain. It’s in whether you choose to give Me glory.”
I “saw” this… laughed, and said, “OK, Lord. I’ll see what I can do. I feel silly at this, so I’ll just not whine or take myself seriously about it… but just praise You and serve on.”
To which He said simply, “Good. You do that. And… by the way… that is MUCH less painful than crucifixion. Trust Me on that.” (As “take up your cross and Follow Me” echoed in my head.)
A few minutes later my folks arrived, we had our meeting, it all went well, and I mentioned my condition (to explain my grunts and groans), soliciting prayer, but laughing at my own awkwardness… and I shared openly what God has suggested, and asked them to help me comply.
And so these days have gone by, as I’ve tried to “behave responsibly” (taking the right care of the condition), without taking myself too seriously or making any fuss about it.
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I overdid it a bit yesterday, spent a miserable night, and this morning couldn’t really move without great pain. But through last night and this morning, my discomfort, has come the phrase “God makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike”… with the realization that this “circumstance” has no bearing on “relationship with God”. I’m not saying that well, but it was just a growing awareness.
Then, just a short time ago, God “taught from this” and said the strangest thing.
“Remember Our study question:, ‘Do you believe God loves you more… God is happier with you or blesses you more… when you behave well, than when you behave badly?'”
Yes… I remembered the Study question… God loves us infinitely, and blesses us infinitely with His grace at all times, regardless of our behavior. How we RECEIVE that, and the NATURE of that grace or blessing, may differ however. But it’s all grace, all the time.
“Well, I have a question for you. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. ‘Do you love ME more… are you happier with Me or do you glorify Me more… when *I* behave well or badly… that is, when you are happy and comfortable with life, as opposed to when you are tried or in pain?”
I don’t think I need to say a thing about my response or conviction here… my realization that I, and almost EVERYONE I could name would without a doubt say we “feel closer”, more loving, more worshipful, give greater or at least MORE glory… to God when we are “happy with Him and how He is managing things”, than when we are dissatisfied. (Or, in my frequent words. “Lord… I am not happy…” (unspoken continuation… “with You and how You are running things”…))
And when I saw this… He just asked, “Why? Why do you do this? Why do you feel less of My love in trials, and why do you respond by giving Me less glory or praise? Am I further away? Am I distancing Myself?”
And He showed me a brief flash… of my (now grown) daughter and her Daddy. Between her infancy and toddlerhood, he, being physically handicapped, was Mr. Mom, and me being out and about so much… when she was sick or hurting for any reason, and needed that “comforting cuddle” usually associated with Mom… she wanted her Daddy if at all possible. If he wasn’t home, I would DO, but only til he arrived. She was not often sick, but I remember so clearly, if she was… she would just be plastered against his chest, firmly installed on his lap or alongside him as he read or watched TV… and she could only fall asleep in his arms as he just held her and kissed the top of her head now and again. HE could “heal” her… I could only “hold the fort”.
And God just asked me where the love was greater? Where the relationship closer? When they were playing? When they were cooking together? Or in moments like those, when she was hurting?
No answer to that, of course.
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He wasn’t upset at all… He seemed “smiling with a new way to see things” really…
He left me with this interesting challenge…
I could see that, while I realize that His grace flows to us infinitely and fully at all times, regardless of how we behave or what we are into… I could also see that we do not tend to treat God the same way, He flows grace totally and infinitely to me, but I flow praise, worship, glory to God only intermittently… based on mood and my personal judgment of “satisfaction at how well He is doing His job”.
He asked if I thought this was fair? (No.) So the challenge was, could I flow glory to Him with that same consistency with which He flows grace to me? Both in “good” and in “bad”… not by trying to “lie” and claim that what is bad… isn’t bad. Like trying to convince myself that my ribs DON’T hurt. But rather simply to acknowledge… “Hmmm… ribs hurt. OK, and I glorify you anyway, living in as much grace and joy and satisfaction with Him regardless of the ribs.”
The image was simple… grace flows out from Him… glory flows in towards Him… no difference, no variation.
He made clear, this wasn’t a deal or transaction… it was just the covenant… the “way things should work”.
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So there is my affirmation and resolution… That God flows grace to us unconditionally, without regard for our condition or behavior… Thus I should flow praise and glory to Him just as unconditionally, without regard for what I experience of blessing or trial. It IS all blessing, whether I perceive that or not.
I never realized that I “judge God” this way… or “adjust my praise/glorification” to/of Him accordingly.
Does He love us more or less, based on His experience of us? Then why does it seem we love Him more or less based on our experience of Him?
I’m simply a work in progress… A child learning more of the family. Pray for me now and again! Thanks.