Friday, January 01, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR

I spent the first day of the new year doing the same thing I did all of the last day of the old year: cleaning out my mother in law's apartment. she had a small apartment in a retirement village and is moving to an assisted living place.

she has more stuff crammed into this small apartment than many families around the world own, and most of it is clearly not used. In addition, the apartment is crammed full of twice as much furniture as is comfortable. You can hardly walk around in it. I guess this makes her somewhat of a hoarder.

Hoarders are people who keep a lot of stuff around because it makes them feel secure. Many depression babies do this, always worried that the economy will fail and leave them penniless. Other people collect worthless junk just to surround themselves with stuff.

However, there is little permanent satisfaction in this process. There is always a hole that needs filling.

All addictions and excessive behaviors are this way. I know there are physical problems that can be addressed with drugs. But there is a spiritual problem as well. We are looking in the wrong place for satisfaction. It is sort of like the old song from Urban Cowboy, "looking for love in all the wrong places".

All of us have deficiencies. Our human nature seeks to overcome those, or compensate for them, by excessive behavior in other areas. Some of us fixate on food. Some drink too much. Some take drugs, engage in high risk sexual behavior, exercise excessively, hoard possessions, compulsively wash hands and many others.

The Bible tells us the place to look for satisfaction is Christ, not in excessive behavior. The Apostle Paul, for example, suffered from physical pain. In 1 Corinthians 12, he referred to it as a "messenger of Satan". It tormented him. He wanted to be rid of it. He asked God to remove his pain, but God said no.

So, what did Paul do? He could have started drinking to kill the pain. Many have done so. He could have taken drugs. He could have turned to excessive sexual behavior to distract himself from the pain.

But, he didn't; he turned to Christ. What he says about it is simple, but profound. He said God told him "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". And Paul believed God. He believed it so much he delighted in his weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. As he continued on his spiritual journey, he could say, in his letter to the Philippians, "to live is Christ".

What this tells us, as followers of Christ, is to look for fulfillment, satisfaction and comfort, to Christ. I do not think the average American evangelical believers has learned even the beginning of this process. However, I think it means that when we feel the need to fill ourselves with too much of anything, or with things that are bad, we should, instead, turn to Christ. Paul says God is the God of all comfort.

Take him at his word.
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