My Circumstances Are Killing Me, What Do I Do?
While I was on the ministry line today at church, three college-age girls came up for prayer as they each go back to their non-believing families who are opposed to their faith. They didn’t give details, but it was clear that the relationship is a struggle. I can easily imagine their parents shaming them for trusting in Jesus, or mocking them, or being upset with them for following Jesus instead of focusing on schoolwork and preparing for safe, well-salaried jobs. They were not looking forward to going back to that environment for the summer, but I am excited for them. So excited, actually, that I sat down and wrote this blog entry.
As Christians and New Creations, these girls are daughters of God. Children of the King don’t have to suffer a bad situation; they get to change the situation into the kind of good situation that the Kingdom creates. Jesus gave us all authority. God the Father has all the authority (obviously), and He gave it all to Jesus, who gave it all to us. God does not sit on His throne and bemoan that people are persecuting Him. Saul the pre-apostle was persecuting Jesus by means of persecuting Jesus’ brothers and sisters; Jesus did not suffer the situation, he changed it. As co-heirs, we have access to the same resources as Jesus, by means of prayer.
This is not to say that it is easy, or that the circumstances will even change, but how we live in the situation will certainly change. Usually that causes the situation to change at least somewhat for the better, but Jesus did not promise that our enemy would be our friend, but he does promise us the ability to love our enemy through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Victory this summer for these girls might simply mean no longer being offended by insults or snide remarks by family members. It might take years before their families see Christ in them. Then again, maybe their families will see something and realize “you have something I don’t have, what is it?”
A number of years ago I was working in software development and had to use a product for bug tracking that was completely unsuitable for bug tracking. Apparently when they were evaluating software, nobody at the company wanted this piece of software except the IT department, so that’s what they got. The first two times I got frustrated I was somewhat in denial and assumed that there must be a way to do obvious bug-tracking things. By the third time, it became clear that this software really was unsuitable, and that it was not going to change. I distinctly remember opening my mouth, and realizing that I had the option of getting cynical and upset like I always did, or ... I could figure out how a child of God handled the situation. So I chose the latter, which was a victory in itself. I prayed that God would change the software. I would love to say that everything changed, but honestly, nothing changed except my heart. I left the company shortly afterwards for reasons completely unrelated to anything at the company, so I do not know what would have happened had I kept on praying. But I do know that the environment at the company was at least a little better because I chose not to fill it with my cynicism.
We are ambassadors of Christ, inviting people to experience the Kingdom. But we get to do more than just invite. As ambassadors and children of the King, we get to bring the Kingdom with us. We do not invite people to a Kingdom that all we can do is talk about. We get to live in that Kingdom and invite people to live how we live. What does it look like to live in the Kingdom? That is what we get to find out. What does it look like to live in the Kingdom at a software company? What does it look like to live in the Kingdom in a country where Christ is increasingly seen as an obsolete idea? What does it look like to live as a family in the Kingdom? That is what we get to discover. Some people will want to join us, and as they do, the environment starts to change. And even if no one joins us, they will see us getting fat on the green grass of the Kingdom, and that in itself will change the environment. One lamp on the hill in the darkness changes the environment at least by proclaiming that one need to live in darkness.
That is why I am excited for these girls going to a hard situation, and it is why I need to appropriate this excitement for me. I can be afraid of going into the darkness, or I can learn to partner with the Holy Spirit and discover what living like a child of God looks like. I have the Holy Spirit—the unlimited God—living in me; it may not be an easy or pleasant battle, but how can darkness stand a chance against the God who creates light just by speaking? I can worry about the darkness or ... I can get excited about what the Kingdom will look like as the Holy Spirit makes me a light.