Just a Thought

By John W. Hanson

Embrace the Process

He was a grown man squirming in his pew. What would people think? At first he was a little miffed at the preacher for having the gall to be so straight-forward. Then he felt a bit angry with God for allowing things to unfold in his life as they had. Finally he began to feel the guilt and regret (that he was all too comfortable with) as he admitted that so many of his issues were caused or complicated by his own choices.

Now he had a choice to make. The preacher had just likened God to a coach and himself to an assistant coach. He proposed that God takes responsibility for empowering and refining us, but that we needed to be willing to cooperate. He thought about his six year old son whose coach often pushed him and trained him by having him do exercises. As his son cooperated, he became a better player, even though he didn’t always understand what the coach was up to. Did he trust God enough to let Him be his coach?

Thinking back, he realized that God had set him up! God knew he was only human and that he needed some help coming face to face with his issues. It was probably not just coincidence that he had recently encountered an old friend who triggered painful memories of hurt and rejection. The book he was reading and a few scriptures from his devotional reading had also nudged him to take a fresh look at the need to forgive people and accept forgiveness for himself. Everything was priming him for this moment; this opportunity to walk to the front of his church and cry out to God as others ministered to him.

As the minister asked everyone to stand, his attention was drawn back to the minister who was now comparing God to the good shepherd who is trying to move his sheep to new pastures – higher dimensions of living. He had to admit, there were many Bible stories in which God did that very thing. In fact the Bible talks about God refining us as silver is refined in the fire. Maybe his recent struggles were doing a good work in his heart. The process was definitely helping him to be honest with himself. And with God, there was hope.

As the music began to play, he felt that familiar and wonderful sense of God’s presence. God was so patient and kind. He didn’t feel condemned; just challenged. He also felt reminded of the many times he had bravely stepped out before. God was always so encouraging, and he had never regretted any advances he had made as a result of God’s prompting. Suddenly it dawned on him: he was not on trial… this was not a guilt-driven emotional collapse… this was an opportunity to let God help him rise above his past and experience more love, joy and peace. The choice was obvious – He needed to step out and embrace the process.

Just A Thought

The Start Stops Most

By Bishop John W. Hanson

Sharia leaned back in her chair, trembling. She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or cry and didn’t really understand the torrent of emotions that were flooding through her heart as she read the letter for the fourth time. The opportunity was incredible--literally unbelievable. Her application had been approved. A fortune 500 company was willing to give her the job of her dreams. It was her big break!

“So, why am I feeling hesitant?” she wondered. “Should I call them and tell them it was all a big mistake?” It was a no-brainer to take the job. It was everything she had ever wanted. She had applied for it, and even prayed for it. But, now that she held the acceptance letter in her hand, she was overwhelmed with fear. “I must be going crazy,” she thought, “what is going on with me?”

Even as those questions flashed through her mind she instinctively knew the answers. She was feeling hesitant because everyone important in her life had repeatedly reminded her that she was lacking. She was not crazy, she just didn’t want to hope, because she had hoped before, many times, and she had usually been so disappointed. Life had taught her not to get too excited about new adventures. People had counseled her to curb her enthusiasm. The pain of trying and failing had been so significant that she would rather deal with guaranteed failure than risk believing in success only to fall short again.

The number of people who can relate to Sharia might be surprising. Hope is such a wonderful thing that when it is not fulfilled it can be devastating to the heart. Cynicism and pessimism seem much safer than hope and optimism. Life can be brutal, and failure can feel so lonely. How does one survive, let alone thrive in the uphill endeavor of life? There are so many times that the start stops people from living adventures; they just don’t have the courage to step out.

The solution may be a simple change of focus. Instead of hoping in ourselves, our circumstances, or other people, what if we hoped in a good God who does not fix the world, but who empowers and comforts people so they can tackle life as it buffets and refines them? What if we embraced the fact that we will have setbacks and failures, understanding that those human traits need not define us? God invites us to take a journey with Him. Our success is not measured by what we accomplish or how much good fortune we have, it is measured by how much we let God help us deal with whatever we encounter.

God promises never to leave or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:15) and He promises to supply every need according to His resources (see Philippians 4:19). If you put your faith in God, life is no longer a matter of your performance; it is a matter of hoping in someone so much bigger than anything you will ever encounter. Believing this can give you the courage to make a fresh start… to hope again. It can help you believe that success is possible. There is so much good life to live, but the start stops most.