Friday, June 5, 2015

Stop striving

I was at a gathering one day recently where the speaker passed around a whole pile of little devices. Each was essentially the same as the next. There were enough for everyone. 

Here's mine:

Trying to get out of the thumb cuffs -
an exercise in futility...
They are called finger traps, or thumb cuffs. (Some folks use an ethnic term in front of that - such as Chinese or Mexican. That kind of doesn't sit well with me.]

He told us to put a finger or a thumb in each end, all the way up to the hilt. Then to pull. Our fingers were trapped. 

The harder we pulled, the tighter the thumb cuffs got. If we followed our natural instincts to escape, there was none. 

The only way to escape the finger trap was to do the opposite: push those digits TOWARD each other so that the little tube would loosen. Then use the other fingers to remove first one side, then the other. 

Since that little demonstration, I've been thinking about all the situations that are exactly like that in our lives. There are so very many applications!! Dead-end jobs, complicated relationships, parent-teen struggles, and even our relationship with God or how we approach our spiritual life.

We get stuck in a certain mindset and it limits us in our thinking and reactions to things. Take prayer, for example. 

We know that God answers prayer. We know He has the power to do anything. A horrific situation arises. So we pray. And - as sometimes happens - nothing happens. 

Enter the finger trap. We think that it must be something we are doing wrong. So we pray harder. Still nothing. We fast. We ask others to join us in prayer. We do a Jericho march. We claim Scripture. And still nothing. The bands get tighter and tighter, and we don't know what's wrong. After all, God is perfect, so the problem must be us ... and yet we've done everything right, right? 

Maybe we even begin to doubt His goodness. But we push that thought away. No, that can't be it.  We must not be living right. We aren't spreading the gospel enough. We aren't reading the Word enough. We aren't serving in the church enough. The list is endless. 

We are well and truly trapped. All our striving has gotten us so bound up in rules and obligations. We find ourselves trying to twist God's arm, manipulating Him into giving us the answer we want. 

It doesn't work that way. Really. 

Prayer isn't about getting what we want. It's about relationship. Our relationship ... with HIM. His relationship with us. We keep striving, but what we need to do is to STOP IT. Relax. Let go. Know He is God - and we aren't!! Thank and praise Him for His presence through it all, accept that He will do what is best. And trust.

Trusting is the hardest thing; it means taking our hands off it, removing our thumbs from the thumb cuffs and letting Him be God. No matter what. 

No matter what... stop striving. (Psalm 46:10). We are weary and burdened. Let's let Him give us rest. (Matthew 11:28-30).

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