As we face our Thorn bush responses, God does not intend us to stop there. He calls us to repent, to receive Christ’s forgiveness, and to rely on his power to replace Thorn bush responses with Fruit tree responses like these:
1. Face reality. It is right to experience the grief, sorrow, anguish, and pain that accompany suffering. Honest sorrow is the Fruit of righteousness. Jesus himself did not live a life without feelings. He wept. He felt anguish. It is never a lack of faith to feel sorrow when it is the appropriate reaction to the Heat we face.
2. Respond with appropriate intensity. Sorrow, anguish, and grief must be expressed, but with the appropriate intensity. There is always something bigger than the heartache of the moment. Even if I have been betrayed or lost something precious, my relationship with God, my identity in Christ, the truths of God’s Word, and the glory of eternity all remain secure and unchallenged. (2 Cor. 4:7-5:10)
3. Be alert. Suffering is meant to wake us up from spiritual complacency. It is God’s workroom, where he sculpts us into his image. Thus, it is a time for action, discipline, and perseverance. It is a time to experience in new ways all of the truths we have professed are our hope.
4. Engage in constructive activity. Actions taken in moments of grief and pain are often actions we live to regret. We panic and run away. We break a relationship. We forsake a commitment. We doubt God. We hurt ourselves. God calls us to do what is good. Seek God. Run to the body of Christ. Find comfort in the Word. Do the normal things God calls you to do. What governs the actions you are taking? Are your responses shaped by a heart ruled by the Lord or by the sheer panic of loss?
5. Remember. All of the hope and promise of the gospel belongs to you. In Christ, you have been made new. Because he loves you, God does not want you to experience just a portion of the inheritance he sent his Son to give us. He works in every situation to finish the transformation he has begun in our hearts.
Each day should we should remind ourselves of the utter simplicity of God’s comfort and call. First, God comforts us with his presence and power and calls us to trust him. We are to entrust to God the things we cannot control. Second, God calls us to obey, and promises to bless us as we do. In good and bad circumstances, we must ask, “What has God called me to do and what has he provided in Christ to enable me to do it?”
I can admit my faults with no need to minimize, hide, or give way to paralyzing guilt. I can confess that I need to grow without beating myself up. I can cry out with life is hard but accept responsibility for the way I deal with it. I don’t have to cover my sin, polish my reputation, and keep a record of my successes. I can look my tomorrows with enthusiasm and hope. Yes, I am still a flawed person in a broken world. But my view of myself is not dark and depressed because the gospel has infused it with hope. Christ is with me and in me, and I will never be in a situation where he isn’t redemptively active. Though change is needed in many ways, I am not discouraged. I am in the middle of a work of personal transformation. This process is often painful, but always beneficial.
When you examine yourself and expose the Thorns still in your life, believe that you can bear good fruit even though you live under the burning Heat of difficulty. In your surprise, pain and disappointment, don’t run away from your Redeemer! He cares and understands. And he offers mercy and grace in a form fit for changes that need to take place in your life.
-excerpt from How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
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