Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, July 20, 2015

Trigger Warning

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. – Philippians 2:14-16

The advice in these verses is good.  Questioning can also be translated as disputing or doubting.  Jesus uses the same word in Luke 24:38 when He asks the disciples why “doubts arise” in their hearts.  I have a family member who has been going through some difficulties for an extended period of time.  Someone encourages her and says that she should turn her stress and worries over to God.  She responds, “I wish it were that easy.” 

I can understand that, but it does seem strange that grumbling, complaining, and doubting come easier to me than handing the burden off to another.  I know when I am working and someone on the team says that he or she will take care of something I thought I had to do, I feel relief, usually.  The times when I don’t are those occasions when I harbor trepidations about the trustworthiness and competence of the volunteer. 

I suppose that means, if I worry about something God has offered to do, I doubt that He is really up to the job.  That’s Paul’s point in the last part of the passage.  If those he has taught and guided and admonished cannot live without fear and doubt, without whining and moaning and cowering, without worrying and fretting about every trouble that comes along, he has failed in his ministry, and he will be called to account for it. 

I have been binge-watching Band of Brothers which I have enjoyed much more than Private Ryan.  In one scene the recklessly courageous Ronald Speirs explains the “trick” to a fearful soldier.  It amounts to assuming that the worst will indeed happen and that one has no hope of coming out alive.  The way it is framed in the dramatized dialogue, Speirs’ advice doesn’t sound appealing to a Christian.  However, it struck me as very similar to something a Christian has said.  In his parody of self-help books, Lost in the Cosmos, Walker Percy suggested a cure for depression:  suicide.  If that seems rather extreme, Percy explains that once suicide is actually an option, one is free to live as an ex-suicide, concluding: 

The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o’clock on an ordinary morning:
The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future.  His breath is high in his chest.
The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs.  Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive.  It is good to be alive.  He goes to work because he doesn’t have to.

Note again, I call this book a parody.  Don’t take it too seriously, and keep in mind that to be an ex-suicide, one can’t actually pull the trigger.  As Percy says, You can elect suicide, but you decide not to.  It is a very important distinction.

Or, as Paul told the church at Philippi as few verses earlier:  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  That sounds a bit more acceptable to most of us, but we should remember that to be in Christ means that we have died to self and identified with Him in His death on the Cross. 

My life is in God’s hands.  I trust my very soul and my destiny for all of eternity to Him.  What are all the troubles of this world to that?


julie said...


John Lien said...

Easy to hear but hard to live. To not care if you shall continue with this earthly existence AND believing there is a better place to go does take the pressure off. I have partial success with this strategy. Some days yes and some days I still cling. Usually when things go well for me for a change, then I want to hang around.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Indeed, excellent post, Dwaine.
I'm not always trusting in God as I ought, but when I am it's when I realize that my fears are due to a lack of trust in Him, rather than what may or may not happen to me.
Life is meant to be lived and that more abundantly, not to merely exist enslaved to our fears.

mushroom said...

Yep. Sometimes I have to go minute by minute.