When going through times of suffering and trials it is easy for our walk through life to sink into a dark, deep hole of sadness and self pity. Trust me, we have all been there. I especially, am a true queen of self pity.
While feeling sad is normal and perfectly acceptable during hard times, is letting ourselves lie about and wallow acceptable? Here is a passage of scripture I came across recently that really stepped on my toes and made me reconsider the way I act sometimes (almost always) when I am feeling blue.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” ~ Eph 5:15-17
When our days are evil (meaning hurtful, sinful, ill, diseased, grievous or derelict) how should we act? These evil days are honestly every single day. Not a day goes by that we don’t sin and feel the impact the fall has had on our bodies, hearts and minds in some way. Some days we can pick ourselves up and keep going, but some days are hard and we feel low and lack drive to continue in the race.
How then are we called to behave on those days when we feel live giving up? When all we want to do is get right back into bed and stay there?
Let’s break down these few verses so we can pick up all the important details.
“Look carefully then how you walk”
Here we are being called to a thorough examination. We are being told we must carefully scrutinise our actions and the way we are living out our lives. This needs to be an honest examination. Not just what we would like to think we are doing.
This section brings to mind a passage that my church reads aloud every Sunday.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” ~ 1 Cor 11:27-29
This real, deep examination needs to happen on a regular basis. Some religious groups will and some won’t actually partake in consuming physical bread and wine. Some do it weekly or yearly and perhaps at other different times. I’m not sure and I’m not going to get in to that here. But regardless of your belief when it comes to taking the bread and wine, the spirit of these symbols are the same throughout Christianity. They symbolise the Lord’s death and our remembrance of his sacrifice for us.
His sacrifice should impact us every single day of our lives and therefore this examination of ourselves should also occur daily that we might…
“walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.” ~ Eph 4:1.
How are we walking then? Is it in a way that shows honour towards our God and His Son who sacrificed his life for us?
“making the best use of the time”
This part I find really hard.
When times of suffering are upon me I find it all too easy to fall into the trap of idleness.
As someone who suffers with quite severe depression I know how debilitating mental illness can be. I know sometimes you cannot physically keep going. There is grace us who are suffering in this way. God knows how weak and frail we are. He knows how we are suffering.
But He also knows when it becomes laziness. He knows our hearts and whether or not we are truly unable to go on working or whether we are using our illness as an excuse.
I know I have been guilty of that at times.
As it says, it’s about “making the best use of the time.” Some days the best you can do may not be very much at all. But it is your best. That is all God asks for. He didn’t create us all identically with the expectation of identical outputs. He created us uniquely with individual “bests”.
Think about the story of the talents in Matthew 25.
To one servant he gave 10 talents. To another 5 and to another 1. While the talents in this story is literal money, the lessons we can gather are not financial ones.
These talents in symbol are the skills, available resources and blessings that God has given to each of us. With the differing levels of abilities God gave, came differing levels of expectation.
When we are going through times of deep despair and suffering we might only have the 1 talent. We don’t have a lot of energy, drive and joy. We have so much on our hearts and minds. When this happens God doesn’t have those expectations that we will be able to do all the things we could do at other times and certainly not the same things other people are doing. All He asks is your best. It might be small but He doesn’t care about that. It’s all about the effort, not the outcome.
The real important factor to all this is that it really is your best. He won’t be fooled like he wasn’t fooled with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. He knows your heart. This is why it is so important for you to examine yourself so you really know how you stand before the Lord.
“understand what the will of the Lord is”
The last key part of this verse is about understanding God’s will for our lives. I think a lot of people (including myself) get kind of lost on this one.
I know I have spent a lot of time stressing out wanting to know what my “life’s purpose” or “calling” is. He doesn’t leave us in the dark about this. He tells us what He requires of us in 1 Thessalonians.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~ 1 Thess 5:16-18
This is God’s will for our lives. Plain and simple.
Often I think it seems too simple and basic but this is it. This is what our lives need to be based on and filled up with.
A life of someone rejoicing, praying and giving thanks is a life of wisdom.
This person of joy is going to spread joy and the good news (the gospel) to others. The person who is constantly in prayer is going to bless others and be in sweet communion with God. The person who is in a constant state of thanksgiving will have a spirit of grace towards others because they are so thankful for the grace that has been shown to them!
This is God’s will for you. Now the actual playing out of these verses will vary from person to person but the principles apply to us all.
Like I said at the start, when going through times of suffering and trials it is easy for our walk through life to sink into a dark, deep hole of sadness and self pity. But this is not God’s will for us.
Also like I said, feeling sad and grieving isn’t wrong. It is a normal part of life and God gave us emotion for a reason. I mean, even Jesus wept! But the sad circumstances of life can’t take over our lives. Through the sadness and suffering we have to continue in well-doing and aiming to fulfill God’s will for us.
When was the last time you did some serious examining of your heart before the Lord and checked in with yourself about how you are really walking before Him? Whether you are in a period of suffering right now or not, are you making the best use of your time and giving your all to do His will?