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Let’s face it. Sometimes life gives you lemons. The thing for which you’ve been hoping and praying was given to someone else on a silver platter. Your knight in shining armor turned out to have feet of clay, and smelly ones at that. Your friends all have wonderful, fulfilling careers, but you are just surviving from paycheck to paycheck.
Tell me, are there any lemons on your table right now?
We like to think we’ll simply get up on our feet and turn those lemons into lemonade, but too many times this doesn’t happen. Instead of making lemonade, we sit at the table staring at those lemons until they rot. They become a stinky, putrid mess and we grumble that life stinks-he stinks-she stinks-we all stink. Sound familiar? Left unchecked, this kind of pessimistic self-talk drags us down into a suffocating funk of self-pity.
“It’s not fair. Nothing ever works out for me. I’m such a loser. Why did I ever think I could do this/have this/be this? I don’t know why I bother to try; I always fail.”
Sound familiar? I suspect that you and I might have what I call a flair for despair.
When things go wrong, as they surely do, we don’t shrug our shoulders and move on. Instead, we get down and dirty, proclaiming war on ourselves. Our thoughts attack, reprimanding us not for not only failing to get what we want, but for even wanting the thing in the first place. We become depressed and want to give up. We go to our secret closet to comfort ourselves with food, chocolate, shopping, television, even books. We know this is wrong. We know this is not how God wants us to live, but we do it anyway.
Is there hope? Is change possible? God’s Word gives a resounding “Yes!”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, emphasis mine).
This verse gives us several important clues to partnering with God for real change:
1. DO NOT CONFORM: We have a responsibility to desist the ways of the world. Instead of continuing to follow the dictates of our sin nature, we must choose to go against the grain and follow God’s will as revealed in his word. This must become the new pattern of our life.
2. BE TRANSFORMED: The results of obedience are in God’s hands. He is the one who brings about true metamorphosis. It is not sufficient to simply mend our ways. The sin nature is what it is, but when we put our faith in Christ, God gives us a new nature. Day by day God forms within us a Christ-like character. The result is love for God and others.
3. BY THE RENEWING: Our minds must be continually filled with the fresh life of the Spirit that comes through a consistent, daily pattern of intimacy and loving obedience. As we continue in the word and in prayer, loving and worshipping God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, our minds are made new and the pattern of our behavior follows.
4. YOUR MIND: It is said that the battlefield is the mind. The way we think directly affects the way we act. Garbage in, garbage out. God does not want us to engage in self-pity because he knows it leads only to despair and ultimately, death. We must place our hope in him, not in circumstances, other people, or ourselves. It is the mind, soaked and cleansed by the water of the word, that exchanges despair for hope. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
5. TEST AND APPROVE: Transformation results in a new pattern for our lives. As we learn to obey God in all areas of our lives (testing his ways) we begin to exchange self-love for God-love. His way becomes our way and God is proved true and faithful.
6. GOOD, PLEASING, AND PERFECT WILL: Love for God is expressed through obedience. Doing his will out of love becomes the cry of our hearts and satisfies the deepest regions of our hearts. The one who walks in God’s way is the one who recognizes there is no more joyful way to live.
Change of this nature does not happen overnight. We’re in for the long haul if we want to be rid of that old flair for despair. It begins and ends with the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
Father, we love you and desire your best for us. Please renew our minds and transform us into men and women of God who love, trust, and obey you each and every day. Amen.
What verse(s) do you find especially helpful in getting rid of a flair for despair?