After giving my life to Christ now forty years ago, I am more and more convinced that our life here on earth is a school in which we learn how to love like God loves—if we are willing to learn from Him. We start with a belief in God, but we are called to go way beyond just believing in Him to following His “still, small voice,” [1Kings 19:12] to give up all our fears and anger, judgment and pain so that we can begin to really live in the kingdom of God here on earth instead of in the world.
Probably the biggest lesson we have to learn is that life is not supposed to be a smooth ride from one positive thing to the next. We have to give up trying to control our lives and what happens to us. We need to look at the challenges and even the pain that life offers and the lessons to be learned from these circumstances. Each and every challenge—the death of a loved one or abuse or rejection, addictions, traffic problems, someone taking credit for our work or not getting paid enough(the list is endless)—has within it a lesson to be learned.
Take, for instance, growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church like I did which left me with an image of a capricious and vengeful God. The blessing in it which took years for me to see is that I had to find a God that I could love, not one I was terrified of. And I found him through other interpretations of the Bible and especially through researching Deuteronomy 28 which shows that it is our choices in life that contain good or bad outcomes—blessings or curses–for us, not God choosing to punish us. And then, once I could embrace that understanding of who God is to each of us, I began to hone in on the purpose which God had in store for me: I became a spiritual director, which led me to a writing career.
So for all the challenges and pain that we go through in this life, there is a lesson in each of them for us, if we are willing to look for it. Often that comes when we have finally accepted that the challenge is happening to us and that we had better figure out how to adapt to it, regardless of whether we like the change or not. The quality to develop that will help us move to these truths is our willingness to surrender to what is already in our lives and to see what we can learn from it.
Rami Shapiro said this best:
“Playing God is playing at being in control. You want to be in control of your life; you have been told since childhood that you can and must take control of your life, but reality says otherwise. Reality shows you time and again that you have no control.”
He is writing about addictions, but it applies to all of us, because we are so adapted to and consumed by the world’s way of thinking, not God’s ways.
Once we can look at each challenge, including those from our past which we mostly suppress, we can start looking for the lessons that they offer us. The whole world’s population right now is having such an experience of not being in control of our lives because of Covid-19’s two-year reign. It has slowed us down, so that many people are making different decisions about how we want to live their lives, what kind of work they want to do, how much they want to get paid, and more. It has highlighted many truths about our nation as well—the racism, the lack of basic healthcare for millions, the deep divisions in our nation. Covid has brought us new ways of thinking about our lives and our nation. Again, there’s more for us to adapt to. Are we willing to learn these lessons, to entertain other ways of living? Are we willing to see what God is asking of us in each of these challenges?
With our willingness to surrender to what is real in our lives ,which means surrendering to all that God would have us do in our lives, we are on the road to loving God with all of ourselves. And, if we are all students in this school of life, we are gaining wisdom and knowledge and letting go of all that keeps us in this world, heeding only the world’s concerns. As our eyes open to the ways of God and the lessons He has set up for us, then we can begin to see the promise of our lives and how we might fulfill them. And here is where the peace, joy and love really begin to settle into our lives big-time. As we let go of the world’s ways in this school of life, we are taking on God’s ways which have to do with love, forgiveness, mercy and justice. Each of us has a part to play in bringing these cares of God into the reality in which we live.
There are so many ways to express these issues in the world; each of us is gifted with the way that would express these qualities best. God has chosen for each of us how we might express love and more in this world. All we have to do is to learn these lessons and then God’s love and forgiveness and mercy and justice will flow out of us into the world where they are most needed.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. I have also published A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
Questions to ponder over the week: How schooled am I in God’s ways and what He wants me to know? Am I letting go of the pain and challenges I have had in my life by turning them over to God? Am I aware at all of where God is leading me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are learning God’s wisdom in the school of life. May we be ever growing and changing through His love and guidance.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 1.17.21’s is entitled “Tears Just Flowed.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.
 Rami Shapiro, Surrendered-the Sacred Art: Shatttering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality, (Nashville TN: Turner Publishing Co., 2019 p. xvi