Election and Other Reflections

Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.

The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.

But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?

I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?

But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.

Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.

There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”

Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?

Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?

Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”

God is in control. It’s His will.

What does that mean?

Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”

My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.

Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?

Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?

Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?

As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…

  • There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
  • It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
  • But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
  • I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
  • God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
  • So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.

I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.

But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: greggstutts@yahoo.com

Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.

50 Ways cover image 187x300 Election and Other Reflections

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Posted: October 20th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

You prayed for months, but things didn’t turn out like you’d hoped.

Your daughter seemed to be doing so much better, but then without warning, she seems to have taken several steps back.

You did the reading and studied hard, but got a “D”.

You were in remission, but the test results show the cancer is back.

You stuck to your budget, gave generously and believed God would bless you, but the car broke down, the washing machine quit working and to top it all off–you got laid off.

We want, we hope and we pray for something, but it doesn’t happen. The natural reaction is to then feel disappointed.

When we feel disappointed, it’s natural to look for someone or something to blame. We can blame a person. We can blame the president. We can blame the economy. We just have to blame someone.

Sometimes we place the blame on God. I’ve done that. Sometimes I still do.

My reasoning goes like this: God is all-powerful so He can do anything at any time. He didn’t come through for me. Therefore, He’s to blame for my disappointment.

It doesn’t end there though.

If God is to blame, then I think maybe He’s not as good or loving as He claims to be. Maybe He’s just some arbitrary Being who blesses some and gives a hard time to others.

Can you hear the bitterness and cynicism beginning to creep in?

It’s a dangerous path to walk down. I’ve been down it. It’s a dark one.

So what are we to do when we feel disappointed with our circumstances or another person or with God?

Maybe that’s not even the right question. Maybe what we need to do is re-think our assumptions and expectations.

Think of it this way–if my assumptions are correct and/or I have no expectations, then I can never be disappointed. For example, if I assume life is going to be hard, then I’m not surprised or disappointed when it actually is. Or if I do not expect other people to follow through with commitments, then I avoid being disappointed when they don’t.

Of course, that would be a very jaded way to go through life, but if my goal is to never be disappointed, then it works.

The problem comes when I decide to lower my expectations of God. When I decide to stop praying and hoping He’ll be good or ever help me, then I’m in trouble. I’ve given in to bitterness. I’ve become cynical. I’m on the dark path.

So what’s the solution? Should I just continue to feel disappointed with life? With others? With God?

No, there’s another way.

I need to base my assumptions and expectations on what is true, not what is false. Easier said than done, I know.

We’ve all picked up false beliefs along the way that can trip us up. We believe if we “behave” then God is somehow obligated to bless us. We believe if we train our children well, they’ll become model citizens. We believe if God is good and loving, then surely He’ll give us what we desire, especially since they’re such good desires.

Those assumptions can sound good and reasonable–that’s what makes them so powerfully dangerous. But we’re not looking for what sounds good and reasonable, we’re looking for truth.

Here are some assumptions and expectations I believe to be rock-solid true:

  • God loves me more than I’ll ever understand.
  • God is good and faithful no matter what.
  • God enjoys being trusted.
  • I’m living in the midst of a war between God and Satan, therefore this life can get really messy.
  • God answers prayers according to His will, but His timing and His ways are beyond figuring out.

What if you were to expect more of God Himself, not just what you want Him to do for you?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

What if you were to make your highest goal to delight yourself in the Lord and trust Him to give you His desires, so that He could then grant them? Delighting in Him means you make Him your focus. You find your joy and pleasure in knowing Him better. You make a habit of obeying Him. You remember that He’s the main character in the story, not you.

What if the answer to feeling disappointed is not to expect less, but to expect more of the right things? To expect that even in the midst of painful circumstances and hard relationships that God is still good, can still be trusted and can always give me peace and comfort no matter what?

Have great expectations. Let your heart desire big. Just make God the focus, not what you want Him to do. He will never be disappointing.

Is God Disappointed With Me?

Posted: September 11th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , | 41 Comments »

What is your most persistent sin? The one you’ve promised a thousand times to never do again.

Is it anger? You told yourself you were going to stop yelling at your kids…but you did it again today. Twice.

Is it looking at pornography? You know it’s wrong. You’ve tried to stop. You did it again last night though.

Is it a critical spirit? You just can’t seem to stop complaining and criticizing.

Maybe it’s impure thoughts, selfishness, getting drunk or worrying (yes, worrying is a sin).

Now imagine you’ve just engaged in whatever sin plagues you the most. Whatever it is, you’ve just done it for at least the thousandth time.

Can you feel God’s disappointment, His patience starting to wear a little thin?

Can you feel it?

Then you don’t understand grace.

In Ephesians 1:3-4, Paul writes:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

When you placed your faith in Christ (assuming that you have), something incredible happened to you. You were made a new person and were blessed in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Let’s unpack that statement for a minute. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” You are not who you were before. The old you that was hostile toward and separated from God was crucified with Christ. You became a new creation–one that has been (past tense!) blessed with every (not just some!) spiritual blessing in Christ.

One of those spiritual blessings is being chosen by God to be holy and blameless in His sight. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, you have been made holy and blameless. You. Holy and blameless. Not just in the future. Today.

God is not looking at your poor performance and persistent sins when He looks at you. Your standing before Him is not based on what you do or don’t do. Your standing before Him is based on what Jesus did.

So what does this mean?

It means that God is not disappointed with you. His patience is not running out. He doesn’t get disgusted with you when you sin. He dealt with your sin once and for all on the cross. Jesus took care of your sin. He removed it from you as far as the east is from the west.

To live under God’s grace means that we approach Him through the merit of Jesus. In ourselves, we could never approach a holy God, but we can through Jesus.

We don’t perform to gain God’s favor. We already have His favor because of what Jesus did. We work to obey Him out of love and gratitude for what He has already done for us, not because we fear what He might do to us.

Here’s the take-away for today: God is not disappointed with you. How could He be when the person He sees in you is Jesus?

My Thinking Is Messed Up

Posted: August 30th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

40 Days of Believing God – Day 29

Maybe I’m the only one that thinks like this, but here goes…

Sometimes I won’t pursue a goal or a good idea, because if it doesn’t work, I’ll be disappointed. If I do nothing, at least I’ll still have hope of it working.

Messed up, huh?

Or how about this one…

Sometimes when my circumstances are good, I start to worry they won’t stay that way. I almost feel like it would have been better to have never received the favorable circumstances than to have enjoyed them and then lost them.

That’s messed up thinking, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s just me.

My thinking reveals that I really don’t trust God as I should. I’m afraid of being disappointed. I doubt His goodness toward me. I forget that if He removes something from me, then it’s for my good. He may have something better just around the corner.

God is always good. His love is inexhaustible. He could never disappointment me. Ever. I need to remember that.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”  (Psalm 107:1)