Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Denial: Not Just A River In Egypt

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow, because tomorrow you may not have to do it.

This is a motto I occasionally say in jest. 
But sadly, the reason it's funny is because I often really live this way. 
Sometimes I cope with a problem by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. 

This method is largely ineffective; inattention typically doesn't make problems evaporate. 
Instead, they get bigger and more urgent until they just can't be ignored. By then it's a huge headache to fix them.

Remember the old TV commercial touting regular car maintenance? This mechanic stands in his garage contrasting two customers. The first noticed something was not right with his vehicle and brought it in to be checked. After investing a few dollars installing an inexpensive part, his car was back on the road quickly and reliably. The second guy ignored the warning signs and didn't want to spend money on preventive maintenance. Eventually, his car broke down and required costly, time-consuming repairs. The tag line? "You can pay me now, or pay me later..."

Way too often I've been in the "pay me later" camp. I've discussed my tendency to procrastinate before. And I often find myself hoping things will fix themselves if I just ignore them. I'm basically optimistic, but sometimes I deceive myself to maintain that sunny attitude. 

If you read my unfinished business post, you may find yourself wondering if I've made any headway in the last two months. And I can honestly say, yes I have. But not nearly as much as I'd like. 
It's so easy to put things off, to shove things under the bed and forget them. 

And I have excuses! The past couple of weeks, working on my daughter's upcoming wedding has commandeered my free time. Looks as if that may go on for the next 6 weeks, until the ceremony is past. But I still intend to keep working on my unfinished business list, hoping to cross off 4 or 5 more items before the wedding.

Sometimes the "pay me later" philosophy can have dire consequences. 

I have a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She'd been having some problems, and even though she doesn't really trust doctors, she went for a checkup. They discovered the cancer still at stage one. She'll soon undergo surgery, and we're praying and trusting for a good report. Cancers caught this early are almost always easily cured.

I had another friend who believed words had power over reality. She and her family would never confess anything negative, even to the point of denying the facts. She started having problems, but didn't seek medical help. They would only mention it in vague prayer requests, and truly believed their faith and positive confessions would bring healing. By the time she finally went to the doctor, the cancer had progressed to stage four. Even then, they wouldn't let anyone know what was going on for fear of allowing "negative words" to affect her condition. By the time she got help, it was too late and she eventually died, after a lot of needless suffering. 

Now, I do believe that if you constantly dwell on the bad side of things, complaining and speaking negatively about your situation, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Faith is believing what you cannot see, (Hebrews 11:1) and exercising faith is how we receive from God. (James 1:6-8
But denial is not faith, it's blindness. Better by far to recognize your enemy and fight back using every tool God has provided, including the wisdom of the medical profession.

So I am careful in what I say, keeping my attitude positive, trusting the good God I serve. 
But I reject magical thinking. I don't believe that I have to say the right words in just the right order to get results, like some spooky incantation. Nor do I think that if I say the wrong thing, evil consequences will necessarily follow. There is not some secret magic formula that guarantees 
God will hear my prayers.

Jesus said, "whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13 NKJV) This does not mean that we just have to tag our prayers with the magic words, "In Jesus' Name, Amen."  Asking in His name means we have a relationship with him. 
It's like a soldier's wife shopping at the base store. Your average citizen can't shop there - it's for the military and their families. Even though the wife isn't in the military, she's closely related to someone who is. Her relationship gives her the right to certain benefits.

When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you have family rights. You can bring your requests to the Father and He will hear and answer you. Jesus said it this way: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." 
(John 15:7 NKJV) Your abode is the place where you live. Abiding in Jesus means staying vitally connected to Him. When you have a living, active relationship with Christ, you begin to understand what God desires, and can pray according to His will. Those kinds of prayers are always answered. (1 John 5:14-15)

Some people say, "the Bible says I can speak the things that are not as though they were" and use this idea as proof that they can "name and claim" whatever their heart desires. Just one problem: the Bible doesn't give us that right. That passage says God speaks things into existence, not us. We are to put our trust in Him, just as Abraham did. Really - you can read it for yourself. (Romans 4:16-17)

It's really hard to read that passage and make it say that >we< have the right to speak things into existence. That's God's deal, not ours. The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." (Romans 4:17)

So there isn't some magic formula that will make bad things go away and give us whatever our greedy little hearts desire. There is no system to force God to do what we want. He's God - He isn't obliged to cater to our whims. And He knows a lot better than we do what is good for us.

It's pretty simple, really. Figure out what is the right thing to do, then do it. Endure suffering patiently, handle whatever comes your way with grace, trust that God is always good and will work everything out according to His plan and purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And finally, don't deny that your troubles exist. Instead, take action and trust God's promise to help you get through every trial. (1 Corinthians 10:13

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some unfinished business to attend to...