Monday, January 7, 2013

Devotional: long life

Proverbs 3: 1-8
(NIV translation)

(1) My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, (2) for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. (3) Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (4) Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (5) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (7) Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. (8) This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

Do you think that trusting God's teachings actually prolongs our life?

There are two ways to answer this, one is very secular, and one is very “old fashioned”.

I have heard it taught in the past that God literally intervenes in your life and adds days before your passing in response to good works. I am not a subscriber to this philosophy because the inverse would be to say that if you are rotten to the core, then you should probably keel over at the "ripe old age" of 20 (for example). I have had people in the past try and tell me this, and the model is just too simple for me, it doesn't explain enough, and it doesn't fit what I have seen with my own eyes. 

What I do believe, however, is that following the scriptures does have medical and scientific basis to say that it will add to your lifespan. One of the principle arguments in the new testament is effectively a mandate to de-stress; trust in God, trust that things you can't control are in his hands, or in the hands of people who also answer to him. Medically, decreasing stress is accepted to improve our quality of life and our lifespans. Now, while medicine does not institutionally endorse the gospel, it doesn't forbid it in either. In fact, I think there is agreement to be found between them when they are both effectively saying, “lighten up”.

The danger, however, in looking purely to a medical backing for this answer is that with a purely scientific approach, you can elect to simply say “I'm not going to worry about it”, and then just disregard that there is (in my opinion) Someone Else taking up a lot off the slack for you. I have seen too much in my own life to believe that there isn't a higher power. Logic tells me that stress is not a good thing, but faith tells me that I can trust that there is a sentient entity looking over me, and that is better for me than just trusting in luck.

In what ways could you trust God more in your life?

I have always been very self reliant, and without going into a lot of personal details, I can say that that mindset is largely a product of my early life. I learned that in the end, it was my own flesh and blood on the line and no one elses when I was in this situation or that predicimant. I never doubted that God was there with me, but when push came to shove, it was my body being put to the test when things got ugly.

I don't feel that this mindset is disrespectful to God. In fact, I feel he made me that way so I could help others, including the idea of defending others, and helping those in need. The ability to back up my wishes to help with bull-headed determination and raw strength are an asset I have always treasured.

Still, I know my limits, and a constant fear for me is that I will reach them at the least opportune time. I won't be able to support my family, I won't be there for them, I won't be able to protect them or myself... you name it. I have a degree in safety, with effectively translates to “I hold of bachelor’s degree in being a worry wort”.

For me, trusting that God will be there when (not if) I fall short is an ongoing struggle. My son and wife lean on me for a lot (a burden I don't resent or dislike in the least), and letting those weight rest on another, even God, goes against my nature. I'm slowly coming to the realization that my core principles of self reliance, self preservation and self respect are good, and compatible with my faith, but when taken too far, can be dangerous. That balance is what I need. Going forward, I need to accept what I can change, and more importantly, accept what I can't.

In what ways in the last year did you lean on your own understanding?

When you have a gun pointed at you, “life” tends to take on a different focus. When that “gun” is cancer, you quickly understand what it means to be overwhelmed. Last year I faced cancer, and quickly saw that I was in over my head. Despite the best efforts of my doctors, I was at the mercy of factors and science that were completely beyond my comprehension. I could either accept that I was in good hands (medically and spiritually), or try desperately to deal with factors I had almost no comprehension of. It took me about two weeks to reach the point where I literally looked up and said “I'm glad you've got a plan, because I'm freaking clueless right now.” In the end, accepting that there were some fights I wasn't going to win on my own helped me greatly. And it also helped me conquer those challenges that I could beat the tar out of.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you're blogging about your faith, man! Phillipians 4:6-7 goes right along with what you're talking about here -
    "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

    It's definitely a medical fact that worry, stress, anxiety, and the like take a non-negligible toll on body, health, and longevity. It's wonderful that God promises us a way out from that cycle of anxiety. An unswerving, unwavering "peace [...] which surpasses all understanding" is maybe the best evidence in our culture of skepticism and relativism that God is alive and in control.