Taking Your Eyes Off God Leads To Deserted Living
This morning I am watching the news that people in the United Kingdom just voted to leave the European Union in a very close vote. I have friends who are extremely happy today because of the vote, but it's also abundantly clear that there are also millions of people who are surprised, angry and disappointed that "their side" lost.
This week I have been participating in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Portland, Oregon. I spent the first part of the week working in a 60-plus person committee, and for the past two days I've been part of the larger deliberative body that has 500 or so voting commissioners.
All week I have participated in votes where some people "won" and others "lost." I have watched people get angry at times, or express deep disappointment when their ideas were rejected, or their deeply held convictions were not affirmed by the group.
I've been thinking a lot lately about disappointment, lately.
Most of the deep disappointments we have in life happen because of the actions of other people. People let us down. There's not a single person reading this today who hasn't been hurt by another human being. I know that I have to raise my hand acknowledging this to be true in my own life.
I've been betrayed by people, and have had people stab me in the back. I've had people let me down, and shatter my confidence in them. I've vouched for people who have then made me look like a fool for doing so. I've had people vote against things that mattered to me, sometimes in spite of my efforts to prevent it.
And try as I might, I struggle sometimes to keep my focus on God and not human beings when it comes to seeking affirmation, purpose and meaning.
There's this pretty hard core verse from the prophet Jeremiah that speaks some truth about what happens to us when we place all of our trust in people, and not God:
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. Jeremiah 17:5-6
Kind of harsh, right? "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere human...They are like stunted shrubs in the desert."
The thing about Jewish prophecy is that it's not actually predictive. In other words, what the prophet is saying here is that if you turn your heart from God, and rely on human beings for your affirmation, purpose and meaning, you will find yourself in a very dry place, and constantly disappointed.
He is painting a picture of what might be if you take your eyes off of God, and cast them continually upon others. But God doesn't punish you for your lack of trust--you simply find yourself living a less-than life, continually seeking the approval of others, opening yourself up again and again to heartbreak.
On the other hand, what God desires is the very best for you. God will never leave or forsake you, despite what others might do or not do to disappoint you. When our faith and trust is in God, we are not immune to disappointment when others let us down, we simply have God's strength to deal with it, and put it in perspective.
May you find your approval, affirmation, purpose and meaning in the One who created you, loves you and desires abundant life for you. May you look upon those who let you down with grace and mercy, forgiving them even as you have been forgiven by God. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.