As I have grown more in my faith in Christ, I believe that God has been teaching me more difficult life lessons. However, even these lessons can be applied by most anyone, regardless of religious belief, to their daily lives. Some of them, He has been teaching me just through these past couple of weeks, and some He has been teaching me for a longer period of time. Since I am human, I do struggle in these areas still sometimes, but the important thing for me (and you) to remember is that when we fail, we make amends, and then we get back up and try again. So, the three main things that I believe God has been teaching me are:
One of the things that God has been teaching me is to surrender. This does not only include surrendering to Him for His will in my life, but also to authority figures in my life, as well as making the necessary compromises with other people. When I got upset at one of my co-workers on my birthday, I believe I was struggling with this issue of surrender. I won’t go into details, but instead of giving up my right to something, I held on to it until we both got upset at each other. In retrospect, I should have just given up my rights, especially since it involved something very minor. For a long time, until today, I never really understood why Jesus wanted us not to take vengeance against others when we were clearly wronged, and why, in my mind, we should just let people walk all over us. Then, while reading, The Cost of Discipleship, which was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I found the answer. Bonhoeffer says, “Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames.” (Bonhoeffer, 141—bold emphasis mine). Suddenly, it was like a light bulb in my brain turned on! That is why people should not take vengeance against another, or return violence for violence! How true that is! For instance, in my own life, when I wanted to get back at certain people for the wrong they did to me, be it, by purposely avoiding them and giving them an evil stare, or talking smack about them because of how they made me look bad before, I found that the situation with that person actually gets much worse, not better in any way. However, when I instead counter their evil, by letting them be and by instead countering their evil by trying to still be kind to them, their attacks and evil usually diffuse much faster. Even with people in authority that are hard for you to get along with, this principle of surrender can be used. For instance, when I did not want to do something, my natural instincts would be a.) to refuse to do said thing, until I wanted to, or b.) get upset about having to do said thing. However, that would be disobedience, because I wasn’t doing said task, immediately, as expected, or with a good attitude. However, when I surrender my desires to the authority figure and strive to do said task with a good attitude, I find the task to be more bearable than if I tried to put up a fight against doing said task. Also, when I surrender to God’s will, I find that I don’t have to worry about things because I know God will take care of me, and will lead me through.
Another thing that God has been teaching me that goes along with surrender is sacrifice. Sacrifice can be defined as, according to Merriam-Webster, “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice). As I said in a previous post, I worked eleven hours on my birthday, sacrificing rest and possible hoopla over that day, because I did not want us to do badly on our store test, as some Very Important people have been coming in this week to rate the various areas of our store. I learned, both from God and my pastor that sacrificing something for a greater cause is always worth it in the end. My parents have sacrificed a tastier meal in order to finish another one that they may like less, so I would be able to eat the tastier meal. I want to be able to do the same in all facets of my life, not only for God or my parents, but for everyone around me. I have also learned that one cannot truly love without being willing to sacrifice for another. If you are not willing to make the necessary sacrifices for someone, you should really question how much you truly love them. For instance, you may have a crush on someone, but it cannot go deeper than that if you are not willing to do what is necessary to ensure that person feels loved and cared about, even above your own desires. Love is more than just a gooey, good feeling. It involves sacrifice.
Lastly, God has been teaching me gratitude. Gratitude, as I define it, is being thankful for everything you have gotten in life, and not having an entitlement attitude about anything. Gratitude acknowledges that everything good you get is a gift, and nothing is completely “earned”. I struggle with this sometimes, but have tried to overcome ingratitude by reminding myself of at least three things that I have to be thankful for that day. Once in a while, I suggest that if you want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your life, compile a list of all the things you can think of, that you have to be thankful. I started a list like this in 2011, which can also be found at this link. Then, when you feel especially discouraged, you can look back at your gratitude list, and remind yourself of all the good that has been given in your life. We often can become ungrateful because we compare ourselves to those we perceive have it “better” than us. Why not do the opposite? Instead of comparing ourselves to the “better” Joneses, we should compare ourselves to those who have it tougher than us. Then, we can feel better about the situation we are in, and also hopefully focus on how we can help those who are struggling, instead of being so self-focused.
If we all (me included) were more willing to surrender our rights sometimes, be willing to sacrifice for others for a greater good, and if we were more appreciative for what we already have been given, then I believe there would be less strife in this world, and we would be more on our way to make a positive difference in this world.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. SCM Press, 1959.