Taking the long view -- by Jeanie Smith

I just finished helping my friend, Judith Hartzell, edit her book, Set Free—The Story of a Man, a Marriage and a Ministry, the biography of my late friend Alan Medinger. Alan was an inspiration to me. I never heard him complain about life’s challenges. He always stood in truth, with mercy and dignity and love. He owned his flaws. Most of all, He loved His Lord with passion and faithfulness. And, in a phone conversation a short time before his home-going, with tears he expressed his amazing love for his wife and for his family and the joy the Lord had given him, particularly in their later years. He told me several times, “I am amazed at how beautiful Willa is to me. She has never been more beautiful than she is now. God has been so faithful!”

In contrast, what I see in our culture in recent years is a focus on earthly happiness that is oblivious of the reality of eternity (and that, paradoxically, while it seems to promise earthly joy, does not lead to the kind of joy Alan expressed). Now if you know me, you know that I am not someone who thinks believers are a miserable lot who are only here to suffer. However, I do believe that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, “Our current suffering is not be compared with the glory to come.”  

What I hear so often from those who are young in years is that God could not possibly be asking them to forego the only earthly relational, romantic pleasure that they can imagine.

And what I hear from some who have walked in faithfulness for a number of years and have not found marriage or been “completely healed” (whatever that would look like) is “I just can’t do this anymore.” 

Both messages deserve an honest and compassionate answer.

To the first statement—of course God may ask us to forego what we think would give us greatest pleasure. He is God; He is our Creator; but, most importantly, He is our Father.  Our imaginations--when fixed on what we think we want--are often clouded at best and are always limited by our perspective

When my children heard the sounds of an ice cream truck right before dinner, they truly believed they needed that ice cream bar right then! They weren’t being unreasonable in their three year old perspectives. I, on the other hand knew the consequences and had to say “Not now.” As they matured they began to understand as their “grown up” perspective expanded. They had learned that, while I am far from perfect, I am trustworthy. 

Being a Christian implies trust in One who went to the Cross to demonstrate His absolute commitment to our good; One who came to earth to share our daily lives so that He might be a Priest who understand AND stands with us in our most confusing and painful places.

Is there a time when we deny ourselves to follow Him? I believe that is clear. Loving Him means choosing Him, just as loving my husband means choosing him. And, we choose Him not in despair, but in hope—hope that as He transforms and redeems us we actually begin to desire that which is good for us, that which He provides for us daily. And while on earth, our human sexuality may not be “completely healed,” I do believe that for those who persevere (like an Alan Medinger), there is a joy and fulfillment in life that will not fail you.

To those who have grown weary after years of “trying” (and I don’t mean that in a negative way), my heart weeps for you. I do not, however, believe that there is any reason in heaven or earth to believe that “you can’t do this anymore —in other words that you are justified and right in going into a relationship which scripture clearly says is not what God has for you.

I don’t speak to condemn anyone and I pray for hope to enter the souls of those who have believed this lie. There are those in the body who are waiting to love and support you. Ministries are waiting to welcome you home. The truth remains that whatever pleasure you may find in a human relationship—it will end. Am I saying divorce or horrible breakup—not necessarilyI am saying, we all die. We are here on earth for a very brief moment in time. We have amazing opportunities to love passionately and rightly, both to love our God and to love others. And, in short, eternity is infinite.

Whatever any of us gains by compromise, it is a poor trade-off.  When we see Him face to face, our feeble excuses as to why He was "not enough" for us will fade.  Oh, what we will have missed in not fully trusting him with our “tomorrow.”  

I think that most would agree that we live in a radically different culture than 20 years ago. The truth is, too many Christians have invested so much in winning the cultural battle and have sadly neglected the spiritual battle.  We cannot and will not win any “cultural war” if we do not fight (with compassion and truth and perseverance) the spiritual battle we are faced with. Ask yourself, “Why do ministries like Set Free all over this nation struggle to be funded by the conservative church, which should be throwing us money hand over fist?” It’s a puzzle isn’t it?  Does the conservative (and by that I simply mean Bible-believing) church actually have little faith that God can change the lives of those who come through our doors? Is it easier to condemn than to invest deeply in redemption? It certainly is easier to write an article or sermon which is theologically correct than it is to invest deeply in lives, risking loving those who may or may not respond.  It is easier, but it is not the way of our Lord.

And here I must take the opportunity to thank those who are engaged in standing in the truth in love with all my heart!  If you do it through Set Free, may He multiply His goodness to you. If you do it in another way, my heart rejoices in yourgifts and callings. We may not yet see fully the fruit of our battle; but know that faith, hope and love are the greatest weapons we have as we pray, love, and serve.

My prayer is that those who are learning to know Him and are questioning His revealed will would consider how deeply a parent understands his child at two and at seven and at 15. And, would surrender at a deeper level to find your Father’s loving protection and provision. I pray that you will give him your human will, find a place of understanding, compassion and truth, and trust him anew to be good to you every single morning of your life.

My prayer is that those who are undergoing a season of deep questioning and of believing that “having done all” you cannot stand, would realize that, by His grace, you can stand. And in that standing you will find the joy of eternal relationship and restoration of hope. 

I pray that you do not care what any person thinks, but that you fall deeply in love once again with the One who is standing with you even when you don’t understand why these feelings have returned. In your human weakness, you can find His strength in a more profound way than ever before. In returning and rest, you will not only find restored joy, but the passion for ministry you thought you had lost. You are loved unconditionally, and that is a wonderful reason to seek the joys of heaven!

My prayer is that Christ’s body would stop arguing and start making ourselves available in both compassion and truth in every circumstance in which we find ourselves. I pray that the body would begin praying with a passion for ministries like Set Free; would give generously; would commit to spiritual battle—again realizing that the results we see in eternity will amaze us. And, I think even more importantly, that we see this world as our mission field, our divinely appointed opportunity; that we listen with compassion and humility, pray with passion, and love without end. Amen!