God desires the best for us, including peace, joy and rest. But in order to achieve these, there are times when God is not concened with making us feel good. This may be hard for many of us to swallow. Sometimes God even brings us precisely what we fear. God seeks to change the question we ask and the things we seek in order to give us what we really need: Himself.
In the book Connecting: Healing Ourselves and our Relationships, psychologist and Christian counsellor Dr Larry Crabb explains four distinctive ways in which we pursue our own life agendas and engage with false and superficial connections, as well as how God redeems us.
Which of These 4 Spiritual Conditions are you in?
This is based on Genesis 4:17 and 10:10, in which descendants of Adam were wandering restlessly and the first thing they did was to build cities for themselves.
Larry Crabb uses City-Builders to represent people who dream of building their own successful lives. Their ultimate self-assurance and identity depend on their own adequacy and resources. The question that haunts their heart is: "Am I adequate?"
As a result, they are terrified of failure and weaknesses being exposed. When difficulties in life arise, they feel something deep inside is threatened.
They demand friends to affirm their abilities and talents, and quickly withdraw from people who don't. Fake connections are formed.
What does God do to City-Builders? God brings them to the desert, a place where false connecting afforded by superficial friends can no longer relieve the pain, a place where all of their talents and resources are inadequate.
Desert experiences are painful, but they change the questions City-Builders ask. Rather than worried about their adequacy, their new heart begins to ask, “I love Jesus. What can I give to His purposes?” That’s a question the Spirit delights to answer.
Changing our life agenda is a slow, difficult process. But the urge beneath the wrong question must die so God becomes the definition of who we are.
This is based on Isaiah 50:10-11:
'But now all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.'
Fire-Lighters like to plan their lives with certainties. They hate confusions and seek to reduce the mystery of life to manageable strategies and formulas.
Their strongest impulse is to reach for their own flashlight rather than grasping the hand of God, the only one who can see in the dark. Trusting God seems impossible because God is too mysterious.
Their nagging question is always "Am I doing this right?" They demand clear answers and doable plans to feel secure.
Fire-Lighters connect with people who hold on dearly to the same flashlight in life, which becomes the foundation of friendships. Conformity is valued over diversity, all in the name of 'harmony' and 'biblical truth.' Connecting is about controlling.
What does God do? He deepens the darkness to shatter their false security and plans. He allows the darkness to thicken so much that they are faced with only two options: to trust God completely or sink into despair.
Slowly, the question of "Am I right?" becomes "Whom can I trust?" Only deep darkness helps them fear God more than confusion. God becomes the only light.
This is based on Ezekiel 13:10-12:
'They say, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash.'
Wall-Whitewashers are obsessed with safety, whether it is physical, financial, emotional or relational. Whenever they feel threatened, they reflexively throw whitewash on the wall they think might protect them from harm.
Their priority is risk-minimization, not character-building. They are constantly asking, "Am I safe? And if not, how do I protect myself?"
They connect superficially with 'safe' people, and distant themselves from those who cannot make them feel safe from whatever they fear. Their commitment to safety means that their souls never find rest in God or love others genuinely.
God responds to our need for protection, but not on our terms. He values our trust in Him than trust in false safety. God brings the disasters Fire-Lighters thought should never happen to knock down their walls.
They are faced with two options: "Will I build another whitewashed wall, or let God lead me to the unknown for His purposes?"
Slowly, God becomes their only refuge. The passion for safety, when it becomes our final line of defense against disaster, is an urge to be killed.
It is based on Jeremiah 2:13-14,
'They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.'
Well-Diggers seek to find pleasures whenever and however they want. They are terrified of the emptiness and pain within their souls.
Well-diggers evaluate their relationships and work with one criterion: "Does it make me feel good?" And they find themselves regularly answering no without knowing why.
Whatever provides a brief relief from ache becomes irresistible. The urge to feel good now prompts them to leave jobs, friends, spouses, churches, or to indulge in food, sexual urges or
whatever that gives momentary satisfaction. Addictions and lust become justified.
Our souls were built for a satisfaction that only God can provide. Otherwise the ache only grows beneath all available pleasures.
Well-Diggers hate being at the mercy of an unpredictable God. They'd rather dig their own wells.
What does God bring? More thirst, disappointment and dissatisfaction. God exposes the leakage of their wells and the damages their pursuit of pleasure has caused.
Such realization disturbs Christians’ new hearts. They begin to learn to drink from the Living Well, the only one that can satisfy their soul.
Connecting: Healing Ourselves and our Relationships
Dr. Larry Crabb