Like “faith without works is dead,” so also is trust without obedience. For you and me, and
those we seek to help, our personal versions and visions of faith and trust often appeal more to the fulfillment of selfish expectations, dare I say demands, than the rich realities of our Creator and Savior. In our humanness and fallenness, we crave convenience and results over, and to the abuse and neglect of, relationship.
This post will summarize parts 1-3 and provide a case study with applications.
Here is a summary of what was discussed in posts one-three based on Proverbs 3:5-6:
1. The guidance of the LORD upon one’s life is intrinsically dependent upon a person’s:
- Submission, obedience, and humble commitment toward identifying and crucifying prioritized confidence and trust in creation (man, material things, processes, and self)
- Trust and faith in God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
- Living life with a heart, mind, hands, and tongue actively responding to the LORD (His Nature, Attributes, and Acts) according to His word
2. The guidance of the LORD comes with warnings for personal and ministerial (helper to the individual in need) application pertaining to, but not limited to:
- Time Limits: Don’t put God in a “box” or a “corner” – Wisdom works on God’s time frame, with His power, according to His ways, and For His glory.
- How: If we predetermine or block a particular process, circumstance, trial, or plan of how change and growth occurs, we are essentially attempting to circumvent or control God’s guidance…which then is not His guidance, but our own.
- The Who: Blocking people or targeting only certain people to be a part of God’s guidance is restrictive to who He is and how He may desire to work.
Let me introduce you to Ken and Kelly. Ken was a fairly motivated guy. His parents were hard-working successful people who had no faith and no real need for God in their minds. In their thinking, they had figured life out and were doing fine just the way they were. They weren’t obstinate, just indifferent toward God, church, and religion. Ken was an above-average student who worked various construction jobs in high school and had fun with friends. He didn’t care much for sports, but loved building things. Since Ken’s parents pushed for college, he decided to pursue a degree in landscape design and construction.
The first two years of college were challenging and full of fun times, foolish choices here and there of drinking parties, and sexual encounters. He learned how to study in order to succeed and was willing to work hard to get what he wanted. One night at a party Ken lost a bet to a friend. As friends, they were constantly pushing the limits of embarrassing each other. This time the lost bet required Ken to attend a two-hour Christian Campus Event and talk a girl from that event into coming with Ken to their next party. Kelly came to Christ in elementary school through a vacation Bible school. The first verses she memorized were Proverbs 3:5-6. She was clear on her decision to receive Christ and began to take her faith seriously though she was young. Her parents were solid in their faith, but at the age of twelve, just when plenty of normal biological changes were occurring, Kelly’s mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six-twelve months to live. Although Kelly was growing in Christ, she began to shut people out, including her father and siblings and close friends. She prayed big prayers for healing from God for her mom. She secretly begged and bargained with God for her mom’s life. When her mom died a little over a year after her diagnosis, Kelly was stuck in a world of denial, anger, and isolation. She felt abandoned by God and directionless. Her older siblings had their own struggles, but still tried to encourage and help Kelly. They had no success.
Kelly drifted, spiraled, and tried any type of coping mechanism she could find all through high school. She ignored her faith and any moments of conviction. She buried her feelings. The one curiosity she had due to her mom’s influence was beauty school. Kelly’s mom was an incredible beautician and had a dream to one day own her own salon. For whatever reason Kelly decided to make that her new “thing”.
Although Kelly almost didn’t graduate from high school, she skimmed by and was accepted into beauty school. It was there that she met Kris, a forty-five-year-old woman who loved Jesus and decided to pursue a second career after raising two kids and getting them off to college. Kelly and Kris little by little developed a friendship. Kris was vocal, but not aggressive or adversarial about her faith. She was a great listener. Kelly, having nurtured a root of bitterness and resentment over the years, was guarded with her conversations, quick to divert away from anything personal, and flippantly open about her pursuing happiness. Yet, it was obvious to Kris that Kelly was masking some kind of pain. Though Kelly would not admit it, she was drawn to Kris. Kris reminded Kelly of her mother. There was a clear, but somewhat awkward and mysterious bond.
Kris gave an open invitation to Kelly to attend church with her anytime. Kelly had always laughed it off and changed the topic. But, as time passed and beauty school came toward the end Kelly and Kris made a mutual agreement to do two things together outside of beauty school. Kelly chose a bar-restaurant to grab dinner one night. They both had a good time discussing beauty school…What they liked and didn’t like. What was hard and what was easy. Kris chose a Christian Event put on by a college ministry she was involved with at a local college campus. Kris served as a small group leader for Cru ministries. Kelly was a bit apprehensive, but entered the event as an opportunity to do something Kris wanted to do.
Long story short, it was this Christian Campus Event where Kelly caught Ken’s eye; Kelly liked the attention; and the gospel message caught both of them off guard. With different circumstances and motives, God was at work in both of their lives. Kelly initially hated the conviction, but was drawn in by the unconditional love of others and Ken’s infatuation with her. God opened Ken’s eyes to his sin and need for Christ, which Ken surrendered to and wholeheartedly began to depend on the Lord to lead his life. Kelly was slow to surrender, but gradually warmed up to getting involved in Cru regularly and occasionally visiting a church. The next two years of dating where full of ups and downs and spiritual decisions and struggles and transformation. There were moments of confusion, anger, beauty, growth, ugly, grace, blame, forgiveness…Then more of the same as they got married right after Ken graduated from college. Ken’s parents didn’t really understand his beliefs but they gave him space and liked Kelly.
Fast forward ten years after Ken and Kelly married. They now have three kids who are seven, five, and three.
Ken loves his landscaping and carpentry business. He worked for a man that retired and Ken bought the business. He makes a good income, but the business is demanding year round. Summer is out of control busy. Kelly enjoys being a mom, but has an increasing desire to pursue her dream of owning her own beauty salon. She has been working for a year in a friend’s salon where she sets her own hours. She has little by little increased her hours to about thirty per week with her client list growing, as well as her success. Her friends are cheering her on to start her salon.
Ken and Kelly are each experiencing increasing fulfillment from their work while simultaneously drifting apart. Their time goes toward work, work related friendships, kids, their school, and activities. There has been very little time for one another since child number three entered the picture. Conflicts are not resolved, important discussions don’t happen, sex is less frequent, they feel and act like the other person is in the way instead of on the same team. They are less patient and more irritated with one another. Involvement in their small group at church dropped off with their third child also. Attending worship services really became more of an occasional monthly event about convincing themselves they were ok rather than it being a regular rhythm of worship, growth, and fellowship necessary for their spiritual health.
Kelly was thinking, “now is the time to pursue my dream of starting my own salon.” Ken was thinking, “Kelly needs to not work so much. I need to dedicate more time to my business,” which Kelly is starting to resent. And, in his opinion, the expense of child care works against Kelly’s income. It’s a temptation for both of them to view the kids and each other as obstacles to their dreams.
On the outside people think Kelly and Ken are killing it. They are the model of success on their way to fulfilling “The American Dream.” They appear happy with all the things…nice house and cars, clothes, and trips. Yet, Kelly and Ken knew they were not doing well. Things were off, but both were too proud and focused on their ideas of what is going to bring fulfillment at this point, until two months ago when their world was totally turned upside down with a phone call.
It was a typical Wednesday other than the fact that Alex would not stop complaining about his stomach aching. Alex hardly ever complains, but this had been going on for a week. They went to the doctor the day before and were sent to the hospital to have some tests run. The hospital called while Kelly was cutting hair and Alex was sleeping in the room in the back of the salon since he stayed home from school for the day not feeling well. The doctor’s nurse called to request Kelly and Ken bring Alex in right away for some additional tests and they needed to meet with the doctor. Words no parent wants to hear.
Life seemed to stop…then sprint uncontrollably downhill…then long waits…then it was crushing and suffocating simultaneously…then deafening silence…then screams…tears…hopelessness… glimmers of hope…unending questions…unfulfilling answers…words without meaning … disorientation…confusion…illusion…anger…hurt…questions…
For thirty-six long days the family endured Alex’s surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments, after his initial diagnosis of neuroblastoma, but his battle had ended. Alex’s life had, by all human standards, been snatched from this earth way too early. For such a carefree, happy go lucky kid who loved baseball and chocolate ice cream with sprinkles and puppies, life no longer made sense.
It’s now been a month since Alex’s death. Kelly’s previous feelings of being abandoned by God when her mom died have returned and are consuming her. Ken some days wants to work so hard and fast he has no time to think or feel the pain, but his drive for success and meaning are gone. The other two kids are hurting, but really don’t know what’s going on.
This is where you, the reader, come in.
Kelly and Ken got someone to watch the kids for the weekend and they agree to take you up on your offer for them to join you at your cottage for a long weekend. You and your spouse are driving to the cottage and begin to pray and discuss how you will love on this couple by administering grace and truth to their broken and troubled hearts. For some reason, they have reached out to you for help. Additionally, Ken and Kelly have asked their neighbor friends, who also work with them and attend their church, to come along for the support.
How would you seek to answer the following questions regarding this situation:
- What would you seek to accomplish with Kelly and Ken over the weekend?
- How would you arrange the weekend?
- What and how would you pray for them?
- What would you personally do to posture your heart to best help them?
- What questions would you have for Ken and Kelly?
- How would you journey with Ken and Kelly through Proverbs 3:5-6 over the weekend?
- What other Scripture do you think would be most helpful to Ken and Kelly at this time?
- In what ways do you think the application of Proverbs 3:5-6 would be helpful and relevent to your soul struggles and temptations personally, and as helpers to Ken and Kelly?
Our hearts are complex, as are our problems. Yet we long for simple solutions where
very few are ever to be found. Answers have to be mined, and usually they are not what we think or expect them to be…other than rooted ultimately in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3; Romans 11:36).
This scenario and it’s applications are intended for you to review and utilize the content of parts 1-3 (previous posts) to practically walk alongside Ken and Kelly in this very difficult trial.
It is my prayer that this exercise will strengthen your faith and trust in Christ and further develop your skills in experiencing God’s guidance in your life and ministry.
As a struggler, and as a helper of a fellow struggler, quick, concise, and simple answers are our first choice. We habitually pray for answers, blessings, endings to trials, and removal of pain…some may have expected that at the end of this post. God’s guidance exists in God’s process…for the struggler and the helper. You can trust Him.