They didn’t listen, and neither did I!
Have you ever reached what I call the “pinnacle of frustration” with those in your life that you hold dear? Have you felt tired, weighed down, and burned out from their constant lack of understanding of their circumstances? In some instances, you may have invested years of encouragement, counseling, financial resources, and numerous hours of service on your part in an attempt to ‘help’ them. They seem destined to run towards disaster and as they near it they seem to pick up speed. It is as if they want to suffer. Your mind has grown weary with the same old story that you hear from them on a daily basis that they refuse to do anything about. It is as if they choose to be quite content in their misery and do not want anyone to do anything but merely listen to their insanity.
In the midst of their pain, you have fallen down on your knees pleading before God for an answer. You feel that God has ignored your prayers and you are forced to watch those care about be destroyed by their own choosing. But wait… did you catch that? Destroyed by their own choosing?
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and earth, He created the perfect place called Eden with Adam & Eve. He gave them everything they ever needed, wanted, or could desire. He only asked them to follow one rule and yet they broke it. He knew that if they ate of the tree of knowledge they would become ‘aware’ of information to powerful for them to comprehend and apply correctly. But they didn’t listen. The Bible is full of stories of God’s chosen people being rescued, prayers answered, miracles performed and yet they fall back into their old habits of doubt. Why is this?
St. Augustine, who is known as a great sinner who became a great Saint, lived a pagan lifestyle and followed his hearts desires of lust and disobedience. His mother agonized over his choices and prayed fervently on his behalf for nine years. In the midst of this suffering, she pleaded with a priest to go and correct her son. But the priest refused, and his answer has a deep application for us today. He told St. Augustine’s mother “I will not speak with because He will not listen. He isn’t ready yet.” She began to walk away in tears when the priest stopped her and said “But God will not despise a mother’s tears.”
I think back upon the times that my parents, friends, and colleagues fervently tried to advise me against certain choices that I was going to make. They passionately poured out their reasons in a loving attempt to try to save me from myself. Yet despite all of their work, I went foolishly forward and fell flat on my face. Was this any fault of their own? Absolutely not! It was my poor decisions that led to my personal disasters in life.
The Application: Loving others through their journey
The wisdom in later years of life is often gained through years of tribulation, mistakes, and costly failures. Individuals who have suffered greatly and have learned from their trials are those we should be the most attentive to. Why is it that we ignore the counsel of the wise?
Our perspective is often too narrow. If I stand right next to a car that I want to buy I can only see certain parts of the car at a time. From further away, I stand and look at the car and notice it is tilted severely to one side (indicating some type of damage). As a young man, I would stand too close to the object of my desire. All I could see was how close I was to the fulfillment of my immediate want. I could not nor would not stand back far enough to see any potential dangers, problems, or future repercussions that would occur. My perspective was too narrow and my desire would override any wise counsel that was offered to me.
“Just as perceptions of the situation change with experience, so do the number and degree of factors that must be considered to change as the member’s responsibilities increase.” (Chief John Norman)
It has been said that adrenaline and tunnel vision is our greatest enemy on the fire ground. It destroys or inhibits our situational awareness. As a hard-charging young rookie firefighter, they often jump from the rig before it stops and are standing at the front door of a burning home with the door forced open before the Company Officer has made it around the rig.
In life, if we fail to recognize our own or others ‘limited perspective’ we will find ourselves beating our heads up against a wall. As we repeat the same words of advice and counsel and as they continue to nod their head but fail to comprehend the value in our words; we can grow weary of doing good.
It is at this point, where we have come to a realization. We may be able to save others, extinguish infernos, and perform acts of heroism yet we may fail from saving those closest to us from making poor choices in life. It is then we realize the chink in our armor. We have elevated ourselves and forgotten who is truly in control.
“He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent” Saint Augustine
God gave each and every one of us the gift of free will. He wants us all to love and obey Him because we choose too not because we have to. As His children, we are to come along side of our brothers and sisters and counsel them but if they refuse your care don’t give up.
A firefighter who stands before a door of a burning home doesn’t stop trying to force the door until they make entry by some means. And as in a fire, sometimes we make a save and sometimes we do not. But we don’t stop trying because of failure. As your loved ones make poor choices, do not give up on them! T.D. Jakes says it best “Just because you graduated, doesn’t mean that you get to burn down the school.” Someone loved you through your foolish, ill-advised, and poor choices in life. I know that the reason I am here today is because of a loving God and two loving parents who refused to give up on me despite my poor choices in life.
Keep pounding upon the doors of heaven with your prayers. Keep lifting them up and encouraging them. Keep going to the word of God for encouragement for your ‘weary soul’ and let Him give you rest. Tell Him how you feel and know that He is with you always. He doesn’t ignore your prayers. His word says “A broken and contrite heart He will not despise.” It is not always within our power to save others but we have been granted the power and responsibility to carry their burdens to The Lord in prayer. It is through this process our prayers become more passionate, the depth of our relationship becomes more genuine, and our hearts become enlarged with a glimpse of the love that God has for us. Don’t give up on those you care for! For some of us, we realize later that our survival has been greatly dependent upon their prayers.
Andy J. Starnes