Ah, summer. Everything slows down just a little, if only on account of the heat (at least here in Philadelphia). It’s also a good time to take spiritual inventory and see how we’re ‘really’ doing so that we can make adjustments that will help us love God and others well.
Here are five ways to see how you’re doing from Malachi 1:
- 1. Do you find yourself getting defensive with God?
“I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” (verse 2)
It’s easy to ‘know’ something – like God’s love for us – but to find ourselves not really believing that when life gets tough. We can find ourselves getting defensive with God, adopting a ‘prove it!’ attitude when life doesn’t go our way.
In Malachi’s time, Israel had largely correct, ‘orthodox’ beliefs about God. They would have done just fine in Sunday School class.
The problem, though, is that they didn’t really believe what they (said they) believed.
About 80 years before Malachi’s prophecy, the prophets Zechariah and Haggai wrote that times of rich blessings were coming. In Malachi’s day, though, none of these blessings seemed to be true: the second temple was a shadow of the first, Israel was small (think Rhode Island) and still ruled by a foreign king, and miraculous signs were in short supply.
The people had grown cynical and jaded. If God really loved them, why would He let all this happen?
This is where the application comes home for us. All of us wrestle with the gap between what we expected and what life is actually like. Maybe we…
… thought we’d be in a relationship by now;
… didn’t fully understand how costly (economically and otherwise) the path to becoming a healthcare professional would be;
… anticipated it would be easier to stay connected to God and others.
Where are you struggling with the difference between life as it is and as you wish it would be? To put it differently, where do you find yourself doubting God’s love? (Before reading ahead, take a moment and really think about this).
Now that you’ve answered this question, here’s a closing application:
Malachi shows us that it’s critical to our spiritual health to be aware of our disappointments and bring them to God. If we don’t, we’ll grow hardened and cynical like the Israelites did, finding less and less motivation to serve a God who doesn’t seem to love us. If we do, we may still not understand fully what we’re going through, but at least be in relationship with the One who wants to help.
I want to encourage you to take just a few moments and bring your disappointments to God. Be really honest! But don’t stop there: ask him to help you see his love for you, to experience what you already know to be true. Meditating on passages like Psalm 34:4-10 and Romans 8:18-39 and asking God to make them come alive to you again may be one helpful starting point.