I received a call today from a man who is struggling with his wife and their current situation. I last spoke with him almost two years ago, when he acted rather serious about trying to save his marriage. I met with him several times, encouraged him to get counseling with his wife and urged him to sell extra properties that he owned and rehabbed as an outlet to vent his frustration. He promised that he would attend church, seek pastoral help and do all the things one would hope that a man concerned with saving his marriage would engage in; if he was serious.
My advice was to change his ways and try to love his wife into a healthy relationship – and although he professed concern for his wife, it was apparent to me that he was just going through the motions and wanted me to solve his problems. He lacked accountability and obviously wanted to do the minimum amount of work necessary to keep his marriage together. I offered to help if he brought his wife and then they could go through counseling together. To make a very long story very short, as soon as he thought he was out of danger, he went back to his old ways. I never met his wife.
Well, that’s not the way it works. When you desire true change in your life, it is necessary to do the tough work of asking forgiveness, and then working through the problems, ever mindful that change usually happens from the inside out. Change that is only outward tends to dissipate over time; and this leads to a renewal of the old ways.
I am sure that I sound a little calloused right now – and you are right. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who desire “true change” in their lives, and then expect somebody else to do the heavy lifting. They want to be seen as invested in the solution, when they are really just a part of the problem. They think that because they consult a pastor, or counselor, that they are absolved of any responsibility of trying to work toward a solution.
And this just frosts me. I remember one time when we decided to charge $10 a week for entry into our career transition ministry. Once day, several weeks into the new program, a man came in, with a very expensive Starbuck’s in one hand, and a $5 bill in the other. He threw the money on the table and said, “This is all I have left. After all, we all have our priorities!” I couldn’t believe it – here this guy was, asking for help, and it was more important for him to have his Starbuck’s than to get help to find a job. Go figure. I invited him to leave the meeting and that was one of the last weeks we did career transition. I think all of us in leadership just felt used; and we were all tired of donating our time and our resources trying to help numerous people; many of whom were just plain ungrateful. Now that might not sound Godly, and I can’t refute that, but my tolerance is low for people just just use others. I used to think that these types of occurances were isolated circumstances, but I have found out, much to my dismay, that this happens much more than you might suspect.
Anyway, I told the man today that he should contact the church that he has chosen to attend (I don’t think he attends church) and enter counseling with his wife. Every time I suggested something, he told me why it wouldn’t work. He tried to lay this whole thing on my doorstep. Finally, I told him I couldn’t help him. Period. End of story. Try somebody else. Now while I am not necessarily proud of what I did, I have my breaking point. I try to spend many hours of my life helping people who really desire change. And it is very rewarding work – but every so often, something just hits me the wrong way, and that happened today.
I am reminded of Psalm 107. This is a psalm about God’s mercy and loving kindness – in Hebrew, it is called “Hosad.” Ever hear of Hasidic Jews? Those are the folks who spent their lives committed to emulating the mercy and loving kindness of God. Comes from the same word in the original language.
The psalm relates stories of people who fell away from God and got into trouble. Then, when they couldn’t take it any more, they cried out to God, and in His “hosad”, He reached out, restored them and got them back on the right path. Then, of course, when the people thought they could once again do their own thing, they departed from their Godly ways, got into trouble again, cried out to God, again, and God reached out and rescued them, again. The cycle repeats itself several times throughout Psalm 107. In fact, it was one of the psalms that I had to study in Hebrew class.
And I think there are two messages here. The first one is that we are quick to seek God’s help when we are in trouble, but when things turn around, we are just as quick to forget God and do our own thing. This, of course, is not biblical. The second thing that I have learned from this psalm is that God is more patient than I am. I am not very tolerant of people who repeat the same mistakes time after time – unless I am the one repeating the mistakes. Enough said – I am sure you understand.
Tonight’s verse, from Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness (hosad) is everlasting.” My encouragement is to try and be patient – a lesson that I haven’t learned very well, and my prayer is that God will teach you “hosad.” It’s something we can all learn more about. Have a great day …. Shalom…..