Ouch, that hurts!

Sometimes I surprise myself by being surprised that hard times come.  Duh, I should know that by now.  But I still get blindsided sometimes by the fact that life's not always easy.  My head surely knows better but my heart seems to expect that fairy tales happen in real life. All my wishes granted.  For me and all my family.  All the time.  Every day.  All day long.

Reality is that some things are hard.  It can be hard to be a Mom of toddlers.  It's also hard to parent adult children.  And it's hard to not be a Mom.   It's hard to adjust to a new job.  It's hard to persevere in the same job for a long time.  And it's hard to not have a job.Sometimes it's hard to get meals on the table.  It's hard to pay for all those meals.  And it's hard not to have anything to feed your family.  It's hard to be in relationships and have conflict.  It's hard to sustain relationships.  And it's hard not to have relationships.  It's hard to go through difficulties.  And it's  more painful than imaginable to watch someone you love go through tough times.

Yep, there are hard times that come into each of our lives.  Whatever race the Lord has marked out for us will have bumps and potholes and sometimes seemingly impassable brick walls.  If, however, we can learn to view them with His wisdom - that they are designed to bring us good - we will not only be less surprised when we happen upon them but we will even be able to run through them with joy.  Here's a verse that helps me:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1,2

If we have dedicated our lives to serving Christ, we are indeed "living sacrifices".  The way we live our lives is our offering - our worship - to Him.  The greatest part about this is not that we are committed to Christ but that He is committed to us.  He takes the responsibility of making us holy and acceptable to God, of transforming us from being like the world to being like Him.

A picture from the Old Testament helps me understand this..........when an animal was offered as a sacrifice to the Lord, the priest laid it out on the altar.  Of course it was dead, but sometimes it would slip and slide right off that hallowed place.  It was the priest's job to keep it there.  To hold it in place so that it could be consumed by the fire that made it a holy sacrifice to the Lord, the priest had long piercing meat forks that he plunged into the flesh if it should begin to slide.  A stab in the flesh would pull it back into its place on the altar and not allow it to slip off.

Those hard times we go through are like those forks in the hands of the priest.  Our flesh sometimes needs a poke - or a deep piercing - to keep us in the place of close proximity to the Father, to maintain our attitude of worship of and dependence upon Him.  To let us experience Who He is.

It hurts.  My flesh doesn't like being pricked. I'll bet yours doesn't either.

That financial crisis might really be a stab in fleshly materialism.  That heartbreak might be what it takes to keep us soft and tender.  Those constant demands of parenting might instead be piercing what remains of selfishness in our hearts.  The repeated thrusts out of our comfort zone are possibly the fork of the Priest pushing us out of complacency and into compassion for others.

The only way for the offering to be holy and acceptable is if the priest keeps it in the place of sacrifice...and we need our minds transformed to see that as good and acceptable and perfect.