– Seek – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
What do you “seek” first when you need to console yourself? Where do you run when it hurts? If what the bible says about us being refined is true then we will all face quite difficult moments in our lives. 1 Peter 1:7 very clearly explains what these difficulties mean in our life, “you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials … so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
So let’s consider a few scenarios: you’ve been betrayed and rejected by the one you trusted the most; your plans have been brought to ruin and your reputation and ambition has been crushed and humbled; the one that was your life has been taken from you suddenly and without warning; you can’t seem to get out of bed to even make something to eat let alone work or be productive; your adolescent treats you with disrespect and won’t talk to you, the demands on your life are so great you can’t seem to cope, or maybe life just doesn’t feel like you want to live it anymore. I’m sure your experiences have many more emotionally raw moments that make you question your identity, your existence, your purpose and whether it is all worth it. These are the types of moments in life that bring to light the core motivation of our heart. What is the first thing you seek in when difficult trials arise?
One of the wonderful things about these moments is that we are desperate and completely consumed in our desire to find relief from the misery. I had such a moment in the past year with my adult son. I realized that priorities in life and unresolved anger and control issues had come to the point where we had a severely broken relationship. It really hurt and I felt so lost about what to do and how to “fix” the problem. My heart was as fully engaged.
We are so blessed as a church to have people and resources available to help us through these moments. It helps me to be so thankful to the Lord for what He has given us in each other. In the past, difficult circumstances like these would have caused me to isolate, get angry, burying myself in work and busyness and definitely turn to comfort food. Depending on where one is at in life, we might turn to addictions, pleasures, hatred, isolation and even personal risk or harm to put up walls and cover the pain.
Christmas time doesn’t change the circumstances of our lives. In fact, it can compound them with expectations and heavy financial commitments. Christmas, being a season to celebrate, can become another means to bury the pain. Maybe we will seek help through shopping therapy or drowning our sorrows in Christmas cheer. Maybe we will disassociate from our circumstances for a time by focusing on the joy and fun of family or that great sentimentality in Christmas movies. Maybe the pain is so great we can’t even cope with the season and we drift deeper into anguish and pain. Regardless of what you seek to reduce the suffering, the question remains, are these really the answers to our deep longings and serious pain?
Matthew 9:36 has a great description of people’s pain, “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were weary, scattered, confused, harassed, distressed, dispirited, downcast, worn out, and helplessly wandering like sheep without a shepherd.” Please excuse my amplification from various translations but it paints an interesting picture that I think can be seen in our society today. Another image the bible uses that describes these circumstances is that of “the deer pant[ing] for streams of water”. This is such a perfect way to express the heart cry and thirst of our soul in these desperate moments of our lives. Certainly, the pandemic has profoundly brought out the desperation that has been rumbling under the surface of our society and likely also in some of us. Having our world completely turned upside down has a way of exposing the frailty of the life we think we have and it brings new meaning to being overwhelmed.
The truth is, we will all face difficulties sometime in our life. Jeremiah 29:13 has a wonderful answer to the question of what will bring relief in these moments of life. It says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Can we praise God that he brings us to this place of being “poor in spirit” where “all your heart” is fully engaged, where your soul is panting for life giving water? It’s in this moment that if you will seek Him, His Word promises that “you will … find Me”.
Psalm 42, takes this thought a step further and suggests “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go to meet with God?” Jesus had compassion on the people when he saw them wandering like sheep without a shepherd. Scripture exhorts us to “Seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” I think it is in these moments of greatest despair that we see with greatest clarity the true hope that comes from a baby in a manger, the Saviour of the World. Who do you seek first?
I love the sign that we can put on our lawns at Christmas, “Wise men still seek him” should we also add “first” to the end of this phrase. I have committed to write devotions for each week of Advent. The rest of the devotions I write will look at how we can seek the Lord in the midst of this rather unusual Christmas.