What do you do whenever you experience a thought that you do not like? Do you judge yourself? “Why do I keep having this thought?” Maybe you try to suppress your thought by distracting yourself; maybe you spin from one thought to another. My goal is not to give you a new way of thinking as much as it is to show you what is reality, especially in the midst of difficult experiences.
Lets begin by looking at Philipians 4:10-13 (ESV), “ I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Notice how Paul is not suppressing his experiences, thinking them as bad, or denying them. Rather, Paul is engaged with his experiences. Paul is rejoicing in the Lord because the Philipian church has revived their concern for him again. His rejoicing is not him denying his experience and only recognizing God. Reality was part of his rejoicing. It was a reality rightly understood as by Paul as consisting of both personal experience and God.
Now Let’s look at a passage where mourning is present. Matthew 5:3-5 states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” People mourn (experience) and people simultaneously are blessed (God’s involvement). People recognizing they are blessed is not necessarily intended to make them happy (although it may certainly have an impact)! Reality and personal happiness are not the same thing all the time. Life may consist of very challening moments, but blessings may still be present. In this particular passage, both mourning and blessing happen at the same time. Reality is not either God or pesonal experiences. Instead it is both your experience and what God is doing and who He is within those experiences.
Whenever I recognize I am walking in divine reality, I tend to not judge myself when I mourn, and I tend to not fear the worst happening whenever I am rejoicing; I recognize that God is working in my experiences.
A few application questions to consider in helping people:
- Do you tend to focus on altering someone’s thinking about his experiences or do you engage reality with him?
- Do you tend to focus on altering someone’s perspective on God or do you engage reality with him?
- What would it look like to engage reality with a friend or a counselee in your life?