Tag Archives: Discomfort

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Sing to the Lord a new song…
Psalm 96:1 (NIV)

It’s a new year, and it is very common for individuals to use the transition from one year to the next to hit the “reset” button on life in different ways. So, it’s a bit of synchronicity to have today’s chapter, Psalm 96, start out with a call to “Sing a new song.”

In ancient Hebrew society, it was common to call on “new songs” to commemorate or celebrate certain events including military triumphs, new monarchs being coronated, or a significant national or community event.

Throughout the Great Story, “new” is a repetitive theme. In fact, if you step back and look at the Great Story from a macro level, doing something “new” is a part of who God is. God is always acting, always creating, always moving, always transforming things. When God created everything at the beginning of the Great Story, it was something new. When God called Abram He was doing something new. When Abram became Abraham it was something new. When Simon became Peter it was something new. When Jesus turned fishermen into “fishers of men” it was something new.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ezekiel 36:26

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills…”
Amos 9:13

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.”
Luke 5:37

“A new command I give you: Love one another.”
John 13:34

..after the supper [Jesus] took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Luke 22:20

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
Revelation 21:1

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Revelation 21:5

Along my life journey, I’ve observed that most human beings struggle with real change. A new gadget? Cool! A new release from my favorite author? Awesome. A new restaurant in town I can try? I’m there! But if it comes to a change that messes with my routine, a change that requires something from me, or a change that brings discomfort, then I will avoid it like the plague. Why? I like things that are comfortable, routine, and easy.

What I’ve observed is that “new” is always considered better as long as I think it will makes things easier or better for me. If it will rock my world, create discomfort, or expect something of me outside of my comfort zone, then I think I’ll cling to the “old” thing that I know and love, thank you very much.

And thus, most New Year’s resolutions sink down the drain of good intentions.

In the quiet today, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Great Divorce, in which a bus full of people in purgatory visit the gates of heaven. There they are given every opportunity to accept the invitation to enter into the new thing God has for them on the other side. One individual after another finds a reason to stick with the drab, gray, lifeless existence they know and with which they are comfortable.

As a follower of Jesus, I embraced the reality that I follow and serve a Creator who is never finished creating. “New” is an always part of the program. It may not always be comfortable, but it’s always good.

As long as I am on this earthly journey, I pray that I will choose into and embrace the new things into which God is always leading me.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Healthy Shame

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NIV)

A friend told me the other day of his teenager who had been faced with the truth of their self-centered, uncaring attitude. When the reality of the teen’s selfishness set in, the teen was crushed in spirit and retreated to their bedroom to sulk. The father chose not to rescue the teen from their emotions in that moment, but to allow the realization and resulting feelings of shame to set in.

I have done a lot of study on the topic of shame and have even given messages and workshops on the subject. Unhealthy shame can certainly be toxic to life in an abundant ways. Shame, however, can and does serve healthy purposes as well.

When I was a young teenager I was gently shamed by a teacher when she publicly pointed out in front of my peers that I acted selfishly towards the group. It was not unhealthy shame which says, “You are an awful and completely worthless individual. There is no hope for you.” It was, rather, healthy shame which says, “Your actions are self-centered and hurtful. You can, and should, be better than this. Something in you needs to change.” That moment of healthy shame in the Home Ec room of Meredith Junior High School, and the awful feelings it created in my soul for a long time, was one of the most important moments in leading me to the realization of my deep need to change, and my utter need of a Savior.

My friend chose to let his teen sit in their room stewing in healthy shame, even though it was hard to see his child struggle. There’s a piece of a parent’s heart that always wants to rescue our child from pain, but it is absolutely critical that a parent have the wisdom to know that some pain and suffering is essential to growing up and maturing spiritually, emotionally, and in relationships.

I am concerned as I see a generation of children growing up with parents and a culture intent on shielding them from any and all discomfort or suffering. We seem to be under the delusion that any pain is bad for us: Cheer up. Take a pill. Entertain yourself. Throw a party. Whatever you do, don’t feel bad.

God’s Message says the opposite of that. We should rejoice when we suffer discomforts in this life because of the truth that our suffering produces perseverance, character, hope. I think it’s important to point out that the opposite is equally true. If we avoid suffering it produces in us laziness, foolishness, and hopelessness.

Today, I’m thankful for suffering healthy shame which taught me humility and my need of God. I’m hopeful that I have been wise in knowing when to shield my children from pain and when to let them feel their discomfort. I am prayerful that their continued struggles and sufferings in their young adults years are producing measurable depth of character, perseverance, and hope.

Changing the Subject

Detail
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
Israel did not want me around.”
Psalm 81:11 (NLT)

Wendy and I were recently out with a rather large group of people. At the table was a friend I don’t see often with whom I’ve enjoyed conversation about our respective spiritual journeys. We took the opportunity to strike out on wonderful conversation about a number of spiritual topics. As we did, a few others at the table joined along in the conversation.

I was rather taken back when another person in our party overheard our conversation and playfully expressed equal amazement that we would talk about such matters at this social gathering. Subsequently, this same person attempted to change the subject of our conversation two different times.

I have found two different types of individuals who behave as my uncomfortable friend at the table. One is the person who is described like Israel in today’s psalm. This person is just doesn’t want God, or conversation about God, around any where at any time. The other type of individual is not uncomfortable with things spiritual as long as they are kept well contained within a particular compartment of their lives (e.g. within the church building on Sunday morning).

I am reminded this morning of those who don’t want God around. I was not angered by our conversation-changing friend. I was just saddened at whatever obstacle they have lodged in their heart and mind. Today, I’m praying for that person and all who don’t want God around. I’m also striving to be the kind of man who might love such a person well enough to earn the relational equity necessary to engage him or her in a conversation that won’t create discomfort.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 13

English: Right knee.
English: Right knee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Psalm 13:1-2 (NLT) 

I reached a significant waypoint in the journey last week while vacationing at the lake. On Thursday morning my friends Justin and Chad joined me for an early morning water skiing adventure. It was a gorgeous morning and the lake was nearly like glass. It was the morning after July 4th so virtually no one was out on the water after the previous night’s festivities. I have been water skiing since I was a kid. While I have only been on water skis once in the past several years, it’s a lot like riding a bike so I figured it would be no problem. I did ski and everything was wonderful, right up to the point that I wiped out. Apparently, my body can’t handle wiping out the way I remembered it doing as a teenager and in my twenties. If I’m going to wipeout, I guess it is no longer advisable to water ski.
Waypoint reached.

According to my doctor, my skiing adventure did a number on the medial collateral ligament of my right knee along with some accompanying damage to the meniscus. It also caused separation of the 7th rib on my right rib cage. At best I can look forward to six weeks of moderate pain and discomfort in both places as my body heals. Knee brace, ice, anti-inflammatories, and take it easy.

David, who was the King of Israel about 1000 B.C., wrote the lyrics of Psalm 13 when he was struggling with an on-going illness. I think almost every human being has, at one time or another, struggled with what feels like an endless ailment of some kind. Some of us know the life-and-death struggle of on-going disease. Others of us are annoyed constantly by a disability or medical issue. Even a relatively minor and microscopic tropical parasite can do an acute number on our insides and leave us wondering if death itself might be a welcome relief.

Times of pain and discomfort are all part of the journey. Crying out in anguish is part of the human experience. And from the depths, if we choose, we mine all sorts of wisdom that will benefit us the rest of the way. It is what it is.

Honey, can you hand me that ice pack?
Six weeks?
Really?

[sigh]