It’s Friday night and you’re coming off a twelve-hour shift at the hospital. You power through a long commute home in a downpour.
You get a text as you pull into your parking space. He’s inviting you over again to “just hang out at his place and watch some TV.” You’re not comfortable with idea—he’s got a “reputation”—but the thought of another night alone in your apartment after a long day seems equally bad.
As a Christian, you know you’re supposed to have a Christ-like perspective as you go through life, but you’re getting tired of “fighting the good fight.” You just want to relax and enjoy life’s good gifts here and now, as it seems most people around you are intent on doing. Sure, it means making a few compromises you always said you would never make, but you know what they say about desperate times . . .
This was me twelve years ago. I didn’t realize then how thoughts led to actions, and that to flee worldly thinking would require vigilance, community, and ongoing repentance.
TIRED OF DOING THE RIGHT THING
Maybe you’re like I was. You’re not set on pursuing anything drastic or life-changing. You have no desire to walk headlong into doubt and unbelief.
You just want to have some fun. You just want life to be easier for a while. And that might mean doing a few things your way instead of God’s way.
No one really knows, because you’re keeping up a good front and you haven’t crossed any lines that would draw anyone’s attention at church. But when you’re honest with yourself, you know your mindset is shifting to become more like the world’s and less like Christ’s. But what are you supposed to do?
Single and in my late twenties—after years of faithfully looking and praying for a spouse in all the right places—I got tired of doing all the “right things”. Since God made me to experience close companionship, I thought, I couldn’t live a fulfilling life without a boyfriend or husband.
Without realizing it, I was developing a false view of God and my relationship with him. I was beginning to adopt the cultural mantra that I was entitled to happiness on my terms, and that God only worked so long as he met my expectations. So, when the guy invited me over that night, I caved. I thought, Hey, why not? I need companionship.
Let’s just say, I regret that decision. Not only because of what happened that night, but because it led to other decisions that had destructive and long-lasting effects on my life. Most of all, it breaks my heart to know I rejected God to pursue idols.
I’m not the first to create an idol I think I can fashion to fit my desires with no consequences. In Exodus we read of the time Moses was on Mount Sinai meeting with God, and the Israelites got impatient. They questioned if Moses would return, then asked Aaron to “make us gods who shall go before us” (Ex. 32:1).
Aaron “received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. . . . And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ And they rose up early the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:5b-6).
Just as Aaron tired of waiting on Moses and was feeling pressured by society, I gradually started thinking that if God wasn’t going to act, then I would have to take things into my own hands. This meant letting down my guard and developing close relationships with unbelieving men I had previously kept at arm’s length.
Maybe God doesn’t exist, I told myself. Maybe he’s really not who I’ve always thought him to be.
HOW THE LIFE OF THE MIND SHAPES LIFE
It’s easy to think I was changing because I was changing how I lived, but that’s not entirely true. You see, the initial changes in my life were not in my actions but in my mind.
I found myself in a sticky spot where I didn’t want to give up on God entirely but I wanted things my way too. I had ceded the mind of Christ for the mind of the world. Instead of actively engaging the mind of the Savior and asking how he wanted me to live, I passively accepted the cultural norms and attitudes around me.
Having the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor.2:16) means we adopt a Christ-centered perspective, as opposed to a world-centered perspective. It is not a neutral, passive stance. It requires focus and action. If we’re going to have the mind of Christ, we must “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
For those times when you’re weary—when you think you really need that girl you can’t have; or, maybe it’s OK to cheat on that test because you’ve worked so hard until now and you have a lot going on; or, maybe you’re just weary of parenting and you’re thinking of checking out somehow, someway—here are four suggestions to help you seek God and his righteousness.
FOUR WAYS TO SEEK THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Keep going to church. We are embodied believers. What we do with our bodies matters, including whether we show up at church. It’s there, among the gathered saints, that we are reminded of the gospel, not just through the message spoken, but in witnessing baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, and in real-life conversation with brothers and sisters. Regular church-going was key to my not completely not abandoning the faith. Years went by when I showed up, week after week, and just went through the motions. But slowly, over time, my love for God and his church was rekindled.
Keep praying. I gave up a vibrant prayer life so I could sin. It was too hard to pray and to have things my way at the same time. So, stay in prayer, even if only for five to ten minutes a day. Once I began my upward climb back towards Christ, I remember just sitting in my rocker, baby in arms, simply praying “Help my unbelief, help my unbelief, help my unbelief…” It was the most I could do, but it was a start. It was sincere. And God honored it. If possible, find at least one person you can trust to pray with you. Someone in your circle of friends or network at church is likely to have the capacity to speak the truth in love with wisdom and grace. Don’t give up until you find them.
Read the Psalms. Poetry and song have unique ways of cutting into our hearts and reminding us that God knows the depths of our suffering and struggles. When I began opening my heart back up to Christ, I started attending an in-depth women’s Bible study. For the longest time, I felt like an outsider, and I couldn’t get my head the in the game with the actual study. But they always started by a psalm, and every time it inched forward in re-devoting my mind and heart to God.
Be proactive. If you’re in college, join a Christian student ministry. If you’re able to, attend a conference where your faith is likely to be bolstered. Attend a Bible study. Be bold in asking questions. Seeking first the kingdom means actively pursuing the things of God. So be proactive. Pursue God. Seek the kingdom. And don’t give up.
YOU CAN HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST
My story goes on to include marrying an unbeliever, us church-hopping for a couple years, and then ending back at my home church, where we regularly attend with our four children. It’s there that I eventually came back to faith in Christ and regained confidence in the Scriptures. It’s there that my mind has been renewed by the mind of Christ.
No matter where you are or what you’ve done, you can have the mind of Christ. If you seek God and his kingdom above all else, you can have your thinking renewed and your life restored and your past redeemed.
Karen Kessens is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. She moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 2003 to take a nursing job at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is now married to Chad and stays home with their four children. They worship at Cornerstone Community Church in Joppa, Maryland.