Life During Judgment


There are about 30 verses in Scripture commanding us to love, seek or obey God with all our heart.

That is rather difficult since our emotions are not particularly cooperative all the time.   Now a command to obey God is theoretically achievable at least for a few minutes at a time, because we can choose with our will to override our emotions while we do a right action.

But our hearts are fickle even on a good day, and the command to love God with all our emotions, not our actions or attitudes, becomes quite a challenge.

Against that backdrop, here is an interesting passage where our hearts are the effect, not the cause.

Consider Jeremiah 24:4ff where God is talking about Judah being taken into captivity.

Ponder that picture.  The Babylonians invade.  There is a year of war (with defeat) followed by a year of siege perhaps, then the horrific breaching of the city wall.  There is mayhem in the city as enemy troops run wild, killing randomly, gathering up anything that looks like loot.  Eventually the rampaging of the soldiers dies off and military leadership begins the process of sorting the civilians.

Thousands are rounded up and prepared for the long march across the desert in brutal circumstances.  When they arrived in Babylon, there is the humiliation of being marched down Main Street as trophies of war.

Eventually they would be dropped off in a ghetto with some vague provisions for sustaining life in the midst of a foreign, idolatrous culture.  They had little or no capital to start with.  They had no civil rights.  They did not speak the language.

Ugly.

It is so beyond anything we can imagine, having lived with peace in our nation for so long.

At the time of this prophecy, repentance was not an option.  The nation was past the point of no return.  The Babylonians were coming.  Period.  No other alternative was possible.

So the point of the prophecy was not to encourage repentance so as to change the course of history.  Rather, God simply told them to lean into the exile and all of the horrors that it entailed.

Lean into it?!

Yep.  That was God’s advice.

Here is His view of the exile — a view less grim than what I shared above.

“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.  I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.  I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.  They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”  Jeremiah 24:6-7 NIV

Suddenly, the chicken and the egg problem has at least a tiny bit of definition.   If we extend the sequence from Judah to us, then it goes like this.

-Lack of wholehearted love for God.

-Really stupid choices in life.

-Really painful divine intervention.

-Big decision to fight it, endure it, or lean into it.

-If we lean into it, God will do a heart transplant.

-After He fixes our heart, we can obey Him with all our heart.

Odd, isn’t it?  God’s promised place of a heart transplant is in the place of judgment, not intimate worship.

There must be some verses about His changing our heart when we are in a good place, but the prominent ones are all about our having a right response to pain.

That is hard for me.  My childhood response was to endure.  Suppose I had to write 1,000 standards.  I would settle in for a bad two or three days, but I would do it.  Pay the price, and then be free.  Grounded?  Pay the price and eventually I would be free.  My mindset was always to check out, endure, get through it, and then begin to live again when I got to the end of the judicial sentence.

Having a life in the midst of the discipline is a different perspective.  And getting a new heart that CAN respond to God the right way while I am in the midst of discipline is really a new paradigm.

What does that look like on Monday morning?  Clearly God is doing the heavy lifting with the heart transplant.  I’m quite incapable of fixing my own heart.  But what does it look like for me to lean into a horrible season of judgment in such a way that it does produce that new heart and new ability?

Still chewing on that one, but it sure is a different way to look at doing hard time.

Copyright May 2011 by Arthur Burk

From home

This entry was posted in Inner Healing, Spiritual Growth. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Life During Judgment

  1. Pingback: Life During Judgment (via ) Sapphire Leadership Group « Changed By Love

  2. colleen says:

    I think that is part of why He says ‘be hot or be cold but do not be luke warm its disgusting!’
    When we live out loud and up front we live authentically. This is where truth becomes potentially clear and real growth happens. He is always asking us ‘not to hide’ not in what appears to be success/promotion or in failure/judgment but to own it and become.

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  3. Mike Clarke says:

    Great insight Arthur! Isn’t this what ‘responding in the opposite spirit’ is really all about? Having had 16years of Charismatic prosperity teaching my wife and I had developed a perception that we had a legitimate right to expect God to do EVERYTHING we were standing in ‘faith’ for. He chose to deliver us from that deception by putting us through a process of nine years where NOTHING we were believing for happened! Eventually we started asking God to please reveal our problem to us. I have never felt as embarrassed and ashamed before God as when He revealed a glimpse of the purity of His heart and the contamination in our own! We then started to lean in to the situation asking the question ‘How would YOU have us behave in the situation?’ as opposed to ‘WHY me?’ or ‘Whats wrong with my faith?’ WHAT A DIFFERENCE TO OUR LIVES AND MINISTRY!

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    • SharonLouise says:

      Mike (and wife), I am extremely grateful to God and delighted for you that He delivered you from the “God is MY(bold, italics, underscore) genie” theology. I pray that in this time of economic trauma in America God delivers thousands more from that evil, twisted concept and shows them that He is so much grander and wonderous than their little ‘bottle genie god’ could ever be.

      And thanks for sharing your ‘new question.’ Will begin using that frequently.

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  4. Merry says:

    The daily blessing of 5/6 about the core of turning darkness/creating light and this post touch on areas of my journey and work with God. I understand doing hard time. I was orphaned by natural and spiritual family (they still are alive). I was widowed by a husband who is also still alive. Ritual abuse by those closest and dearest to me. In a small nut shell there was no place for me on this planet. There was no family. Hatred was rampant. The only one who was there was God and His heart for me was/is there is a place. I understand doing hard time—most of my 52 years. God has asked some hard things of me. Things that most would say is not Him. God has had me walking and working through the core of dark, hard and toxic places. There has been God’s heart and will. There has been the darkness of the enemy, humans and my own. The judgement has been multifaceted, too. When God and I started our work full on it was over two decades ago. Of course, He had already been working. God was working to change many things, including me (change is so wonderful). I know battle—long and hard. I know God’s intense commitment. I know how much He has chosen to need us and how much He believes in us. Part of my design was and is to embrace pain—hard pain on different levels for different reasons. I still do. God is still requiring more of me. This world did not want me in it but my God did. He loves me so! He loves us so! Because of this I choose to be my Father’s daughter. He is mine and I am His. Easy? No way. We are made in His image. We live in a most blessed nation and time. Father, Jesus and The Holy Spirit have given us so very much. We can do ALL things through Christ. Just as Big Red (Secretariat) was bred to run with all his heart, I was created and designed to run with all my heart a race and run to win. Big Red’s trainer worked him the hardest before he won the third leg of the triple crown, the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat ran coming from behind to win his races. Secretariat took the lead at the Belmont Stakes and won by 31 lengths. Awesome! I can do ALL things. I rejoice to hear others at least talking about this. Thank you Father!

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  5. Kate says:

    This is the God I know and trust and love very much.

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  6. Joyful says:

    A question that came to mind just today may have an answer in this post. Why is it that my actions are sometimes so out of sync with my highest held values? And then to follow up, Where is the faulty part in my being that overrides my Shepherd, my Truth, my God?

    Thank you for reframing His goodness within the process of heart work.

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  7. Jan O'Connor says:

    I appreciate Graham Cooke’s response to the tough “why?” struggles in our life:
    We are in Christ and no matter what occurs in life, we cannot look for an answer outside of our placement. The two best questions to ask are found in the account of the Day of Pentecost. “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) and, “What shall we do?” (2:37). As believers we must always ask questions in line with our identity. More than wanting answers, we must seek Presence. The Comforter is the only One who can help us. In His Presence I get to ask my favorite question of all, “Lord, what is it that you want to be for me now, that you couldn’t be at any other time?”
    That question has always been answered.

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  8. Colleen says:

    Larry Randolph (I think) said that when God designed your life, He factors in your stupidity, rebellion, unbelief, etc…and still plans to reveal His masterpiece work in us. Thanks for the post – good to chew on in hard times.

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  9. Carla says:

    So. I’ve been asking God for a long time to change my heart so it is childlike again, capable of awe, wonder, belief. I’ve known my heart isn’t where I’d like it to be, although I don’t recall God making any big complaints to me about it until recently.

    A few weeks ago I asked Him why I felt so bad and he took me to James where it talks about infighting because people are mad about not getting what they want. It seems the scripture was being pointed at me. It seemed the infighting that was going on was happening between me and God, though he wasn’t doing any of the fighting.

    It’s been painful these last few years, fighting God on top of painful circumstances that make no sense. That is… they make no sense to me. Perhaps it is judgement. I’ve looked under rock after rock for my sin. I’ve done a lot of cleanup work. I think I’m close to the place where I’m stopping the fighting now.

    This blog post makes me smile. Wouldn’t it be great if all of the pain, all of the digging under rocks is just God being in charge of restoring my heart to it’s childlike capacity of awe, wonder and belief? I don’t know the answer, but I’m still smiling.

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  10. elizabeth says:

    This is wonderful!

    I have just come out of one of those horrid seasons of judgment. I did lean into it and I have come out soaring on the other side. I’d like to add a piece from my story. When I was going through it I knew I was receiving just punishment for the crime. But part of my struggle was that I knew that even though I fully committed the crime for many reasons I had little or no ability not to. There was an issue in my life that I had been praying for God to change, and it seemed as though the answer to my prayer was to make it worse. I was convinced that in many ways it was God who hardened my heart to do the crime. So I wasn’t all too happy about needing to pay the price for a crime that I couldn’t help but commit especially when it was an action that went against what I knew I was asking God to change in my life. I thought about where God speaks about that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I questioned him on it. I always came back to where it speaks about God hardened his heart because He knew him. He knew what he would choose and He knew what it would take to change him if he chose.
    It was during the time of my just judgment where God transformed my heart and freed me from the very thing I was seeking Him to change to begin with. I held these truths with me as I was going through it and at the other end I could see through experience that somehow it was God’s way of answering my prayer. I asked Him to change my heart and instead He increased it – He hardened it because He knew what it would take to change it. I watched in horror as the events that went against my very desire were happening around me uncontrollably. What I was seeking to change only got worse until I committed the ultimate crime. And through the time of punishment He changed my heart.

    I don’t fully understand His ways – but I rejoice and delight in them.

    I am grateful that you have drawn out this truth in His Word. It is beautiful for me to see it both through Scripture and experience.

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  11. Julia A says:

    I went through a season like that a few years back in my early twenties. After I’ve made some pretty awful choices God intervened – yes, it was painful and did not make sense at the moment, but I also knew – I was unable to change myself- my heart was wicked and brain-rot had set in. The judgement time went for about two years and it was a good time, it hurt like nothing else before that, but I knew I was in the process of being changed and I sure did not want to stay in the same place – crippled by my inability to make good choices, to choose life.
    Thank you, Arthur for this post, it was nice to look back and marvel how God never leaves us in our messes and how much He is involved in our lives.

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