My grandmother assured me many times when I was young “The Lord won’t put anything on you you can’t bear.” As I became an adult, I questioned that wisdom many times in my life. But, what do you know, I’m still here!
And yet, I would be less than honest if I didn’t also say events and troubles in my life have left their scars. But it is also true that the unbelievable joys of life have also left their marks on me as well. So, how do I keep a proper perspective in times of great troubles or stress so that I don’t forget the joys of life? And how do I stay sober and awake during great moments of my life so that I’m not caught off guard when troubles come?
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 10:12-22:
BRETHREN, let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible men: judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of the demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of the demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
St. Paul is such a good spiritual father to these Corinthians in giving them what they need for a peaceful and purposeful life! He gives them proactive sobriety! Look at what he teaches them:
First, God is not their enemy! It isn’t the Lord’s desire or purpose to hurt you, punish you, or see what He can get out of you. God loves you. Period. God wants you to be at peace and to be healed from all that makes you less than He made you to be! God is NOT your enemy. EVER! Now you may be (foolishly) His enemy, but that’s not going to end well for you! The first step in getting over the “yo-yo” life of intoxicating ups and downs is to FIRST settle the identity of God. He is not out to get you! In fact, in every situation in your life He has made “the way of escape” if you are willing to take it!
Next, You ARE your own enemy at times. When we put ourselves in situations where it’s easy to compromise our faith or to place ourselves in less than spiritually healthy situations, we become “those who oppose themselves” as St. Paul says in another place. When we live “double-minded” lives, trying to stand in the Eucharistic life of the Church AND in the base neglect of a “secular” life, we set up a “no win” situation for ourselves. It’s like buying cookies when you start a diet! St. Paul tells these Corinthians, and us, that participation in the Eucharist is a real participation in Christ AND participation in the base practices of the world IS participation in that darkness. So, you gotta choice, dear one. Which world do you want to live in?
Today, it’s hard to keep faithful. Pretending it isn’t is simply delusion. That’s why the Church gives us so many ways to escape this dilemma and to heal us when we make bad choices. We have regular confession. We have the discipline of frequent prayers and worship. We have every tool to “escape” being swallowed by life’s difficult times, and it all hinges on our proactive sobriety in being Orthodox on Purpose!