WHAT IS THE GAIN?
Much of our lives is absorbed with lots of activities that consume our energy, thoughts and attention on almost a daily basis. Things such as working a job to be able to pay bills, or trying to figure out from one month to the next HOW to pay those bills. Our attention can be drawn to how we decorate our homes and yards, or the desire to travel, or ways to get ahead on our local social ladder or in the work arena. Some of us like to collect things, while others like to sell and trade. We fill our lives with lots of activities, and some of those activities can become very demanding. That demanding nature is certainly the case with the process of divorce, as couples haggle over parental access schedules, the division of property, developing plans for a holiday schedule…all of which have to be determined as part of the process after which the judge will declare the divorce final.
I remember a couple of conversations I had with friends during that miserable time. One was surprised at some of the items I chose not take, sharing with me the viewpoint that I had not taken a fair share of items. Whether the perception was accurate or not, I do not know, but I remember responding that it didn’t matter, as those things were just “stuff,” and that what was really important to me was already gone, which was my intact family and marriage. Another individual observed my reactions along the way, and commented on being struck by the way I continued to try to seek God’s help and guidance in the struggle, even though it was hard to do. That was an encouraging comment, whether the perception was fully accurate or not.
There is a verse in Mark 8 that has often reminded me of how easily we can get distracted in life. The 36th verse simply says: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (NASB). I believe that no matter what is going on in our lives, this verse summarizes the trap that exists--that there are things demanding our attention and goals we may seek, but if we do so without considering the eternal consequences of our choices, we have ultimately failed…no matter how successful the world considers us to be.
For those caught in the throes of divorce, suppose you do get your way, obtain everything you want and win every contest at court. If your sell your soul to get it, did you really win anything? Everyone faces this test in one way or another. You might make the top rung in the corporate world, but what price did you pay to claw your way there? I think of those who like to consider themselves at the height of fashion, popularity or wealth, all of which will gain them nothing if they forfeited their soul along the way.
There is another verse I like as well, from the book of Proverbs, 4:23-- “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” We are so diligent about doing the work assigned to us, or to keeping the yard up, or paying the bills on time, or being part of that important social club, but it is even more important to be diligent about taking care of our hearts. We tend to our hearts by keeping them from things that would lead us astray, by keeping them tender toward the voice of God, by keeping our hearts free from bitterness and unforgiveness. How often life places such intense demands upon us that we can easily become distracted from taking care of the issues of the heart, which is first and foremost an issue between ourselves and God.
One of my seminary professors, Maynard Hatch, used to say, “The trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you are still a rat!” Today, I just want to challenge my readers to a little self-assessment. Where are you in life? What are you caught up in? If you are in the process of divorce, have you allowed it to consume you and lead you off track, or to plant troubling things within your heart? I encourage you to take a few minutes to sit down quietly, just you and God, perhaps with a calendar, checkbook and Bible before you, to examine your life and your heart, and take a careful measure of whether you have lost focus. What does it profit if you get things working your way here, if in the end, you forfeit your soul? Take stock of your life, and make sure that the priorities of your life match the priorities God desires you to have. And do it before it is too late. God is more interested in helping you get back on track, than most of us are to find that track in the first place. God will help you get there, if you but give him the chance. Don’t let anything, not even divorce or an argument with someone at church, lead you off God’s track for your life.