How much are you willing to pay to have it your way? It sounds like a harsh question but I know for me it was one of the most strategic questions of my life. The saying is cute when it represents a fast food restaurant and Burger King succeeded in making it part of our mainstream culture. It is not so attractive when someone you love can’t figure out the obvious answer.
I loved Pam’s dad as much as anyone I have ever met. He was as generous, energetic, and loyal as a man could be. My kids enjoyed spending time with him because he loved to play and tell stories. When he wasn’t drinking he was far and away their best grandparent. Intellectually, he knew alcohol was not good for him but it had a grip on him that nothing else on earth could compete with. We prayed for him daily over the course of two decades. When he lost his first marriage, we thought maybe that would get his attention. When he lost his cherished career, we thought maybe that would get his attention. When his health started failing him, we thought maybe his second heart surgery would get his attention. When he lost his second marriage, we thought maybe . . . and on and on it went. We kept wondering when he would hit bottom and come to his senses. Sadly and joyfully, it finally happened in the last hours of his life. Shortly before a heart attack took him from this world, he read Steps to Peace with God one more time and surrendered to his Savior.
I spent a lot of time wondering why the trouble in his life didn’t get his attention sooner and motivate him to change. As I have progressed in years, I have discovered that people are pretty good at ignoring trouble in their lives when their heart is set on having it their own way. Consider King Ahaz in 2 Chronicles 28. He had the privilege of becoming king at age 20 and he had a 16 year reign. He stubbornly wanted to choose his own path, however, rather than seeking God’s wisdom and direction. Once that determination took root, reasoning took flight and he started doing things that were so obviously wrong anyone could have advised him not to do them. Consider the decisions he made and ask yourself, “is it hard to figure out that he should have avoided these?”
- He made idols for worshiping the Baals (v. 2)
- He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom (v. 3)
- He sacrificed his children in the fire (v. 3)
- He engage “in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites” (v. 3)
- He promoted wickedness in Judah (v. 19)
- He “had been most unfaithful to the LORD” (v. 19)
- He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus (v. 22)
- “He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem.” (v. 24)
Is there anything on this list that is even remotely close to being a good idea? God tried to get Ahaz’s attention by allowing trouble to come his way. “In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah . . . Zikri, an Ephraimite warrior, killed Maaseiah the king’s son, Azrikam the officer in charge of the palace, and Elkanah, second to the king. The men of Israel took captive from their fellow Israelites who were from Judah two hundred thousand wives, sons and daughters. They also took a great deal of plunder, which they carried back to Samaria.” (v. 6-8) You would think that somewhere along the way it would have been enough to cause his heart to change and for him to seek the Lord for guidance.
As I read the passage I thought, surely the death of his son would have touched something in him to get him to ask, “What am I doing?” Surely that would be tragic enough to get him to soften and turn to his God. Apparently, when the heart is callused there is no guarantee that calamity will break through.
You probably have your own stories of people you love who will pay any price to maintain their pride and you are probably as surprised as I am at their ability to ignore the obvious discipline of our gracious God. I started thinking today that I need to pray differently. “Lord Jesus, please keep my heart soft before you so I don’t fall prey to the pride that makes people nonresponsive to the obvious truths of life. Please soften the hearts of my family members so they can respond to what are obviously the best decisions of life. Remind me next time I see someone ignoring the difficulties of life that I need to ask you to soften their hearts so they can see also.”