In these verses lie the secret work of the Christian.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

Things on the earth have been louder than ever lately, like a screaming toddler who missed her nap and won’t be pacified, even with beautiful and cherished things. The world streams a tantrum of crisis and promises.

But quieting things on the earth in favor of things above is the whisper running through all the words of our Savior:

Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.
Seek first the kingdom of God.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, right here as it is up there.

This is the hard and invisible task of the Christ-life — shifting my soul address from earth to heaven, long before death comes to load up the boxes. The work is sorting out my problems and blessings and then packing them up in the same carton, marked temporary, unworthy. 

For most of my problems aren’t problems at all. They are mislabeled grace.

They are ribbons on gifts I’ve entwined so tightly with my identity that a crack in the plans strangles me with fear and regret.

They are tied up with blessings I’ve woven so deeply into my heart that my soul hoards against their possible loss rather than drinking in the joy of all I’ve been given.

They are frustrations wrapped around grace another girl out there longs for — the kind of normal she’d shed blood to get back to — family, resources, health, freedom.

When you find yourself consumed by the hope and fears and joys that are on the earth, and no thing that is above is within sight —

1. Don’t settle for guilt. It’s easy to start and stop at beating yourself up for loving this world more than God’s kingdom. But guilt is a state of the heart, never an agent to transform it. Guilt is not holy, and it does not lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is a temporary tool of the devil (Revelation 12:10) — a deceitful salve for our souls that lets us throw dollars at suffering and half-hearted prayers and regret at sin and change nothing.

2. Edit your life. Recognize when good gifts have become the seeds of frustration. Pack up some blessings — or the worship of all you thought they could bring you — to set them aside for a time or for always.

3. Practice gratitude. Write your thankfulness down, speak it out loud, rehearse it with family. Bleed gratitude for blessings so often that, if one were lost, you would know you were overwhelmed by it to the full.

This is the life set on things above — propelled by gratefulness and not guilt, curated and refined to untie the cords of this world.  This is the life that begins heaven on earth — the life that makes even death a small step instead of terrifying leap — the life that doesn’t always get us past problems, but beyond so much of their power.

This is the life that cries out we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)

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For the crushing problems, far from any dream of normal, there are other treasures in today’s verse. More on that in the next post.

If you want more joy, you have to plan for it.

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