Will we become more loving by examining our heart, or by spending time with people in need?
Will we gain more faith by analysing our doubts, or by meditating on inspired and inspiring words?
Will we become more joyful by asking why we’re sad, or by doing something joyous?
The education system of the Western world has trained us to approach problems intellectually, and through that some amazing discoveries have been made. The therapeutic culture which we love encourages us to approach our personal issues through introspection and self-examination, and tremendous personal change can happen that way.
And yet, there is also a place for dealing with our personal issues through active disciplines, which may be small but powerful.
I recently spent a day with a wise pastor, who gave me the amazing gift of listening to me talk out my personal issues for the best part of that day. Towards the end of it, he proposed something incredibly helpful. He suggested that I engage in a very particular form of service, that no one would notice and that would only make a small difference to one person at a time. The point, he said, was that I would experience joy in making even a small difference to a single individual, and that this joy would reorder my sense of what’s really important and cause joy to spread throughout my life. And, already, I am indeed finding new joy in the smallest of things.
Jesus changes us from the inside out, but there are times when a small act of faith breaks open the windows of heaven. That surely is what Jesus was after when he asked a man to lift up with withered arm (Matt 12:13) or invited his disciples to say who he really was (Mark 8:29).
How, then, might we experience more of God in our lives? Will it be through carefully probing of our feeling and our failings, or by lifting up our hands and our voices?
We would do well to approach Sunday worship (and any time of worship in between) with the words of the Sursum Corda, dating back to the third century:
Lift up your hearts to the Lord!
We lift them to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
Or, by commanding our own souls to go higher, as King David did:
O my soul, lift God high, all my inmost being, praise his holy name!
O my soul, lift God high, and don’t forget a single blessing!