Two houses built on contrasting foundations illustrate Jesus’ final point in the Sermon on the Mount. They are metaphors for two kinds of lives: one built on the solid foundation of a relationship with Jesus, the other built on the shifting sands of the world. When the storms of life overwhelm us, He shows us that trusting Him is the only way to remain rock solid.
Acting on Jesus’ words instead of trying to muddle through on our own worldly wisdom fortifies our foundations. God has shown me the truth of this time and time again. Ironically, one of the most significant opportunities involved the actual house where I live and occurred from 2010 to 2012. To share this story, I’ve chosen excerpts from the first and last chapters of a book manuscript I wrote. As you read, think about the storms in your life, both past and present, and what they reveal about your foundation.
Paragraphs below are excerpted from my unpublished book manuscript entitled: From Our Mess to God’s Best: Remodeling a Heart and a Home.
Ripping out the filthy carpet felt liberating. Matted and stained from heavy use and construction dust, it barely resembled the pristine cream color it had once been when we’d bought the house almost sixteen years earlier. I longed to be rid of it, but also wondered what we’d find underneath. What I discovered was not the 1950’s hardwood floors I’d expected to see in our little one-story house. Instead, it was a patchwork of particleboard and tattered wood planks sloppily covered with white paint by a previous owner to seal in strong odors. This is hideous, I thought.
As I worked, I mulled over the painful transformation occurring within me. God must have a sense of humor–this floor reminds me of myself. How could I have known a remodel would strip away all of my façades and show the ugliest parts of my character? Just when I thought I was spiritually mature and had life figured out, God keeps revealing that I’m not the person I thought I was.
Christmas music played over the soft hum of our new furnace, contrasting the cold, grey day outside our front window. Tearing out the living room carpet wasn’t the activity I’d planned to do with my boys over Christmas vacation, but it had to be done. It felt good to have work progress after using this one room for making meals, eating, doing homework, watching TV, playing and being together. With our kitchen and family room under construction, it had been our only living space for seven months. The physical chaos of living in the house while it was remodeled had been nothing compared to the emotional upheaval of working with our unreliable contractor, who would disappear for days at a time leaving us wondering if he was ever coming back.
Over the months, the process of remodeling our tiny home had been filled with revealing moments like this one. Some of them had been structural, as we’d watched our kitchen and family room being torn out–others had been spiritual as God refined us using unexpected challenges. We’d anticipated the financial cost of the project and the inconvenience it would cause, but had failed to recognize the emotional and spiritual toll it would take on us.
The thought of having our faith stretched by our remodel hadn’t occurred to my husband or me. We’d learned to trust God through a number of hardships and had favorite Bible verses that comforted us through job transitions, difficult relationships, anxiety, depression and the deaths of family members. We believed God used hardships for good and had seen evidence of it in our lives.
However, we also prided ourselves in our self-sufficiency and our ability to problem-solve smaller issues on our own. Good planning and common sense had kept daily life orderly for almost seventeen years of marriage. We’d never considered that the Lord had things to teach us through the problems that arose from living in a privileged, industrialized society. God was using a mess of our own making to transform us from the inside out, whether we wanted Him to or not.
The process of our remodel and the many other challenging events we endured over the course of it tested our faith and stretched us almost to the breaking point. By God’s grace, we learned to call on His name through these trials. We learned to wait and watch for His answers in His timing. We let Him do His refining work in us, as painful as it was.
Through that process, God revealed many ugly impurities in me that needed to be surrendered to Him. First and foremost was my constant need to be in control. I operated for many years under the assumption that if I tried hard enough, played by the rules and planned ahead, I could keep life clicking along according to my perfect plans. God showed me that any control I have is merely an illusion. Any aspect of my carefully orchestrated life could change at a moment’s notice. I can make plans but must give God room to alter them according to His will.
God’s grace has become much more profound to me. Understanding that He sent His son for my sake, that He gives me the free gift of eternal life is more profound to me than ever before. What I didn’t grasp previously was the daily grace He shows me every time I sin. He loves me and thinks the best of me, even when I’m at my worst. I need to offer this same grace to others instead of filling in the blanks with negative assumptions about them. When I’m tempted to criticize, judge or condemn I need to show understanding, mercy and forgiveness instead.
As the remodeling process stripped away the old things and revealed the structure of our home, it also revealed the structure of our family. Both needed changes, but ultimately, their foundations were sound. Jesus describes the significance of a firm foundation in the gospel of Matthew. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). I am thankful that He is the foundation of our family. He carried us through and redeemed our home and our hearts in the process, moving us for our mess to His best.
So, how does your foundation hold up when the storms of life blow in? What are you doing to fortify it when the going is easy? Is there one message from the Sermon on the Mount that would strengthen your foundation further? Ask God to guide you so you can make it stronger, starting today.
I can think of no better song to emphasize the importance of a firm foundation in Christ than “Cornerstone” by Hillsong. Click on the link to be inspired by this song.