At the moment I have that harrowed feeling one gets after spending a night having nightmares (which I did.) I have that sad feeling one gets when one has sat across from friend after friend who’s had something rough going on–or is making choices that will hurt them. I have a stream of anxiety coursing through my veins from financial fiasco after financial fiasco. I have suppressed panic from a hefty academic load (multiple, long research-projects). And I have that cut-loose-and-missing feeling brought on by my (effectively) third break-up just a month ago.
Sometimes life’s just hard. For a long time.
We preach best what we need to learn most. (That’s a line from the Luther film but I assume somebody famous actually said it. Google says Richard Bach.) So I’ll proclaim to you what I’m proclaiming to myself.
We’re told since we’re babes in the church that we’re saved by Grace–that nothing we do merit’s God’s favor. Yet even now–after walking with the Lord for years and years–even the best of us can fall into thinking that good behavior necessitates a blessed life. No, sure, none of us think it quite as blatantly as, If I’m good, God will bless me. But when a hard time hits the first thing we think is… What did I do? Because somehow the thinking slips in there–that if we live our lives unto the Lord, seeking His will, doing what is right, we will prosper–the fruit of our hands will be Blessed.
But the reality is something very different. Unless you’ve very young–or lived an incredibly charmed life–hardship, heart-ache, and disappointment will inevitably strike home.
Christ never promised pain-free lives. In fact, as followers of Christ we are told we will suffer as He has suffered.
I was comforted–not long ago, by Keller talking about how when we become Christians–instead of all that pain going away, our hearts of stone are exchanged for hearts of flesh. We are only more in tune with the suffering of those around us, only more keenly aware that this world is broken and we don’t belong to it.
I had a little break-through a few Sundays ago (maybe writing about it will help me remember what I learned). My pastor was talking about how we are commanded not to grumble and complain–like the Israelites did. God brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand–and they accused Moses, “Have you brought us here to die in the desert?” God shielded them from Pharoah’s army, He brought them across the Red-Sea–and as the WATERS drowned their enemies they complained about being THIRSTY, that God won’t provide for them. They got tired of manna from heaven–and God sent quail. He lead them to the Promised Land–a land flowing with milk and honey–and they were scared ’cause the Canaanites are tall. And it didn’t end there… each time, God was blessing them and they couldn’t see beyond their own immediate discomfort.
The example certainly struck home. I can attest that all three of my love relationships–as painful as each of them not working out was (and still is), was for the best–for mine and theirs. God was faithful. I can attest that my crazy college career–here, then there, then here again–has lead to a lot of growth, a lot of opportunities, a lot of blessings. I’ve been able to be with my family more than most college students–particularly my littlest sister–I’ve been blessed to take the gospel with me wherever I’ve gone. It’s been crazy. But it’s been character-building.
I keep telling God, as He proves His faithfulness over and over–that next time, NEXT time I won’t freak out. I’ll trust. I’ll wait and see–watch and know that God is good.
But then the next crisis hits and I freak all over again. But I’d like to think I’m getting better. We are called to recount the works of the Lord in our lives–and as I dwell on what He has done, I am forced to conclude that His faithfulness will continue.
For since our relationship never WAS based on what I have done–so too it is not NOW based on what I am doing. Nothing can separate me from the Love of God… there is now no longer condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…
Then why the suffering? Why the trial?
Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4
The scriptures give the very clear answer. Our trials are for our perfection–our completeness… so that–this phrase which rings true and dear to me–WE WILL LACK NOTHING.
How much I lack now. I am constantly feeling it. Praise God He is not content to leave me as I am–He will not stop until He is done–He is breaking up this dry and depleted dirt, He is preparing my ground for a harvest of holiness.
Till then, the tilling is rough. I have so much chaff for the Spirit to burn away. But I am comforted to know that He has not intended me to live this life of learning forever–but that on that final day when all else but Paradise fades away, I will stand complete in Christ–lacking nothing.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18