A lot of people dear to me are going through some difficult waters right now. Some are in physical pain, some in emotional pain and some in financial pain. Sometimes even the most sold out followers of Jesus want to raise their face to the heavens and scream.
“WHY God? WHAT are you doing? HOW can you let this continue?”
Why in the world did I think I could
Only get to know you when my life was good?
When everything just falls in place
The easiest thing is to give you praise
Now it all seems upside down
I wish that wasn’t true. I wish I was mature enough to recognize God’s blessings every day and praise Him without ceasing in my normal life of comfort or when things go off course. The truth is that I have a righteous new nature housed in a decidedly unrighteous body of flesh. The conflict is constant and real. Paul talked a lot about the conflict in his letter to the Church in Rome. His words are just as relevant today.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Romans 7, NLT)
Pretty depressing. That has been much of my Christian journey. I want to know Him better but on my terms. I want to trust God fully but I also want Him to answer my prayers and keep the blessings flowing freely. I want to make a difference for God but I inevitably default to safety. I feel guilty and sad. Frustrated. Unworthy. And then I read the next words from Paul.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8, NLT)
No condemnation. I have the power within me to overcome sin. Not perfectly to be sure. But I no longer have to sin. The work of Christ is complete. I am forgiven. Changed. I have a new identity. I bring nothing to the dance other than my trust and submission. That is a hard thing for an American achiever. I want to do something. I want to prove myself worthy of Christ. I cannot. I bring nothing. Only when I recognize my need to trust Him fully can I begin to know Him better. That clarity does not come out of prosperity, health, green lights and blue skies. That clarity comes most often out of darkness, deep valleys and scars.
Blessed are the ones who understand
They’ve got nothing to bring but empty hands
Nothing to hide and nothing to prove
Our heartbreak brings us back to you
Henri Nouwen wrote beautifully about the purpose and value of suffering. “We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth. Jesus says, “Cry over your pains, and you will discover that I’m right there in your tears, and you will be grateful for my presence in your weakness.” Ministry means to help people become grateful for life even with pain. That gratitude can send into the world precisely to the places where people are in pain. The minister, the disciple of Jesus, goes where there is pain not because he is a masochist or she is a sadist, but because God is hidden in the pain. Henri Nouwen – The Nouwen Center
Wow. Think of your seasons of growth. I would venture that most of them came out of adversity, pain and struggle.
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart
I don’t know how long this will last
I’m praying for the pain to pass
But maybe this is the best thing that has ever happened to me
‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
Maybe this is how it starts. Today I pray for the comfort for my suffering friends and family. I pray for healing. But I also pray that they (and I) will find God hidden in that pain. That all of us will trust a God who is trustworthy even as we agonize. I pray that we will find that His grace is sufficient. And I pray that all of us embrace the truth that brokenness and pain is how a loving Father must sometimes get our attention.
I find you when–
You will find me when–
I fall apart
This journey is not and never will be easy. But there is one promise from Jesus that I hold onto.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”