God is no stranger to pain. Isn’t that what Lent is all about? We forget that He has been there. God has experienced pain, death, rejection, and separation from
those He loves. Each year we take the opportunity to be reminded of the suffering of Christ.
Why is it important that we remember Christ’s suffering anyway? Why can’t we just focus on His teachings? Why can’t we just focus on His positive example and social witness? Just this, Jesus’ social witness and positive example do little for us when someone we love is uprooted, when someone in our family dies, or when we experience sickness or pain in our own bodies. We need more than grand theological concepts of God’s kindness; we need a God who can identify with our pain. How can God expect to understand what we’re going through? He is unchanging, and everything here is always
changing. How can we trust God with our insecurities, fears, and hurts if He has never felt the kind of loss we feel on a regular basis? But that is the story of Lent. God became like us, so that we might become like Him.
This is an amazing mystery.
God, the source of all joy, exposed himself to grief.
God, the source of all life, exposed himself to death.
God, the source of all love, exposed himself to rejection.
God, who binds all things together, exposed himself to separation.
We do not have a God who is ignorant about the emotions that we experience. Rather we have a God who came as a human, to live a human life, with all its pain so that we might have hope. So as we continue in this season of Lent, as we cry our tears for those who we all will miss, let us take heart and remember that our God sees our tears and He cries with us; and let us praise Him for His marvelous acts.
Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”
Job knew something of which we are often ignorant. The most important things in our lives depend on our choices. We often degrade love, forgiveness, and worship to simple emotional responses. But if these things were merely emotional, then they would be very fickle responses indeed. We would only love those who loved us in return. We would only forgive those who groveled enough to satiate our anger, and we would only worship a God who continually brought us good things.
Yes, Job was onto something. His Children had all died, his health was failing, his own wife told him to “curse God and die” just to get it over with, his friends told him that all this trouble must be God punishing him for some hidden sin, and yet Job chose to worship. He chose to put his hope and his trust in God despite the circumstances. He went so far as to say, “God could outright kill me, and I would still put my hope in Him.” He knew what I often forget. My circumstances to not change God’s holiness, compassion, love, or any other attribute of his character. God is still worthy of my hope and my worship. God is still worthy of our worship. God is still worthy of your worship.
This week, join with me in examining God’s faithfulness in the light of tragedy; and join with Job in choosing to worship God in spite of, because of, and in all circumstances.
(Matt: 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.)
There are some who believe that when you become a Christian everything will turn out all right. I have known many who accepted Christ joyfully, but became disillusioned because life continued to be hard. But Jesus never promised us that life would be easy. God never assured us that we would avoid pain. In fact, Jesus said exactly the opposite. John 15: 20 “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” And in John 16:33, “I have told you these [difficult] things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In this is our hope: Not that all our problems will disappear, but that the one who faced these problems, and overcame them, walks with us.
Now, I know that no one here believed that life would right itself as soon as you accepted Christ. So why write this article? Many times in my own life I faced a difficult situation, and prayed for God to remove it. But in doing so, I neglected the incredible gift God gives us. In the above passage, Jesus spends over a chapter giving the disciples the bad news of all the horrific things that would happen to them for following Him. But when he finished with the bad news, he said something very odd. “I have told you these [difficult] things, so that in me you may have peace.” Even in the midst of trials, even in the midst of pain, God offers us peace. Even in the midst of turmoil, God offers us a calm spirit; a peace that passes understanding. When difficulties arise, we seldom forget to pray, but often we forget to pray for the right things. We forget to pray for peace, for hope, and for the presence of Christ to be made real to us in the midst of those circumstances. We often pray that God would take away the burden, when the thing for which he wants us to pray is stronger shoulders to carry the weight.
Homework this week is simple. Each morning when you wake, and each evening before bed, pray a short prayer asking God to give you His peace. We will be amazed at the difference it makes.
Have you ever been stressed? Ever been a little anxious? Me too. The things that weigh us down can be as small as trying to make something fit into our schedules, to as big as the health of a loved one. But no matter what things weigh us down; God has a better way to handle our stress. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” -Philippians 4:6
Now I’ve heard this verse a million times, and I would guess that you’ve heard it too, but there is something in here that I think we often miss. “…by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” How well does our God know us? If you are like me, we find it easy to worry even in our prayers. Even as we approach the Prince of Peace we are so overcome by anxiety that we end up pleading with God to meet our needs; but our anxiety, stress and worry are unnecessary! Just a few verses later, Paul tells the Philippians, “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 God knows what the provision for our need is before we even ask!
This week’s homework: Don’t worry! Be thankful! Make your requests known to God through thankful prayer.