9.29.2007

the summer of our discontent

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Let me just be honest right up front—this has not been a fun year. I’ve gone through a lot of hurt, heartache and just utter annoyance these past few months. Little things that probably wouldn’t normally bother me have been compounded and piling up right beside the big life changes I’ve had to deal with.

Along with the departures of so many friends (as mentioned in the previous post) have come a number of smaller issues, including an unexpected and costly car repair, a simultaneous credit card crisis and even a sudden case of hives. I started to become gun shy, nervously asking, “What’s next?” and the ever-popular, “Did I do something wrong?”

I definitely don’t ever want to fall into the “inconvenienced American who has everything” ungratefulness trap. At this point in my life, I realize I have far more than I could ever need materially, and for that I am most certainly grateful to God. But at the same time, the constant barrage, primarily with the loss of companionship, made me feel I could relate a little bit more to Job and David and a few other "heroes of the faith" who asked the question, "Why?"

Back when I got the official word my closest friends were leaving too, well, a lot of things happened as I tried to cope. So many thoughts ran through my head. I knew life was about to change dramatically, and painfully. But, strangely, the thing that initially kept crossing my mind was Jesus in Gethsemane before His execution. He knew what was coming, He knew it was going to hurt severely and He knew He didn't want to hurt. I also thought of His weeping at the death of Lazarus.

I just kept thinking, my Lord knows pain. He knows loss. Despite His infinitely superior eternal perspective, life in this fallen world (because of His love for this fallen race) still hurt even Him. Why should I expect any less?

I did have opportunity this summer to spend time with several friends in their various situations, in the throes of their own changes and fears. Clearly I wasn't the only one going through unpleasant circumstances, which didn't help matters at all from my perspective. And right in the midst of everything, at a point when things were feeling most bleak, I heard one remark in a way reminiscent of Deuteronomy 1:27, "Maybe God hates us."

That got my attention.

First of all, I did not want my friend to hurt too. Bad enough what I was going through. But, more importantly, I knew it wasn't true.

We believe in God because God called us to do so. He saved us from His own wrath with His own blood. And if He loves us enough to do that, to die for all the things we've done to offend Him, only incomprehensible love can be the explanation.

True, God does hate our pride and pettiness and lack of desire for Him. But for those of us He has called, I'm beginning to see that He often brings about circumstances not out of hate, but in order to break us of those things, to change us and mold us into who He wants us to be—even in circumstances that make us hate this life so we long even more to be with Him.

In his sermon “What On Earth Am I Here For?," Dr. David Jeremiah speaks to this idea, stating, “While (Christians) know that the ultimate and most important answers have come from Christ, we also have this ache, because we can’t find total satisfaction while we’re here. Did you know that God has created us in such a way so as to keep us from becoming too attached to the Earth? He allows us to feel a significant amount of discontent, even as believers, so that these longings can never be fulfilled until we’re in eternity.”

C.S. Lewis makes the point this way, “Our Heavenly Father has provided many delightful ends for us along life’s journey, but he takes great care to see that we do not mistake any of them for home.”

Just as Job didn't know why his world was crumbling around him, often neither can we. Sometimes maybe we did, in fact, "do something wrong." After all, every one of us has sinned. But that's not always the reason. We live in a fallen world, and in that way are still separated from God's presence. Things here will continue to go wrong for each of us until we see Him face to face. And, in the meantime, those things should make us long for that moment all the more.

At the same time, there are often further purposes for our suffering—one of which is to be a blessing to others.

I had the great blessing and humbling privilege to learn after the fact that my toil this summer in assisting some of my friends helped one to later realize God was showing them His love through me. Hearing this immediately helped me to see how the Lord had worked and prompted my actions in every painful circumstance during those weeks, and even in things that seemed unrelated through the years. Sharing portions of this story has, in turn, helped several others, Christian and non-Christian, in different circumstances of their own, showing them that God is, in fact, in control. And all of it has brought me even closer to my Lord and to some of the people I love most in this world.

All this has also prompted me to wonder in just what other circumstances and ways I have affected others and never even known. It has allowed me to see that everything we do, everything we go through, happens for a reason, whether we know it immediately or not. There are no coincidences. Life isn't about our "happiness" in the world, it's about God's glory and, for the believer, our increasing holiness in becoming more like Christ and finding our joy and happiness in Him.

Another quote from the aforementioned sermon by Dr. Jeremiah states, “…life isn’t about using God for our purposes, it’s about God using us for His purposes. It’s about God showing us how we fit into His plan …if you don’t want to be in God’s plan, you’re gonna miss the purpose for which you were born because almighty God created you for Himself, not for you. The Bible is very clear about that, God created us for Himself.”

It is an honor and a privilege to get just a glimpse of how the Lord has used me for His glory, especially when being used in that way is a position I definitely don't deserve.

I pray now, for myself, my friends and every believer, that we learn to see things from an eternal perspective, even as we and our loved ones go through things we cannot now comprehend, and through all of it that we continue to long for our true home with our Lord.

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." -Philippians 3:20

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long distance runaround

1 comment:

CovenantGuy said...

Yeah...I'm definitely taking the long-view of these things.

Thanks for showing me this. I appreciate you, sis.