Sunday, December 21, 2014

Humble Help

As we wrap up 2014 and look towards 2015 I find myself reflecting on where life has gone during these twelve months. While I've had some high points (like losing 50 pounds) to be frank this year has been thematically marked by pain, depression and loneliness. A new job assignment that is not going well. Multiple family deaths, the most recent being my grandmother. Terminal illness in other relatives. Marginalization by those who share my faith.

And a very Merry Christmas to you, sir.

Throughout these long days I've looked inward and outward desperately searching for God in the midst of all this. Where are you in all this pain? Why can't I sense your presence? Why can't I feel your peace? Have you abandoned me?

When I search the Bible for hope I find passages that speak to the goodness of God.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3
Never will I leave; never will I forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.
Matthew 7:11
So if God wants to love on me, wants to give me good gifts, and wants me to find Him why so much pain? How is this a good gift?

My upbringing as an American has conditioned me to pursue comfort above all. Find a steady job. Buy a nice house. Raise your family. Pay your taxes. My upbringing as a Pentecostal has conditioned me to expect only wealth, health and prosperity from God. With faith you can move mountains. Sickness is an attack of the enemy and with enough faith you can cast out any discomfort.

Both of these viewpoints reinforce the idea that the physical world, the here-and-now is what's most important and that God should be most concerned with our immediate satisfaction. But what if this life was not the greatest reality? What if this life is a starting point to a much larger and grander destination? What if the pain we experience here is a tool God uses to shape and polish us into the glorious creatures we are becoming?

Pain is the most painful when it appears pointless. But with God there are no mistakes and no coincidences. If you believe God is all-good, all-powerful and all-loving then you must accept His sovereignty over how things are in this life, even the painful moments. He is permissively allowing or explicitly causing things to happen here and you have to trust Him. Trust that he has your best in mind, no matter what our culture says about pain. Pain has a purpose in God's kingdom. As Jesus' half-brother says:
Consider it the purest of  joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4
Jesus is the Son of God, King above all other kings, Lord above all other lords. And yet He was born in the humblest of circumstances. He was not born to thunderous applause nor a fanfare of royal trumpets but the simple bleating of sheep. His human life shows a progression from painful, humble beginnings to the final destination of ruling and reigning with God the Father. Should we expect anything different in our lives as we follow Him?

I wrap up this year with a video and prayer. Father, be with all those who are in the valley. Help them to persevere, to find you in the darkness. May they rest assuredly in your grace and purpose. May they find their delight in knowing that you are accomplishing a good work in them. May they approach pain and difficulty with the purest form of joy. Shape all of us into the pure, spotless bride. And quicken the day of the glorious return of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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