Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
In order to discard the theological errors of his day, Oswald Chambers wrote (as recorded in My Utmost for His Highest for today, December 2), “If it was God’s will to bruise His own Son, why shouldn’t He bruise you?” Some Christians back then, just like today, saw faith in Christ as a magical procedure for eliminating pain and maximizing pleasure in life. “God would never make me sick. God would never make me have a bad day. God wants me to have what I think is the best always.” This kind of thinking reduces God to a vending machine. It also removes God from the arena of worship. If God is my spiritual employee, my Director of Acquisitions, how then do I come around to worshipping Him?
My family and I are going through a difficult time. Many families are, for one reason or another. We are overwhelmed. We are not immune to this. We are not entitled to better. God, instead, gives us many good things through Christ’s Cross to help us when we need real help. Let’s remember some together…
- The Cross begins with the manger. The physical hardship of life was the first thing Jesus wanted us to see Him experiencing. He knows this stuff I’m going through. He knows the stuff you’re going through. He wants us, through the story of His birth, to know that He gets it and that He gets us. We struggle. We’re sore. We need protection. Our resources are less than adequate.
- Life is noble. If today must be a good day and I must be happy, then I am missing out on life’s nobility. I am then reduced to a sub-human, soulless organism fleeing pain out of fear and chasing pleasure out of greed. Christ’s birth, as well as His death, shows me that He lived for more than “having a good day.” He enjoyed good things in His human life, but He did not serve or worship them; He would not be tempted by the Devil to sell His Cross or His Crown for them.
- Life between Genesis and Revelation is bound to death. I cannot live a death-free life. It is not God’s will for any of us, not even His One and Only Son. Because Jesus died too, I believe I will one day live without death. That day is not today, but He has not abandoned me to today; He is with me always, through everything. Shannon and I are praying – just stopping everything and praying – a lot more these days. Prayer is always God’s will, I think.
Suffering is not a virtue in itself. No one I know is buying that it is. Suffering can, however, bring a spiritual fertility to our lives that would otherwise be out of reach. I don’t seek suffering, but I don’t want to cower in its wake either. My only recourse is to turn it into devotion. Faith makes pain replenish my devotion. The Advent and Christmas story we find in the Bible, besides being true history, is an illustration of how this works. It is not a pretty story, but it is the greatest story. And now it changes my story. How about yours?