Archives For hardship

Much ink has been spilled about the injustices, the inequities, seen all around us everyday. Kids go to bed hungry while parents shoot up dope. Or worse, kids wind up dead. There isn’t day goes by without a report of road rage; somebody cut someone else off, and then someone gets beat, shot, or run over. We regulate, legislate, send folks to anger management classes, hold sensitivity training at work, and try to watch our words. We’re simultaneously anxious, uptight, fried, yet we somehow don’t want to offend…

We sublimate, self-medicate, and stuff our feelings. Is it any wonder, with the the amounts of both intrinsic, and extrinsic, repression that there are slips in the space/time continuum? That there are blow ups? We are selfish by nature, out to get our own, looking out for number one (as the saying goes). We’re indignant when someone tramples upon our (perceived) rights, yet have no trouble trampling another’s rights, boundaries, space, to get what’s ours.

It’s reductio ad absursum. Yet we are blind to it. And no matter how enlightened, how modern, we become there are no programs, classes, sweat lodges, pilgrimages, substances, or really anything which can effect a change in what we call human nature. The heart simply cannot be changed by anything existing within the same broken, reprobate system in which it itself dwells. This calls for outside intervention.

No cleanses, juice fasts, or high colonics will ever rid us of the foolishness bound up in our hearts. A wise teacher once said it is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but rather that which comes out of him.

Out of his heart.

Many, many there are who seek enlightenment upon their own terms. But few there are who find new life.

The kids are not all right.

That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. He may not be the immediate answer to every ill in this vale of tears, but He certainly is the ultimate one.

Seek Him while He may be found.

Happy Endings/Hope

randomlychad  —  January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

'Happy Ending' photo (c) 2012, HarshLight - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Sometimes, there are no happy endings. Scratch that. Many times, there are no happy endings. We need look no further than the world around us: that car accident we may have passed on the way to work, the cat’s corpse laying dead in the street (some would say this isn’t a bad thing. Tell that to the child whose cat this was), the death of a spouse, parent, grandparent, friend… a marriage’s end. These are not happy tidings. No, this is more par for the course in this place the Scriptures term a “vale of tears.” Life isn’t fair, things don’t work out the way we want.

In this, we find ourselves in august company:

Abraham, who looked forward to the promise, yet died before it was fulfilled.

Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed, living there in Sodom.

Moses, who through anger, lost the Promised Land.

David, whose hands were too blood-soaked to build the temple he longed to erect as testament to his love of God.

Solomon, who despite his much-vaunted wisdom, piddled away his kingdom via compromise.

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Yesterday, I wrote of being disappointed in the movie Oblivion. This stems, I think, from its kitschy, tacked-on happy ending. I understand why Hollywood is in love with the happy ending–it’s embedded deep within us. Somewhere, buried down deep in our marrow, we know the world as it is is not how it’s always been. Call it Eden–call it what you will–we know there was once something better, instinctively that we are something more. Hence our love of fairy tales, of happy endings. Thing is, as John Eldredge says, we live in the Third Act of history. The in-between. There’s no going back to what once was, but the Fourth Act has not yet begun. We’re stuck between the now, and the not-yet. Every happy ending we posit is a kind of wish fulfillment–either a looking back, or a questing ahead. We try to regain what we’ve lost, or grab hold of what’s not here yet.

But it never quite works out.

Truth be told, God has a way of shattering our illusions. The truth is: life is hard, and then we die.

But in dying we find life.

That is the truth of the Gospel. It has the quality of fairy tale, but it is no mere wish fulfillment. Christ had to die, else there would be no resurrection.

Likewise, sometimes (oftentimes) our hopes, dreams, all that we have lived for, given our lives to has to die as well… For God to bring new life.

Yet we fight Him, wanting our happy ending now–without putting in the hard work. Lest we forget: Christ emptied Himself of divinity, became a cluster of cells, a zygote, an embryo, and squalling shitting baby (no matter what Martin Luther tells us about “no crying He makes.” He lied). From infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to young man–all the while learning from, and being obedient to, His parents. By all accounts, He learned the trade of carpenter from his stepfather, Joseph. By all accounts, though not included in Holy Writ, He lost Joseph sometime before His earthly ministry began. Think on it! The Holy One, God the Son, born in ignominy, toiling in obscurity: He emptied Himself of all divinity.

And eventually humbled Himself to become obedient to death on the cross!

“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” And He “learned obedience through those things which He suffered. ”

Think on that! Christ, God the Son, learning obedience! That is the crux:

Sometimes (oftentimes), happy endings have to die, privations must be endured, for joy’s sake.

Make no mistake: there will be a consolation of history. But we are not there yet. Like Job–like Jesus before us–we must patiently endure.

Until…

Until the faith shall become sight.

Sacrifices must be made, hopes will fade, and dreams will die. But “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” The trick is, in this vale of tears, to keep the true light alive:

HOPE.

'Hope' photo (c) 2007, *USB* - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Fan the embers into flames, my friends. Go with God, and walk in the light.

Admit it. You’ve heard it. You’ve said (or at least thought it). It’s cliché: Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

But somewhere along the way, we often get lost, get comfortable. Too comfortable.

In fact, we maintain a tacit dislike of things which make us uncomfortable. If something doesn’t fit into our neat religious categories, we’re apt to do one of about four things:

1) Ignore it, hoping it will go away.

2) Actively shun it, shut it down, drown it out (this is but a manifestation of denial).

3) Label it, trying to make it fit into our “recipe box” of life (like forcing a square peg into a round hole). As of life is supposed to fit into our categories.

4) Crucify, and vilify, it. Actively speak out against whatever it is.

We give lip service to that cliché (“comfort the afflicted… “), but don’t like to made to feel uncomfortable ourselves? Why is that? What did we think? That coming to Jesus would solve all of our problems? That being in the world, but not of it means that somehow we’ve now arrived in Happy Land?

Jesus didn’t view the world that way; in fact, he’s on record saying that those upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners. Things happen in a fallen world.

And coming to Christ doesn’t make us “in right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” Coming to Christ doesn’t mean we get magically delivered from the consequences of living in a fallen world. There is pain, suffering, evil… in short things we can’t understand, or explain.

For instance, a lot of you won’t go see a movie like The Conjuring, because you don’t do “horror.” It makes you too uncomfortable. Yet you’ll watch the evening news every night without batting an eye. And talk about horror! This despite the fact that both deliver the bad news in showing that yes, there is inexplicable evil in the world. Yet only one shows there is indeed a power greater than evil.

And it ain’t the evening news, folks.

The ironic fact of the matter is that sometimes it’s only through fiction that we can get to the heart of reality. We have to be willing to embrace discomfort if we want to grow. Growth doesn’t happen without pain.

But I’m not just talking about our media choices, rather about stepping outside our comfort zones. About reaching out in love, about doing that sometimes most difficult of all things:

Listening. Before we offer a snap judgment, or jump to an unfounded conclusion. For instance, and this is crazy! Sometimes (most time) people are just sick, and aren’t “harboring uncontested sin” in their lives. Or are not demon possessed (remember, “greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world”).

If we are going to say it (“comfort the afflicted…”), let’s act on it, okay?

The simple fact is that things (and people) don’t fit into our neat little boxes. God’s a person, too (the Person), and can we fit Him into one of our boxes? I don’t knew about you, but I’ve been trying all of my life, and he keeps shattering all of my paradigms…

My point in this rather long, rambling, post is this:

Do you want to be a shiny, plastic person with all the answers, or someone who embraces the uncertainty? It’s not all happy, but it can be holy.

My challenge to you today: do something outside of your zone.

Thanks for reading!

Even a casual reading of the New Testament is enough to give one a sense that Jesus was (while not soft on sin) softest on sinners, and harshest on the outwardly religious (I wrote a bit about this last Friday)–the ones who claimed to have all the answers, to have it all together.

That was then, this is now, you might say. There are no more Pharisees. On the contrary, the spirit of Phariseeism is very much alive and well. Ask anyone who’s gone through hard times, has struggled with sin, has been maligned and marginalized because they don’t fit into a neat Evangelical category.

I know this first hand from observing how my wife was treated by well-meaning Christians during her ongoing illness. There were quite a number of assumptions we had to hurdle during this period:

1) That she must have unconfessed sin in her life, (who doesn’t?) and God was punishing her. Sure–“whom the Lord loves, He also chastens.” And sometimes it’s the consequence of living in a fallen world. (See Jesus words about the Tower of Siloam).

2) That she lacked faith for her healing. Tell that to Paul, and his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, tell that to every saint chronicled in Hebrews 11–of whom the world was not worthy–that they didn’t get what they longed for because they lacked faith.

3) That our media choices–the books we read, the movies we watched–allowed demonic forces into our home, and our bodies. Last time I checked, “greater is He Who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Besides which, it’s not so much the media choices, as it is the why behind those choices, i.e., where the heart is, and where affection and allegiance are given.

I could go on. In fact, I have friends who have chronic illnesses–legitimately diagnosed conditions–who are accused of consorting with demons!

By well-meaning, but wrong-headed, Christians.

I think the fundamental problem lays in how we approach the Scriptures. Now, make no mistake, it has rules in it. But that’s not its primary purpose. Because, if it were, then the Pharisees were right: if we just follow the rules, then we can make our way to God. Paul is very clear on this:

“Touch not, taste not, handle not” all sound great and godly, but ultimately miss the mark. “The kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Because the Bible is primarily a book of relationship. And we all know how difficult and messy relationships are. They take work, intentionality, effort.

But we want neat, easy, categories–because we don’t want mess. We don’t each other’s sin to rub off. So we shun, we ostracize, we make assumptions, and draw (false) conclusions. (Let me put it this way: if a hospital is a place of (physical) healing, shouldn’t the church be a place of spiritual healing? Why then do we do our surgeries with guns? Doctors don’t walk into operating rooms guns blazing; rather, surgeries are careful things–well-planned, and highly monitored. But the church–and Evangelicalism in particular–fosters an environment where we blast first, and ask questions later).

Because life is easier (for us) that way.

Instead, we should jump into the arena, and be accused of being:

Drunkards
Gluttons
Sinners

Because that’s what love looks like. That’s what Jesus did. That’s WWJD.

Friends, we need to stop–in the Name of Jesus–shooting our wounded with our (un)holy word cannons of well-meaning. Stop turning a cold shoulder, and open our arms to one another.

Misunderstanding is the price of love done right.

What do you think?

YOU CAN

randomlychad  —  April 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

That thing you’re going through? Yes, you can. You think you can’t, but you can. You’ve endured this far, and can continue. I belive in you. You think the battle is in your body, but it’s not. The real battleground is your mind–that is where the enemy relentlessly attacks.

Yes, these things wear on us, grind us down, but God…

But God has made you:

Luminous
Beautiful
Powerful
Strong

You are more than this. You shine with the radiance of our Father, and are more than a conqueror.

So don’t tell me you can’t when all the power, splendor, majesty, glory–in short, every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus are at your fingertips. Yes, it’s hard, but so was Christ’s passion. God will likewise bring you through–not without pain, but without stain.

Hold fast, dear one, hold on. I love you.

More importantly, God loves you. He believes in you so much that he’s put his reputation on the line. How you endure hardship before the world’s watching eyes reflects on his character.

You’ve got it in you to pull through, because God himself put it there. So press on to victory, child of the Most High.

You can.