Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Life is Difficult

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand it and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."

"Failure is a part of life. When we embrace that truth, we transcend it. Once we accept the fact that failure happens then we can courageously face failure because we know it can't be completely avoided."

“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16).

In the languages of the Bible the words that most nearly approximate the concept of success are ones that mean “blessed.” In Hebrew the word is barak (benediction; to kneel; by implication prosperity :- blessing;-supremely blest; by extension fortunate, well off :- blessed, happy) in Greek the work is makarios (attribution of good fortune :- blessedness.). Both convey ideas of success, prosperity, happiness and enviably abundant life.

Romans 8:28, "...and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." This is a well-known and often misquoted verse used to promote the value of Christian living and the subsequent benefits; as well as falsely placating the grief and sorrow arising from traumatic events that occur to all regardless of religious affiliations. Its key phrase "to those who love God (love the Lord)" are left out of the quotation by the world at large. This would seemingly affect the interpretation of the passage, however I see the absence of the phrase only makes it for Christians, in light of traumatic events, more palatable in defining a theology incorporating the 'blessed' life embodied in following Jesus. In other words believing the blessings to follow far outweigh the tribulation of the present time. The absence or presence of the phrase merely placates the obvious retorts to the Prosperity essence of the thought propounded by advocates of a 'blessed life' because of our status as Christians. It follows then that in whatever troubles, or afflictions, or persecutions that arise, God presses them into service; and they make a part of the general working, and are caused to contribute to the general good of the person who now loves God, and who is working by faith and love under the influence and operation of the Holy Spirit. It is rather tidy to believe this and I am in no way, shape or form denying the existence of this as the truth of our relationship with God or His purposes being worked out in life for our real welfare; for the promotion of true piety, peace, and happiness in our hearts. In adversity, affliction, persecution, trials there is contribution to the perfection of the saint and God is part and parcel of the continuing life experience in and through all situations.


The emphasis always seems to be that the 'good' in measure outweighs the 'bad'. It seems the emphasis is placed on the value of the 'bad' in relation to the 'good' and 'good' is assured the win in the contest. I do not believe this is a practical nor sensitive way of applying this verse to people experiencing pain and misfortune either without or within the church community. The application of the verse in most situations implies a band-aid solution for an amputation. It offends in that it places a burden of guilt for a failure to exercise faith and hope and rest in God's love and estimate the reality of grief and sorrow and loss being experienced which reflects the true sense of the feeling of the individual. The application fails to equate personal experience with the pains of the journey.

What is to be gained by the process of the experience is not a 'given'; it is not a 'gift' bestowed; it is a work, dirty, dusty, messy; a progression; a movement from - to; and this must be taught and learned, it cannot be received via osmosis, it is to be appropriated with struggle and failure. The personal struggles and those of the world are with the aspect of a God who makes "all things work together" in our lives "for good"; ultimate good, by allowing, which implies a leaving of the Christian to experience the just deserts of cause and effect; and the obvious blind eye which is turned to the presence of evil in the world and the powers which are possessed by evil and used to thwart and control the people of the world to a purpose deigned to achieve its ultimate destruction and under whose authority, in whose realm, we live.

The application of the verse does well with regard to maintaining a compliant contentment with the sovereignty, omniscience and glorification of God, assuring tranquility, peace, grace, an unyielding to any sense of vengeance or justice; gratitude and humility in light of our condition as ill-deserving sinners of Christ's redemptive work; and an acceptance and understanding of the eternal concepts of 'the Lord as my Helper'; the assurance of God's promise to "...never leave thee nor forsake thee", more appropriately rendered "I will never, no, never leave thee, nor ever forsake thee." and the trust in the providence of God.

My will be swallowed up in Thee;
Light in Thy light still may I see
In Thine unclouded face.
Called the full strength of trust to prove.

"Can you, will you, endure the tests, the trials, that alone can prove the full strength of trust? The lightest of weight tests the strength of a child or the aged and infirm but heavier and heavier weights alone test the full strength of a man. Will you, can you, bear patiently, without murmuring or complaining, the trials to come, which alone can prove the full strength of your trust and train it for larger service and greater trials?" The Christian life is not casual it is causal. There is a specific cause of every effect and quite possibly no other. If a particular effect is to be attained then a specific and corresponding cause must be set in motion. All nature groans in protest against an absurdity that expects to secure an effect without the employment of an appropriate cause. "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" The answer lies in the Matthew 11:29, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." The answer is we must learn. We must learn in humility of spirit realizing that the circumstances that befall us are not things from which we can avoid or fly from, but those things that must unfold so that in learning of our predicament, that place where we are able to be taught, consoled,etc., we can discern the path and make the decisions, in essence become literate of the will of God and His purpose and accept that His love contravenes all the purposes served by others and the evil that exists in this world.

The ultimate danger in the use of this verse in the context of appeasing the question of pain; in placating the wounds of life; in esteeming hope and faith in God sovereign, merciful; lies in the fact that we languidly (without force or effort), lustily(an appetite satisfied with milk yet without full knowledge desiring to express meat) and thoughtlessly (careless, inconsiderate, inattentive) profess a faith we do not possess, a love and devotion which our whole life falsifies, a joy which lacks radiance and light, and which the eye contradicts.

To borrow a concept from Blue Like Jazz, I apologize for my own and those who have acted like myself, for actions, words and deeds which have falsely portrayed an understanding of pain, sorrow, affliction; I apologize for having tried to placate or assuage fear or grief with an expression of remorse for your situation of which I have no knowledge; I apologize that in my lack of compassion I did not even show-up; I acknowledge that I have failed as a Christian to be a source of God's love; and I vow to acknowledge that I do not have the answers. What I do ask is for your forgiveness; for permission to stand with you, to hold you when you cry, to comfort you, to show up,...

"Say not my soul, ‘From whence can God relieve my care?
Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere.
His method is sublime, His heart profoundly kind,
God never is before His time, and never is behind.’"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

People want a God who is real and true...but also one who does not disappoint.

It just doesn’t work that way.

It seems like almost everyone in the Bible is disappointed, or confused, or has to ask hard questions for which answer like "it was God's will" make no sense. If you want to be a Christian, you might as well understand that from the beginning. You're going to be disappointed, and you're going to be speechless in the face of tragedy. Avoiding disappointment isn't what being a Christian is about. But I think its about something better and more real, and more true. It's about being able to face that disappointment - and when you have no answers whatsoever - you still have the presence of God with you in your pain and confusion. The pain and confusion are not going to go away, the disappointment is not going to go away...but you can walk through them with dignity because you don’t walk alone, and you might be able to eventually make beauty from pain.

Also, I think the whole idea of guarantees is a tricky path. If you have a situation that is guaranteed to work out, it wont evoke much attention from you...you wont have much to work out, because its guaranteed. But when faith and hope are required - because there is no guarantee - you find something worth putting your life's energy into.