And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
As I sit here in my recliner next to a flickering gas log fireplace, I look out and see the receding line of snow as it melts into a fond North Texas memory. 12 inches we received in two days. The beauty of a snow covered landscape is something that awes me every time I see it in person – especially in these parts because of its infrequency. Something so beautiful that only happens in winter’s dead-zone. For me it serves as a reminder that even in the harshest of circumstances beauty emerges.
None of us are immune to the pain of loss or rejection. In fact, our spiritual adversary would have us all believe that none of us are worthy of love or blessing and that any misfortune or malfunction in our life is simply a well-deserved well-timed display of justice. Our misstep, our stumble, our weakness, our endless supply of our sin sowing comes crashing down as we now reap our harvest of a renegade’s reward. Just desserts.
Ever feel like that? I found myself jokingly saying “of course!” when encountering these sort of circumstances . The Holy Spirit corrected me the other day. I love course corrections, I need them like a vitamin that builds my soul.
My boss likes to use the phrase, “I don’t care so much how we got here as to what we are going to do now to fix it.” Part of me hates that because I want to learn/teach the lesson, but part of me also sees the tremendous value of grace that allows room for our humanity and provides an opportunity for redemption. Redemption – now that’s a concept I can embrace fully.
So back to our pain that stains. Too often we lose in the loss. We lose a job or a loved one or a friend, or just something we value and we get bitter. We turn our loss into something like it's a personal affront from God. We blame Him since, after all, the great micromanager could have stopped it, and we know through law that anyone that could have stopped a crime yet doesn’t it guilty of being an accomplice to said offense. Even our self-inflicted wounds are somehow His fault.
We do this at our own peril. We have much to gain from examining ourselves in our storms. Like the disciples in the boat during the squall we start with the accusations, “Doesn’t He care that we perish?” Dude! Wake up! We’re about to drown! We intuitively run to Him then stand amazed and awed when He stills the storm. What is even more amazing is that we believe he can still the tempest outside but not the one in us. We waste our pain.
Ally and I have been working out religiously for about 4 months now. There have been a couple of weeks where we were unable to get to the gym but maybe once or twice. Hitting that treadmill or those weights after a long layoff was painful. What was more painful was the notion that we were having to regain ground we had already paid to gain. Ground gained must be maintained. We had wasted some of our pain.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m reading Max Lucado’s Fearless and he touches on some of this. Referring to the martyrs in Hebrews 11:35-37 he writes,
” …contrary to what we’d hope, good people aren’t exempt from violence. Murderers don’t give the godly a pass. Rapists don’t vet victims according to spiritual resumes. The bloodthirsty and wicked don’t skip over the heavenbound. We aren’t insulated. But neither are we intimidated. Jesus has a word or two about this brutal world: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Matt 10:28) …Evil doers have less of a chance hurting you if you aren’t already a victim”.
This is a principle that we’ve tried to instill in our kids. “You are not a victim.” “Don’t get bitter – get better.” “Over-comers can’t be over-comers unless they’ve over-come something.” See we are all fans of victory, it’s the battles we hate. We embrace the finish line but don’t embrace the race. We love the destination, but hate the journey. We love the new clothes and compliments, but we hate the treadmill.
Lucado goes on to discuss the brutality of Jesus’ death and the pain and suffering that He endured and why.
“Then what are we to make of the occasions Satan does reach us? How are we supposed to understand the violence listed in Hebrews 11…? Or most supremely, how are we to understand the suffering of Jesus? Ropes. Whips. Thorns. Nails. These trademarked His final moments. Do you hear the whip slapping against his back, ripping sinew from bone?
Thirty-nine times the leather slices, first the air, then the skin. Jesus clutches the post and groans, battered by wave after of wave of violence. Soldiers force a thorny wreath over his brow, sting his face with slaps, coat it with saliva. They load a beam on his shoulders and force him to march up a hill. This is the condemned sharpening his own guillotine, tying his own noose, wiring his own electric chair. Jesus shouldered his own tool of execution. The cross.
Cicero referred to the crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” In polite Roman society the word “cross” was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Roman soldiers were exempt from crucifixion except in matters of treason. It was ugly and vile, harsh and degrading. And it was the manner by which Jesus chose to die. …Did atonement for sin demand six hours of violence? No, but his triumph over sadism did. Jesus once and for all displayed his authority over savagery.
Evil may have her moments, but they will be brief. Satan unleashed his meanest demons on God’s Son. He tortured every nerve ending and inflicted every misery. Yet the master of death could not destroy the Lord of Life. Heavens best took hell’s worst and turned it into hope. You “have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him, (Phil. 1:29 NLT), remember God wastes no pain.”
I lost a father I never knew. I’m not sure which is worse – losing one that was close, and never knowing the man that rejected his family. I lost a cousin that was closer than a brother. I lost a friend who was also as close as any brother could have been. I’ve been in love and rejected. I’ve sought the approval and affirmation of others only to be ignored. I’ve inflicted pain as well. But God wastes no pain. He turns it for our good.
He teaches us to love others and reach out those who are experiencing the pain we once knew. His pain and ours is gain. Don’t allow yours to be wasted. Submit it to Him for his retooling and restoration. Let Him redeem your tears and scars. On this Valentine’s Day remember this - His love never fails.