Tonight I found myself sitting in a bitterness and an anger, not one directed toward any flesh nor my own but directed toward the Creator of flesh. It was / is a naive and invalid bitterness in which I sat /sit in. How simple and natural is it to become disheartened by our current circumstances and attempt to run from the Lord, as our suffering fuels the motions of our running legs? But in the same breath, how naive is it to rebel against the King of rebellion, the King of unconditional love, the King of pursuit? Each moment, after I cease the movement fueled by disobedience, I feel immature and incredibly far from faithful. Ceaselessly, I try to out live the One who created life. It doesn’t work. We cannot run far enough in the opposite direction of the Lord, that He cannot find us and pull us back.
Romans 5:8 reminds us that while we were at our deepest darkness, while we were incapable of sending forth any from of goodness or light in His name, for His name and by His name, He still ran after us. While we were naked and directed our sight on complete darkness, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners. There is an immense amount of unavoidable power loaded into that sentence. I had this portion of the gospel screwed up in the most worldly of ways for the longest time. My belief for about three years was that God died for me because I was me, because He saw how __________ I was. That’s not the gospel. That’s often the reason for flesh fueled loved, which our hearts are so accustomed to but that is in no way the gospel. Perhaps our friends love us because we are adjectives of positivity but Jesus died for us not because of what or who we are but in complete spite of what we were.
If He had died for us because we were beautiful and good, what would the point be? If we had earned the gospel because of what we already were, it would not be the gospel. It would be a wedding speech. “I love her because she is funny and intelligent and all that I have ever desired.” But how much more beauty and grace is woven into the speech of a God who says, “I have seen all of man, in complete brokenness, covered in nothing but vulnerability and darkness, yet I remain completely in love with this person, not because I must and not because of what fills the soul up but because of who I am. Because I am love and because I have chosen the ordinary to be fulfilled in an extraordinary love.”
So it is intertwined in absolute logic, because He is a God of not only complete love but of complete logic, that if He chose to be with us in absolute darkness, when our backs and eyes were turned away from His widely opened arms, if He chose us in that, we must, out of nothing but logic, trust that, when our backs and eyes perform a 180 degree turn, He remains. The image that consumes my mind when thinking of this is a song titled, “Dance With Me Jen.” In this lyrical story, the daughter has abandoned her father and lives her life chasing after the darkness. Yet, the father continues to ask his daughter to dance, over and over again. She rejects him. She begins to drink. She becomes a stripper. And in all the darkness, the father still asks for her to dance. At the end of the song, we hear that the daughter weeps in her brokenness and boards a bus to head home to her Father. It would be illogical for us to believe that as the daughter entered the home, her Father would then refuse to dance with her. Because this father’s deepest desire was for his child to dance with him, it would be illogical to believe that once the child arrives home, his back would be the one turned. That’s how we interpret the gospel when we try to alter our recklessness for worldly rebellion. He isn’t a God who budges or who bases His love on whether or not the love is returned. He is a God who continually asks us to join Him in the dance and once we agree, He loves us too much to stop the movement.
Often, I conclude that if my life is not going along according to my personally made plans, He is not for me. Because a God who is for me, would be for my plans as well. One thing we must remind as man is that we are in no way, by no metaphor, in the driver’s seat of our life, once we come to Christ. It is His. The car, the direction- It is all His. He holds all the knowledge of where He is taking us. And when we view the windshield wipers begin because of unexpected rain and we say, “Hey, I know your name and that you hold all power and yadah yadah yadah, but are you sure you know where we are going?” He simply turns His head chuckles (I imagine God having the most hearty of laughs) and saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:1)
We will understand and be able to comprehend some of His plans for our lives in retrospect and some, not until we approach our real home. But in the mean time, while we await understanding, the miracle, or our homecoming, we must remain confident that He is a God with the greatest sense of direction. Because He created direction. Another bad habit I have noticed in myself is, I tend to tell God how unaware He is of both my suffering and the feelings of suffering. Also naive and immature. Telling God He does not understand suffering is similar to telling Tom Hanks he does not understand the character, Forest Gump. He was Forest Gump, who could possibly be able to comprehend this fictional character more than the man who was him? Same goes for Jesus. We cannot tell Him, He does not understand our suffering. He was suffering. He is more familiar with our suffering than we will ever be. And there is power in that. The hope in our suffering is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) His power is made perfect in weakness. When we look at Jesus, we see the most powerful moment in the history of the world at the same time as we see the most vulnerable moment in the world. If we believe the gospel, we cannot say there is no power in suffering. The sufferings of Christ changed the destiny of this world for eternity.
Currently, I am in the midst of learning vulnerability but I am still learning to share my wounds as I live in the belief that my wounds are solely my weakness, forgetting the truth that my wounds are simultaneously my power and my contribution to the world. Recently, I listened to a podcast speaking on the question, “What is your leg up on the world?” The answer was not the amount of money which filled our wallets or our material. It was not how much education we could put down on our resumes. It was our amount of suffering. Our amount of suffering is our leg up because suffering is single-handedly, the most human feeling we are allowed to feel. That is because as God became fully man, His power was in His suffering. And He used that suffering. And when He rose again, He did not cover or tell His wounds to disappear. He could have. He is God. He could have come back to earth woundless but He knew His suffering was His power so He kept it shown. And we must keep ours the same.
The past four months have not been what I had hoped or planned for. They have been tough and awkward and full of phone calls to my mom. But in this time, I have learned a lot about Jesus’ character. And I have turned away from Jesus a lot. Tonight, as I sat in my bitterness and resentment towards Him, He reminded me of a verse I had heard from my friend Kaitlyn at the beginning of the year. Jeremiah 17:5 reads,
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
As I read through, I became jealous of the blessed man while identifying with the cursed man. Jealously rushed through me for purpose. Because we were created to follow the ways of the blessed man. We were created to follow these ways because these ways were the ones of the Lord. Even in His suffering, His character was constant and steady. We are not meant to be deciduous trees that find themselves limp when the snow falls or shed their substance when the climate transitions. We were created to be evergreens. Despite the weather, we are meant to stand firm and constant, because our hope is in nothing of man or of the world, but in all the promises of the Lord. As Christians, we are called to be like evergreens, whose, “leaves are always green, (as) It has no worries in a year of drought.”
And regardless of the shortage of rainfall we view, we can remain confident as in our choosing our the Lord, we become, “a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream.” We do not have to live in fear, waiting on the rain to replace our drought. We can retrieve our water from the Water in which we are located near. We are promised hardship. Promised. But in our choosing of the Receiver of worship, we also are in the midst of choosing our location and our water source. When we plant ourselves away from the river, we are choosing to await the rain from the sky. And in places of drought, it will not rain for weeks and months and perhaps even years. But even in the drought, when we choose to plant ourselves in the soil nearby the river, we cannot question where we will get our water.
We often don’t find enjoyment in our sufferings. And we often don’t seek the waterways in our drought. But may we be reminded that within our deepest sufferings, we are able to find our greatest power, as Christ did. Pain is necessary to the life of the believer. If we were without it, just as if we were without joy, we would never be able to fully grasp the cross. There is purpose in suffering, as there is in joy. But in that suffering, may we choose the life and location of an evergreen, as we were designed to. Because we will never win in our rebellion of running away. Love wins. Again and again, the pursuit of Love wins.