A group of friends were discussing things in our lives that cause us anxiety: health problems, relationship issues, misplaced hopes or expectations - in people, in circumstances - that cannot deliver the ultimate peace and happiness and security we desire. Joy thieves.
One friend commented something to the effect, "Don't you just wish life could be free from all these trials and difficulties? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't have to deal with all these disappointments?"
Well, on one hand, yes. Yes, it would be wonderful to be confident all my children love the Lord and walk daily in conscious dependence on him, to see strained relationships restored to the sweetness of full and honest fellowship, to climb the stairs without my knees hurting and popping.
But, on the other hand, no. No, because I am confident that God is using present trials to conform me to Christ, to tear out of my heart bits of idolatry, to work in me an ever-deepening knowledge of and delight in the beauty and sufficiency of my Savior.
No, because I have learned that trials and brokenness and disappointment, in addition to driving me closer to Jesus, are uniquely powerful opportunities to share the Gospel with others.
This morning, fresh on the heels of the above conversation, I read in the first chapter of Colossians:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church...to make the word of God fully known...to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of his mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim...
My sufferings, such that they are, add nothing to Christ's atoning work on my behalf. My desire to honor God or to endeavor to live in the power of the Gospel in the midst of trials, these add nothing to my righteousness or my assurance.
But, in some mysterious way, they allow me to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." What does this even mean?! Perhaps it means...
Jesus, when He walked among men, never experienced the heartbreak of losing a grandbaby. Maybe He had me walk through that heartbreak so that I could be learn the implications of the Gospel for this special kind of grief, so that I could be his representative to the grieving grandmother I met in the school parking lot.
The rush to the emergency room with the child whose body is broken, decades of energy-sapping chronic pain, business failure...how many unique ways can we "fill up the afflictions of Christ"? In how many ways can we learn and share with others what it looks like to walk in the power of Jesus and of the Gospel in the hard places of life?
Jesus redeems our brokenness. He redeems every tear, every disappointment, every grief, every hurt. He quiets our anxious thoughts and satisfies our deepest needs. Jesus showed us this when He walked on earth. He continues to show us this today as we - brothers and sisters in Christ - walk this earthly journey together.
Trials can be joy thieves - or they can be windows for letting in the sunlight.
4 days ago