I am going to walk a tightrope in this article and hope I don’t fall off right in front of you. And just so you don’t think I have gone into some hopeless, depressive state let me tell you that I have been on a journey with God that is ever more hopeful. So here we go.
Until I can admit and abandon all hope of life being “good” or “pleasant,” I will live under the incredible pressure of finding some way(s) to make life work and thus remain more focused on “the better life” than on deeper intimacy with God.
I cannot discern if this thought is rocking my world for the first time or simply affirming what I have sensed inside for a long time. Undoubtedly, God is good and loving, full of grace and mercy, taking delight in blessing His children. But what are we to do with these words from the apostle Paul?
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from ourselves. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Paul speaks openly about his pain and the unpleasant nature of his life. But notice that he is not complaining nor do we find him voicing a prayer and a promise that God will make it all better soon. Instead, he is almost excited that “the abundant life of following Jesus means abundant opportunities to draw near to Him in hard times, not an abundance of pleasant circumstances and good feelings.”
“But I’m not Paul,” we might declare. True enough; but that’s not an excuse to forsake pursuing the attitude of heart and mind Paul had. And the “we” he refers to in the above verses included people just like me, just like us, who had embraced Christ as Sovereign Lord and not just “Useful Friend.”
Perhaps the conversations in our small groups at church, from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, in the pastoral counseling office too regularly (sometimes almost exclusively) include “what Christ can do for us.” Has it ever occurred to you that Satan may take great delight in this? After all, if we only linger long enough in the presence of God to pick up our packets of blessing for the day, it is unlikely that we will draw near to God, become like Jesus or be led by the Spirit.
This week I will be thankful for and enjoy the blessings of God in my life. But I intend to hold those things more loosely while sitting quietly with God more often than I ever have before.