Sunday, August 15, 2010

Choosing Rather

The mystery of suffering confounds us. Conflicts our minds. As much as we say we do not believe prosperity doctrines, I think in each of our hearts we really do. Good Life = Good Stuff. Trusting the Lord = Overflowing Bank Accounts. We think God's love means sex and affection and happiness. God's love meant death for His Son for our sakes. And we act like He hasn't done enough to prove it to us.

I read Psalm 73 recently. That’s the one where Asaph starts out by telling you he had almost stumbled; his steps had nearly slipped because he saw the prosperity of the wicked. “They aren’t suffering pain when they die. They aren’t in trouble like us. We’re plagued, but it isn’t touching them. They have more than they need; they’re always at ease; their money grows.’ He concluded that serving the Lord had no reward, because he was suffering all day long, and being punished every morning. He said he tried to understand it, and it was too painful. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end: they’re on slippery ground; they are brought to desolation.”

He says he was grieved and vexed, because he was so foolish and ignorant. “I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me into glory. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

“Those who are far from You perish…
but it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God.”

His suffering did not stop. That’s why he said, ‘my heart and my flesh fail.’ But he came to recognize that an entire lifetime of severe trials and suffering while being continually with the Lord, and being guided by His counsel and being afterward received into glory is preferable to the lives of the wicked who do not suffer, are not in trouble, and prosper.

“Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God
than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time,
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt,
for he was looking to the reward
for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
(Hebrews 11:24-26)

Him who is invisible. Jacob, at the time of his exile from his family said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Why didn’t he know it? Because he was lonely. Because he was outcast. Because he couldn’t see Him. But He was there. We see riches and equate them with God's presence. In a sense, under affliction, we see Him less. The affliction is the very thing to endure as seeing the Invisible God. There is a fellowship with the very heart of God which is only available to us in our sufferings. We learn who He is. We learn to value what He values. We learn to long for His kingdom, to hope in His coming. We learn in a very small measure what it was for Him to choose to suffer affliction for our sakes. And we learn how to cry with others.

But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss
for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them to be dung,
so that I may win Christ and be found in Him;
not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law,
but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith,
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable to His death;
if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11)

I don't think feelings of happiness are the automatic result of walking with the Lord. Those who hope in the Lord have often lived in unhappy situations, suffering poverty and misery. It comes down to whether we will sell our inheritance for a bowl full of porridge. We are offered our Father's whole estate. If we believe that, a few hunger pangs for a few hours are worth the pain. Esau was a man who valued a full belly now as more valuable than the blessing of God and the inheritance of his father. "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated," said the Lord. A lot of people fault Jacob for his actions in life, but one thing about Jacob was that he valued God's gifts. He thought they were worth being exiled for -- without the inheritance he'd won from his brother.

1 comment:

Satisfied Soul said...

Laura, I was very blessed to read this. It is really powerful and encouraging! I posted this on my wall on facebook.