1 Peter 4:12-19 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
There are times in our lives that we just don’t get it. We don’t get why it has to be so hard, why it has to be so complicated, why it has to be painful. Maybe it’s because of rejection, abandonment or betrayal. Maybe it’s because of unexpected bad news. Maybe it’s because we had expectations and reality didn’t mesh with them. Shoot, it could be from so many things but you get the picture. Inevitably it will happen, we hope with the least amount of frequency as possible.
And then there are times when the wind is completely taken out of our sails and we are left breathless, unable to grasp or face the reality of our circumstances. Those are the moments when we can’t even imagine how the rest of the world keeps going on because our world has changed in ways that we cannot fathom. Our reality is impossible to accept and we want our old reality back, as though we are living a bad dream, from which we so desperately want to awake, to discover it was simply a nightmare.
And in the midst of it all, what do we do? Oh my gosh- sin. This is when sin in our lives can bite us the hardest because it’s a sin of the heart. We want to turn against a person, ourselves, our God. And this, my friend, is the precise time we have the greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. We either let God break us or we break something else. That’s basically the choice. It is right in the midst of feeling as though we are being beaten that we can most relate to Jesus being beaten, in His ultimate innocence. He chose to take such abusive treatment out of love for us, even love for those who were ripping the skin off of his body.
Recently I was able to attend a service at Times Square Church in NYC. This was a banner moment in my life. It was founded by a man whose ministry I have followed and from which I have benefitted for so, so many decades- David Wilkerson. What a man of God he was. I wish he had not died in a car wreck the day before my birthday in 2011. I would have loved to have heard him in person. I’m thankful his mission continues. He was known years ago for The Cross and the Switchblade, a book about his ministry to gangs in NYC. One of the famous lines was when Nicky Cruz, the leader of the gang, looked at David Wilkerson and threatened to cut him into a thousand pieces. David Wilkerson’s response was that every one of those thousand pieces would cry out to him that Jesus loves him.
So what do we do when the wind is out of our sails? Well, we cry. We hurt, we find a safe place to puke out the anger and the hurt and all of the emotions that come with hardship. We expel that energy in a healthy way, understanding that it is just energy, not a choice. We make it a safe place to fall so that our emotions do not cause even further damage. If the pain is out of relationship and not another circumstance, then we make a willful decision to forgive. We pray and ask the Lord to guide our choices. We reestablish boundaries for ourselves if that is necessary. We are NOT called to be doormats. If someone has harmed or abandoned the relationship, we respect that choice and honor it by making choices in line with those new boundaries. Sometimes that means we also step back. (Remember: Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away. The story of the prodigal is a good one, too.) Many times we have to accept that it’s more about them than it is us. At the same time, we need to self-examine. It’s a process, not an event. More than anything, we keep our eyes in scripture and surrender all of our “rights” to HIm. We surrender our future to Him. We surrender our hurt, our unforgiveness, our pain, our fear, our broken hearts to HIm. He gets it. His father allowed him to suffer and die on a cross.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
The cross wasn’t fair. And the cross brought the most freedom. We can be free through abandoning our rights to have a perfect life on this planet and accept eternity as our true home. Becoming more like Jesus, knowing Him in His pain and suffering, becoming more like Him by loving those who harm us and forgiving those who have injured us is a great gift from the Lord. We must either become more like Him and allow Him to break us or we become hardened in our pain and we lose the freedom that He so graciously provided us through His suffering.
Take away: To live in peace, even with those circumstances or people that cause us pain, is to truly know the heart of God. He can use all things for good and He only allows those things He allows in our lives so that we will know Him more. Allowing Him to break us in our intense pain will, at the end of the day, bring us closer to living in this world but not of it. See it as a gift and find a greater freedom than you’ve ever known.
Prayer: Father, thank you that you were willing to accept horrible treatment for the sake of love. You didn’t deserve, in any way, shape or form, the treatment, the circumstances you endured and you had a true and absolute choice as to whether or not you would endure it. And you chose love. Please help me to also choose love and guide me through to appropriate boundaries as I move deeper into knowing you.