When it seems like God isn’t showing up

The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. (1 Kings 8:57-58 ESV)

What a prayer. I love it. It’s such a picture of the glorious reversal of the Gospel.

Don’t do God any favors

What a week. What a month. What a decade.

The theme of the past ten years of my life has been loss.  Losing relationships, losing dreams, losing parents, losing friends, losing health.  And this isn’t a sad post, because in every loss there has been great gain.  Loss has hollowed out channels in my heart for grace to flood in with truth and leave in its wake new life.

Loss has forced me to hold up the people and the things I love with open hands and offer them to the Person I love most.  Sometimes I have sacrificed them to Him with joy and peace, and sometimes its felt like they were torn from my clenched hands.

Too many posts

There are too many posts I want to write today.

I want to write a post about how today proves how wrong we can be about the story. We can feel like it’s all over.  Every sense and all our logic can conspire to convince us that Satan has won.  We can look around and seemingly see evidence that failure has overcome fight and darkness has dissolved the light and despair has cannibalized hope. And we can be wrong. What looks and feels like the end might actually be the beginning. The days that are darkest might prove in time to be the days of greatest light.

Unimaginable future

Before we moved to America, my mother painted the walls of my room with a mural of a village. At night I would lie in bed and walk my feet along the pathway on the wall.  And I would shut my eyes and imagine that Heaven was like that Village.  It was a place with no bad dreams where nothing bad ever happened.
When I was 8 years old or so, I used to find heaven in the clouds. I would look out the window and imagine that I was inside of Heaven, the clouds with all their fogginess wrapping around me like cotton balls and keeping me safe.
Less than a decade later, my version of Heaven shifted again.  Heaven was about being reunited with my grandmother.  Heaven was a place where I could see her face again, along with all those I loved that I knew I would one day lose.

A lot of people believe in a version of Heaven: a consolation for this life, a place where all the things they lost are made up for.

But the Christian Heaven is so strange and unique. It holds something better than consolation: restoration.

Tim Keller talks about the irreversibility of loss.  And I know exactly what the means. It’s the worst part of grief, the worst part of regret: waking up and remembering that you have lost something and feeling the powerless and helpless sense that you cannot regain it.

I know this sense.  I have felt the grasping in my soul to un-do the loss of my father; to un-do sins I’ve committed; un-do break-ups; to change decisions I’ve made; to make my friend alive again.  I have felt the horror of irreversible loss.

Heaven holds out to me deliverance from that horror.  A promise better than consolation. Heaven is not a ‘making up’ for all the pain and loss you’ve experienced, it is a making that pain and loss mean something glorious.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV)

That verse says two crazy things.  (1) Suffering is accomplishing something. (2) That ‘something’ is so amazing it makes our pain look small in comparison.

Suffering is not small.  This text isn’t saying that pain isn’t real and life isn’t tragic and terrifying and overwhelming.  This text is saying that if you and I could see what is to come, even our worst pain would seem light and momentary in comparison.  This verse isn’t about belittling your hurt and suffering, it’s about emphasizing how HUGE the glory is that is coming.   Think about how heavy your pain is. Now imagine how big the weight of glory must be if it can make that seem light in comparison!Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.18.31 AM

But, this verse says even more than that. Our pain and affliction is preparing that weight of glory.  It is not simply that what is coming in Heaven is so great that it is going to make up for your pain and loss, it’s that the pain and loss is making what is coming in Heaven.  The joys you’ll experience on the flip side are the fruit of the pain on this side.

I don’t know how that works, but here’s how I imagine it.  I imagine that the losses in this life are carving out room in my soul to make room for more of God in the next life. I imagine that the loss of a Father in this life has increased my soul’s capacity to experience Him as Father in the next.  I imagine that the pains of singleness in this life have stretched my heart to make space for His partnership in the next.

What I know for sure is that no pain in this life is wasted. It is accomplishing – preparing for me – something that is too great to imagine.

The whole story

Today’s sermon at my church struck a nerve. Following Jesus will cost you something.  It is a Cross-bearing, death-to-self path toward joy.  there is no way to get through the Christian life without pain and sacrifice.

And you and I have got to do a better job of talking about the hard parts; we have to tell more stories about self-death, because we are leading people astray with our version of Christianity where gaining Jesus threatens nothing else in your life.

I have someone who is precious to me beyond words. Even though we live thousands of miles apart we have spent hours these past months wrestling through our faith together.