Friday, November 2, 2012

The Rose Garden I Was Never Promised

IN this world, YOU will have triBuLatioN.”

I get upset when I'm having a particularly difficult day, and my husband (God bless him) tries to console me by saying, "It'll be okay." Okay? OKAY??? Do you know what “okay” means for a Christian?? Have you read the Bible?? “Okay” is fire, flood, wilderness, tribulation, temptation, martyrdom, suffering to the -enth degree! I could die tomorrow quite painfully, and that would be "okay" by Biblical standards!, I admit that I'm generally overly dramatic on my difficult days, but what I'm saying is true nonetheless. Thousands of pages of promises in that Bible, and not once does God ever promise that our life in the world will be easy. In fact, He promises the exact opposite. Several times. And blatantly.
  • "Don't be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:13
  • "When you walk through fire..." (Isaiah 43:2).
  • "In this world you will have tribulation." (John 16:33)
  • "Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God." (Acts 22:14b)
  • "I have not come to bring peace but a sword." (Matthew 10:34b)
  • "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12)
Hates me? !!! WHEN we walk through fire... Tribulation, tribulation, tribulation. Well, great. The fact that I'm in pain and probably won't get better in this lifetime has Biblical backing. And if I DO get better, something else is going to happen to stress me out anyway. Aren't you glad you bothered to read this post??

Wait a minute. God wouldn't leave His children in such a predicament without hope. Jesus' promise of tribulation in John's Gospel goes on: "In this world, you will have tribulation, BUT take heart; I have overcome the world." So... what does that mean? Does that mean if I'm baptized, I'll never get sick? Well, clearly that's not the case. If I go to church, I'll sleep better at night? My car won't break down? I'm going to win the lottery? No, no, and no. Well, what is God promising us then, if it's not a rose garden?

He promises us salvation. And I don't mean only the salvation that comes from finally being with Jesus in Paradise, the muddle-through-until-you-die-kind of salvation. (I don't want to short-change the wonderful gift of Heaven, but that's a long ways off, and I have serious trouble getting through the next 5 minutes). No, I mean salvation that brings relief in the tangible here and now, today, smack dab in the middle of our suffering.

But I'm still in pain. Either God is lying, or I'm looking for relief in the wrong place. Where's our "okay," chronic pain sufferers? Not where we thought it was, that's for sure. "Okay" is living with the pain, right? It's not being pain-free because that's just never going to happen. Christians, where's our "relief"? "Relief" is knowing that God is right here with us every excruciating minute, every difficult day, every tear, every bout of anger, every bitter disappointment. It's not being stress or sadness-free because that's just never going to happen.
"Behold, I am doing a new thing.
    Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a path in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert." 
(Isaiah 43:19)
God doesn't take the wilderness away. He's made a path to get us through it. That path is...? You guessed it: JESUS. Jesus overcame the world when He took up every burden we bear today and died for every one of them on that cross like a criminal, for you and for me. Not only for the bad things we did, but for all the bad things that happen to us. Because of Him, because His love for you is such that He gave up His very life to save yours, God the Father will never, ever let you suffer alone. Not even for a second.

Let's face it, fellow sufferers of chronic pain: being "okay" doesn't mean we're pain free. Let's face it, brothers and sisters in Christ: being "saved" doesn't mean we don't suffer. So yes, you're right, oh love of my life. I am going to be okay, if I never get better and if I die tomorrow in the most painful way imaginable. Okay has nothing to do with not hurting. It has everything to do with always, always, always having the love of God.

Suggested verse to repeat to yourself if it's a difficult day is from Matthew 28:20b
Words of Jesus Himself.
PRC buddies, remember to breathe!
“I am with you always ---------------> 5 count inhale
Until the end of the age.” -----------> 5 count exhale

For more on being okay, click here.

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