On Ebbs and Flows: Musing on Seasons of Life Including Grief

Face, this life we live sometimes is very difficult, other times everything seems to work out right.  One minute we can be on top doing well, everything working out as hope. Next minute things are difficult, painful, and filled with pain and loss.  Good or bad, gain or loss, beginning or ending,  and happy or sad are all words used to describe the varied season of life.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” So the ebbs and flows are part of the seasons of life. 

Here is the deal, while the seasons of life exist, while there is that which hurts and that which heals, it is all a result of living in a fallen world twisted by sin.  Of course, those at face value are simply words, words that do nothing to ease the difficult season such as when face any number of losses.  Now while sin created the twists that bring on the seasons and the resultant ebbs and flows there is an important note, God is still in control and at work.  Romans 8:28 (ESV)  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  It is a verse known and quoted whenever facing the difficult life seasons such as one of loss. Sometimes even the sharing of that verse though ends up as just words and not really touching the core.  The impact of these words sometimes can be missed.  

The point and impact is God is not passive.  If we are actively in relationship with the creator, whatever we do, he actively works to bring things in accordance with His purpose. So the question becomes what is God’s purpose that he brings all things into cooperation with? Is it no undoing that which has been twisted?  At the cross the path to being in right relationship with God, to be in a loving relationship with creator has been established.  His purpose is for use then to be more and more refined and cleansed.  As such, whatever happens in our lives, the ebbs and flows, serve the intent of making us grow more toward His intent for our lives in relationship with Him. 

There will be difficult seasons. There will be loss.  There will be ebbs and flows. This is a fact.  The fact is even outlined further in Romans 8 with a list of “negative” things that will happen to people in various seasons.  The fact is bad stuff happens. One way or another, the difficult seasons are related to the twists of sin; be it original  sin, our own sin, or the sins of others around us.  But we have a promise that for those that love God, we bring things inline with His intent. When we are in right relationship God is in the process of untwisting the twist.  And before God it is a finished state, yet we are in the ongoing process of getting to that finished state.  Before the promise just mentioned is the statement in Romans 8:25 (ESV)  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  See, the God working things out for His intent is not what is always seen or perceived. What we know are the difficult things, the painful things, the things that trigger the ebbs and flows.  Much of what God does is beyond what we can perceive as he working in the midst and what God is doing also does not just resolve around one individual, but all of creation.

And with what God has done, the hope in Jesus as Lord and Saviour,  in the God with us, there is another promise.  Romans 8:37 (ESV)  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”   See, in all the pain, in all the things that can come against and cause pain, in all of which is twisted and horrendous. In all, we are told that no matter what the appearance there is the assured victory, that all these things just are not defeated, but obliterated.  In Christ is all hope and the victory is an overwhelming blow-out.  And again, we can look at that and simply see the words.  But if let the word take effect in heart and life it change how manage the ebbs and flows.  They still come, but when the focus is not on the pain of the moment but in the faithfulness and surety of God’s love and purpose, one can find the joy and peace amidst the ebbs and flows.  So let the words of God sink deeply, beyond words, beyond the fickleness of the emotions in the ebbs and flows, into the peace that passes all understanding with the strength coming from the Joy in the Lord.

Musings on Cures for Suffering

Suffering is awful. I see suffering every day. There are many diseases and global problems that really seem to be giants and the world would be better off if we had a solution to them and that suffering eradicated. Yet, it is worth noting that Jesus once stated, “the poor will always be with us.” (Matthew 26:11) The fact is suffering exists because of the sin of man. The first sin resulted in the twisting of all creation the proper order was displaced. Therefore, suffering is ongoing. Today thought about things such as praying that humanity develops a cure for cancer and other such issues. The reality is once one disease and suffering defeated, there is always something more discoveries. It is an ongoing process; it is death released by the separating from God and emphasizing self. There is only one answer to suffering, and that is the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is not about removal of suffering in this life, but rather being content, at peace, and whole. Ultimately, all suffering has been defeated at the cross. There will be an end to suffering and it comes at the cross. It comes in what is yet ahead. The return of Jesus will lead to the final defeat of the tyranny of suffering.

Now, it is very easy to say that but for those in the midst of suffering, it may seem shallow. Yet, the only true hope is hope placed in God and a reconciled relationship with the creator. The answer to personal suffering is recognition of God’s love for us and following his ways. Such a mindset does not alter the circumstances of situations of suffering rather it changes our perspective. Then when in right relationship with God and showing genuine response, we can reach out to those suffering in love, even at times meeting needs and touching those who are suffering. Ultimately, we are all suffering, every one of us. Our suffering diminishes with love. Only God’s love truly touches the deepest levels of suffering. The only real cure is to suffering is the return of Jesus which will restore all things from their twisted, decaying state and bring true wholeness. Therefore, there is a true cure for suffering. All suffering will end. It comes at the end of this world, when all the sources of evil and suffering are defeated. In the meantime, we have the ebbs and flows of life filled with trials and difficulties. Suffering is a cruel master and the world is in its grip. Yet, it is a defeated master whose time will come. All suffering only lasts a season.

Question of week 9-23-2009: Where do you find your identity?

In this day and age we are all about who am I and what do I want. We have books about finding purpose, finding self.  There is a lot of money made on developing self, identifying self, and observing self.  The world we live is really obsessed with self.  So my question is, where really do you find your identity? What is it that makes up your self?  For me my identity is found in Jesus. Sure there are other things I can focus on including the my given name as well as the name peacebringer.  Yet, everything that makes up my self, is insignificant compared that what Jesus gives me.  He gives me far more than anything I could want or need,  though at times I do not recognize it.  Each of us is only truly at peace with self when we surrender the whole of self.  When we surrender whatever aspect of identity to Jesus, only then are we truely able to be what God intended.  Each of us when living solely for self, walk in distortion of God’s intended identity for us.  When we twist what God has created we suffer and lack peace, because what God created is twisted.  The only way our true identities become untwisted is through surrender to Jesus.  We get involved in fully trying to straighten out self it still ends up a twisted mess.  So think for a moment and ask yourself the question: where do you find your identity.  Any answer that comes up different from in Jesus and you are simply walking a distorted version of who God created you to be.