I sat on our front brick steps early the other morning, delighting in the cooler temperatures, inhaling the vibrant hints of fall. The robust spirit in the air seemed a nod toward future glory. Although autumn means death to leaves, such loss promises resplendent hues: rich, cinnamony reds, burnt orange, deep, buttery, yellows. This seasonal reminder is salve to my wounds. God’s promise is to never leave me nor forsake me. He faithfully turns the pages of life through all seasons.
Pay attention–he is doing so even now.
It is far more than the scorching sun and sweltering temperatures and drenching humidity that have me handing summer its hat and nudging it out the front door. It has been a long, painful season of sharp change and surging chaos.
While chaos is no friend of mine, I cling to the truth that such mysteries, permitted by God, are always cloaked in his kindness and his good purposes. The more I learn about the Lord, the more I see how little I actually know. The riches of his depths are fathomless. He is in complete control of everything.
Although the pain of this summer will not last forever, scars will remain. I consider the scars on the hands of Christ–those nail wounds of Roman torture which yielded boundless, magnificent beauty. Redemption. Life from death.
The death of my plans and dreams will pave a good and narrow path to God, as I trust him in faith, forever openhanded with my life. (Proverbs 14:12) (Isaiah 55:9) While I understand this truth, such death still hurts, doesn’t it?
Of course it does. It is death.
We are frail bodies cloaked in human flesh and bone. From dust we came and to dust we return. (Genesis 3:19)
But more importantly? We have been fashioned for eternity. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
It is that something. That situation which relentlessly slices your days into a before and an after. It is a time period of undeniable precision, a red pin dotting your life’s map, where something was destroyed. Often it is a wrecking ball for all to see: a death, an illness, a job loss.
Wrecking balls were common in bygone days–those massive, cumbersome, spheres of forged steel, which swayed from a crane, gaining momentum before thudding repeatedly into a building. The intent was clear – to demolish an entire structure. It weakened the building as it collided with the walls, until Boom! The entire frame crumbled. Decimated.
Those types of life’s blows knock the wind out of you, don’t they? Everything feels lost, broken, shattered, and the suffering is public. Friends gather to help. People know, and graciously step in to begin the process of helping you rebuild. This is one type of suffering.
There is another sort.
I write this for you. The one with hidden affliction, unparalleled trauma.
Right now there is a sharp, unspeakable torment coursing through your veins. A veiled horror. I liken it to standing barefoot on the beach as the gentle tide laps against your feet. As the waves surge and relent, surge and relent, surge and relent, your feet are gradually buried into the depths of the sand. You don’t move, but slowly begin to sink, stuck. Nothing seems off to others, (how can anything be wrong at this beautiful shore, the sun kissing your face and wind-tossed hair?) but there is an ache so unfathomable that it is hard to even breathe.
Although imperceptible to the world, you are reeling. Broken. Crushed. Alone.
This is the silent wrecking ball.
Gentle Reader, there is Hope.
His name is Jesus. He is near to you, the broken-hearted. He is making all things new.
It is tempting to withdraw into a haze of confusion during these afflictions, inviting a spiritual amnesia to linger and set up residence. A sudden forgetfulness that God is Ruler of all. We are so prone to wander, aren’t we?
Stiff-arm the desire to turn inward, pulling and playing with those small, distracting threads which will, given time, unravel your sweater, leaving you chilly and threadbare while simultaneously whispering empty promises of control. Human opinions? They amount to precious little. It is God’s thoughts that are pure and true.
What an ancient fable, a deception, this whole deconstructing one’s faith, placing human ideas and feelings and personal opinions above God–in essence trumping God’s Holy Word. This is nothing more than a faulty assurance that we are captains of our personal ship and may shore up our own destiny with a sprinkle of desire or lofty thinking.
Do you see it for what it is? A dead-end path, enticing all who are not saturating their hearts and minds and souls with God. This lie first presented itself in the early pages of Genesis, as Satan enticed Eve: Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1-5)
And there it is, only three chapters into the story of the world. The serpent trilling deception: You will not die. You will be like God. Adam and Eve lapped up the lies, and so it began.
Don’t be baited by crafty, seductive voices.
No matter what type of demolition you are wading through, the most comforting fact is to know that nothing is random. (Proverbs 16:33) Isn’t this the sweetest truth? Those seasons of your life that seem a shipwreck of chaos are in fact, permitted by God. This cacophony Satan means for harm, God spins into a sweet, mysterious cadence for our good.
Consider a richly scented candle. The pungent aroma fills the air, offering light and comforting others only when it is on fire, burning down, and melting.
As we wade through suffering, eyes fastened on Christ, our hearts are softened, then melted, becoming a sweet, pleasing aroma.
Suffering well means enduring with humility, knowing that God is near, and that we are not him. We must learn to accept whatever God brings our way.
Suffering poorly is to rage, to grow angry and cold-hearted, distant, and bitter. To suffer poorly is to live in pride. And God goes to war against the proud, the arrogant of heart. (James 4:6)
It is hard to remain a burning candle. I would prefer to be a gigantic eraser rather than a burning flame. Erase this pain! Erase this suffering! Erase this sin! Erase those evil people on mission to destroy!
But God doesn’t choose to erase…he redeems and rebuilds the shattered. He allows brokenness, wrecking balls, with eyes full of compassion and judicious purpose. Eyes of wisdom, knowing that such sufferings are meant to bring us running back to him. He lavishes soul healing as we fling our broken, crippled bones into his arms.
Does this sound foolish? Backwards? Perhaps it does, if you don’t trust God.
My friend, pay attention: those wrecking balls of life will reveal the genuine state of your heart.
If you trust in yourself, your sweater will unravel, leaving you cold, frail, and helpless.
Don’t wait for life’s sufferings to happen. Run to Christ now, trusting him even as others neglect him and even continue to sin against you. Forgive them and turn to Life. Leave them in God’s hands. (Psalm 1) God will cover you, protecting you under his wings. (Psalm 91:4)
In the midst of your pain, just think of this: Today is a brand-new day. As God turns the pages of your life, your job is to turn the pages of your Bible. You cannot fully trust or love God until you make it your mission to know Him. And we know him through his Word. It is exciting to read both the Old and New Testaments. To see God working out his promises, bringing every single one to fruition. To see the strength, love, and compassion of Jesus who was sent to die for those whom the Father gave to him. (John 6:37)
Grapes must be crushed before becoming juice and wine, yes? And such violent measures result in a drink to remember the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. A physical reminder of our Savior sent to die, crushed in order that we might live.
A crushing sacrifice to cancel our wicked sin, tossing it as far as the east is from the west. Jesus will carry us from earthly shadows to streets of pure gold, in order to present us righteous before God. (1 Peter 3:18)
Trust and obey God. Love him most, our Ruler of all. As wrecking balls assail your frame, Christian, remember that God will keep you and guard you through every single affliction. He is molding you for eternity.
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