“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…”
The Apostle Paul
In the climate of prosperity gospel, it might be a hard thing to hear that God’s purpose for you does not include Devine deliverance from disease, pestilence, violence, or property loss.
Indeed, it is not in our natures to relish any threat to our well-being since we were actually created to live forever. God has placed eternity in our hearts – the desire to live and our reluctance to accept death as inevitable are in our DNA.
No one hates it more than i do – the brevity and impermanence of life. I do not like one bit what is happening to my sweet wife. Nor do I enjoy the pain of RA or the fact that I just began having blood pressure problems for the first time in my life. And I simply detest the fact that there isn’t one single grandchild that I can run down and tackle. Not one.
Truly, I am a prime candidate for anyone who can make a credible case to me that God wants me to be healthy and enjoy the vigor of youth forever. And I am completely open to any idea that God wants me to live in a “Christian nation” where I can enjoy “Christian” liberties.
But the body of scriptural evidence seems to indicate otherwise.
Take the Apostle Paul, for example. Imprisoned, beaten, and persecuted. Yet he seemed to take it as his lot that he was destined to suffer for the sake of Christ. He even pleaded with God to remove an ambiguous thorn in his flesh – three times, he begged God to take it away.
Yet God’s answer was a blunt “NO!”
“My grace is enough for you.”
And in the passage above, Paul seemed to understand that his suffering was not without purpose.
“This happened (suffering) so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
There is something about suffering that drives us into the arms of God. Perhaps it is that when we suffer we realize that we are out of options. We become acutely aware that our lives here are contingent on a thousand different influences. And we certainly have no control over those who hate the idea of surrendering their lives to the God who created and died for them and make us the objects of their hatred.
So I pray – feebly and weakly, mind you.
“I beseech you, Almighty Father, use my pain – my frustration with my own flesh – my feebleness – the tenuous nature of my life here on earth – use it to draw me closer to you. Do what you have to do to bring me closer to that place where I am completely dependent on you.”
I say that I pray this prayer feebly because I don’t know what it would take to compel me to surrender my life completely to his care and control. I pray it fearfully because I know me – it will be painful because of my infatuation with here and now. I desire to be free of my attachment to the world, but I’m still hanging on with all my might it seems.
In the end – my end – I know that I will not ask for my college diploma or my money. I won’t ask for my possessions or point to my accomplishments. At that point, I’m sure that I will only ask for my Lord and Savior, Jesus to accompany me to my final home.
“Lord, protect me from my own evil heart. Lead me to what lasts. Let me rely, not on me, but on you – the one who raises the dead.”