Swamp Lily Sunset

As Christians, we tend to avoid the hard stuff. We are mostly engaged in pain management. I confess to this. Life is hard. And there comes a time when it can be hard on a regular basis. And this pain is not easily managed. Sometimes not at all.

Most Christians live in a romanticized fantasy of what the Christian life should be. When I first became a Christian, I saw this new life portrayed in Christian films, magazines, radio and books. It was all very beautiful, fashionable, bright and comfortable.

There was a time that I thought about going to seminary. To a very beautiful place that I saw in the Christian magazines that would allow me to grow in Biblical truth and become a pastor or whatever God had for me. That future was so bright I had to wear shades.

But life takes funny turns.

“Practical Tips” on How to Rise from the Dead

Over the years I was taught Christian principles about how to overcome pain, suffering and temptation. I was taught that if I was prayerful, hopeful and faithful I could deal with whatever came my way. God would step in and pull me out of the fire before it got too bad. In the nick of time.

But suffering can get bad. Circumstances can get bad. They can get seriously bad and stick around for a long time. Sometimes for a really long time.

We can find ourselves in places far beyond our financial, physical, or emotional means to recover from. Our life’s work and dreams, even good work for the Lord, can crumble and fall apart. This is the place where we reach the end of our own strength, our own abilities and our own “coping” methods. All the “practical Christian living” sermons lose their power. And we are left in a place of raw pain and fear.

God needs to bring us to this place. Because He loves us, He has to allow it.

We Need More Than a Happy Place

Because, this is the only place where He can begin to work within us. It is not a place which we can learn about in a classroom. It is not a comfortable, successful “happy place” that would be featured on a Christian television show. Nor is it a place where we will necessarily find others to help us. Because, even sensitive brothers and sisters in Christ tend to avoid people with too many problems. The “negativity” can become too much to bear for those around us.

This is the place where Job found himself. Job became estranged from his wife and his close friends. Everyone believed that Job had done something wrong. Something to deserve this nasty state of affairs. And so, they were of no comfort to Job. Job didn’t know why this happened. If this happened today, he’d get a few visits and cards and some pastor would stop by and try to analyze his life to figure out if he had failed to tithe or follow some other basic Christian list.

Because churches teach that God will only give you what you can handle. That He will not give you more than that. Really? Where does the Bible teach this?

But this was also the place where Paul found himself. He even said, “I die daily.” And he recounted a time when he and others were “pressed out of measure, above strength”. So much so that they “despaired even of life”. (II Corinthians 1:8,9)

So what is the meaning of all this pain and suffering for Christians?

The Release of the Spirit of God

A seed falls into the ground and dies. It grows and produces fruit only after it has died. Otherwise it would remain only a seed. It would possess merely the potential to become a tree, but never be anything but a seed.

The alabaster bottle was broken by the woman who then used the perfume to anoint Jesus’ head and feet. The breaking of the bottle released the sweet fragrance for all to experience.

In the same way, our outer man is broken in order that the indwelling Holy Spirit is released to do His work. Even though this outer man perishes daily, God renews the inner man moment by moment.

This is about the difference between the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. All that we are naturally, even as Christians, is of no use to God. The natural man, the flesh, does not bring glory to God. Only the Spirit of God can produce eternal fruit.

This is a hard thing to deal with. But this is what the Lord is speaking of when He says that He wants us to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

With God, nothing is wasted. Nothing. No twinge of fear or pain is forgotten or lost to the Lord. He loves us and will bring wonderful fruit out of our lives in His time. In His way.

All this is done so that the world will see Christ. Not the Christian. They will see Christ through the unseen ministry of the Spirit of God living His life through us.

“That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (II Corinthians 4:7)