Where do you go when times get rough? When you are in some sort of pain (physical, relational, spiritual, financial etc) and you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel? We all have a a myriad of salves to apply to the wounds that this world inflicts, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. In the midst of these storms where resources seem scare and rescue seems distant, I have some good news, some bad news and some great news.
The Good News is that the very One that has perfectly, lovingly, personally and purposefully knit every atom in all of creation together has set his heart on you, even in our moments of chaotic confusion, anger, sadness, frustration, darkness and hopelessness. God himself passionately invites us to come to His throne of Grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16) because He has unparalleled compassion for us, desires only good things, and possesses the power to rescue. He says “come to me” when the storm is so loud that we truly can’t hear ourselves think because He has been through that storm, and a much much greater storm, and has come out on the other side unscathed. You can get more on this from my blog a couple of week ago called Gospel Butterfingers.
The Bad News (it’s not really bad news at all, but it might feel bad) is that sometimes God intentionally doesn’t deliver us right away (or maybe anytime in this lifetime) from the “thorns in our flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). Sometimes we are crying out to God in the middle of a lightning storm and He, for reasons we can’t fathom, doesn’t pluck us up and set out feet on sunny shores. And it’s really frustrating. And I often will get upset with Him for not coming though (in the way that I insist that he comes through). The reason for these seasons and situations of “bad news” is actually the Great News.
This is what the Lord was telling Israel while they were in exiled slavery to Babylon. They desperately wanted freedom (just like we would). And God said “Yes! But not yet, because I have A MUCH GREATER RESCUE.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
You see, pleading with God to rescue us from our “everyday storms” is important. God wants us to come in prayer at all times, including these times. But he ALSO wants to conform us into the image of His Son. He wants SO MUCH MORE than our temporary happiness and comfort. We are so easily satisfied with being safe, having enough stuff and minimizing the causes of anxiety. But God’s plans are infinitely above my own, and He will do what He needs to do in order to mold me. See how C.S.Lewis addresses this in one of the all time great writings (1941) The Weight of Glory:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased
C.S.Lewis – The Weight of Glory
The Rescue from our Sin
So, what if God’s goal for us is radically different than our goal? We will be perpetually dissatisfied and frustrated, accusing God of not coming through. Maybe my goal of a happy and content life that is relatively void of problems isn’t what Jesus was talking about when he promises us the “abundant life” in John 10:10. Maybe Barbara Duguid is right in her (really great) book Extravagant Grace when she says “that the richest fruit of God’s work in our hearts would be evidenced by increasing humility and dependence on Christ for everything, rather than in a ‘victorious Christian life.'”
Maybe God doesn’t just pick me up out of my mud-pit because this is exactly where I learn how much I need Him and where I will learn that true satisfaction will never be found in creation but in the Creator. Yes, it can be painful and really frustrating. It causes deep tears and angry accusations. It whittles me down to nothing…and what is left is sheer need: need for a rescuer that is beyond myself, but one that has come to give me a far greater rescue…a rescue not from temporary discomfort but from sin itself. A rescue not even just from sin, but a rescue from the tyranny of myself. A rescue not even for my own sake, but also for his Glory.
The Rescue For Himself
And He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
Right there in the middle of God promising to send the Ultimate Israel (Jesus) to deliver the Rebellious Israel (you and me) he says that it will ultimately be for his own glory. God excitedly and at great sacrifice has brought us the absolute Ultimate Victory through Jesus Christ, delivering us from every shred of bondage and slavery. And in the process, He is even more glorified as we, like join in with all of creation in:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Yes, please immediately and passionately go to God’s throne in the midst of the storm regardless of it’s severity. Go sit with your Abba Father when the thunder claps and you are hurt and afraid. And while you are doing that, and while you are passionately asking for a reprieve, join with Jesus in his Grand Finale saying “yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). As I do that, as I pray that, may the Lord give us eyes to see His Greater Rescue. May he help me fathom the depths of his Ultimate Rescue; that sometimes He gives us relief from the storms of life, but always and forever He gives us life after The Storm of Sin, Fear and Death. And upon this hope I can trust that what John Piper wrote is true:
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.