Sunday, June 29, 2014

Looking to the past, longing for the future

Suffering is like a microscope. 

A microscope narrows our focus to a small area. Similarly, suffering often causes me to narrow my field of view. I become completely focused on the here and now. I think in minutes, hours, or days. I can hardly imagine a time before or after suffering.

Though a microscope illuminates a small area, it blocks out the big picture. The final chapters of Invest Your Suffering help us to see this big picture as we look to the past and long for the future.

Looking to the past

Instead of looking at our suffering through a microscope, the Christian can view suffering through the lens of Jesus’ life.

When Jesus was born, God became a man - a real man with human frailties. He suffered hunger, tiredness, grief, family tensions, abandonment, and sorrow. In fact, Jesus suffered far beyond what we will ever experience or comprehend as Christians. Though his physical ordeal was tortuous, his ultimate suffering came as he bore the full weight of God’s wrath against sin.

This is the gospel, and suffering is at its very heart.

When we look to the past, we can find comfort knowing that Jesus has walked the road of suffering before us. In Mallard’s words, “I found that it was thinking about the cross that became the greatest comfort in those dark days.” How wonderful it is that Jesus can sympathise with our suffering!

But is sympathy all that Jesus offers? Is this a mere consolation in an otherwise tragic mistake? 

No, this is not how God views the cross. The cross had a purpose. On the cross, Jesus suffered so that we can have a future hope.

Longing for the future

As Christians, we must also view suffering through the lens of this future hope.

What is hope? I think the author expresses the Biblical notion of hope well:

"In the Bible, hope is not a vague expectation - a kind of fingers-crossed wishful thinking. Rather, it is the Bible’s shorthand for unconditional certainty."

Sometimes I’m tempted to doubt God’s word. I wonder whether he'll come good on his promises. I pay lip service to hope but I don’t long for heaven. Reading this book, I’ve loved being reminded of the certainty and the glory of the hope we have!

As Christians, we have so much to look forward to! God will create a new heaven and a new earth. The new Jerusalem will descend from heaven. No evil will penetrate the city walls. There will be no need for a temple, or a moon, or a sun. Our God will dwell with us for eternity.

It is this future hope that will finally make sense of our suffering. To finish in the author’s words, “When we finally arrive in the place described in the last pages of the Bible, we will come to understand the purpose and value of every sorrow that has ever touched our lives.”

Come, Lord Jesus.

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