Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 16 Purpose in Pain

January 16
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. II Corinthians 1:3,4

Calvin: “For whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil…Hence also in harsh and difficult conditions, regarded as adverse and evil, a great comfort comes to us: we share Christ’s sufferings in order that as he has passed from a labyrinth of all evils into heavenly glory, we may in like manner be led through various tribulations to the same glory…The saints…experience the fact that God.. provides the assistance that he had promised.” (Inst. 3.8.3)

Cross bearing does not refer to carrying pieces of wood as much as it does being “beneath life’s crushing load, bending low, toiling along the climbing way with painful and slow steps.” Cross bearing means seeing purpose in afflictions and pain. “Crosses interrupt our plans, test our faith, and teach us patience in suffering” (Ramey and Johnson LCL p. 94). According to Calvin the crosses of life teach us (discipline us), correct us, and help us to share in Christ’s sufferings (sympathetically and really). It is a trend that people find it fashionable and less alien to say there is no meaning in suffering these days. I heard much of this about recent wars, terrorist acts, and other tragedies. While human evil is not explainable, that does not mean that we cannot , in God’s providence, learn from our afflictions and problems.
One of the greatest adjustments in life is going from a state of having more than enough to just enough. Many an American has been humbled in the last few months economically, psychological and spiritually. To think that there is nothing to be learned from our humilities is to miss an opportunity to grow in wisdom, strength, and grace. Wisdom does not only come from the good experiences and books, but true wisdom is gained as we learn how to adjust and weather storms. Strength comes in hard times too. The strongest trees have learned to resist winds, drought, and flood well. Grace allows us to see our own weakness and rely on a stronger power. Grace keeps us from judging others, but instead welcomes companions on the journey. So bearing our crosses help us to see life for what it is- not shallow, not meaningless, but rather full of meaning and hope. After all, cross bearing is done in the light and hope of the resurrection! There is a purpose in tough times and we are here as part of God’s purpose as well.

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