Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nightmares, Dreams, and the Path of Hope


I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10

One woman’s nightmare is another woman’s dream. It’s all relative. A divorced woman lives a happily married woman’s nightmare. Yet that same divorced woman, if she has a home, lives a homeless woman’s dream. Life can be very tough, but it could always be worse. The trick is to compare down – without being condescending.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews hoped for a conquering Messiah. He would crush the tyranny of Rome. And it was tyranny. Taxes were financially devastating. Marching Roman soldiers thought nothing of trampling Jewish children beneath their feet. Punishment for resisting Rome’s cruel oppression was extremely harsh, public crucifixion being common. Everyone longed for retribution on a personal level. Their Messiah would surely be the answer.

But Jesus had a very different strategy, and a far bigger deliverance than mere political conquering. No one expected the Messiah to look like Jesus. “Who’d have ever thought,” writes Michael Card, songwriter, “he’d be so meek and humble?” (We know, of course, that “meek” denotes strength under control.)

How blind those people were, we think – and then we look to God to wave the same anticipated wand over our lives. We don’t realize that fixing our problems is not what the Kingdom of God is all about.

Jesus comes into our lives to save us from sin, judgment, and despair. That goal can present a very different path from the one we hope for. Often, the only practical difference between having a relationship with Christ and not knowing him is hope. If we let go of Jesus, we still have all our problems, but we refuse the wisdom, comfort, and direction he offers. We refuse hope.

Having given us complete forgiveness and justification, God wants our trials to demonstrate his transforming power, as they forge our love relationship with him. He uses them to deepen our faith and love, so that we become “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) As the hope of Christ permeates our suffering, at times we will share life-giving words. We’ll testify not from wishful thinking or delusional faith, but from actual experience.

That’s the path of hope. It may be paved with suffering, but it leads away from despair, to “abundant life.”



24 comments:

  1. Excellent article!! Trials can be an obstacle to our faith, or an opportunity to strengthen our faith; we get to choose.

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    1. Thanks, Sue! You are so right - the choice is ours.

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  2. Lisa,
    It's a hard truth for us Westerners to accept, that "fixing our problems is not what the Kingdom of God is all about." But it is the truth. What is often our highest value (avoiding pain) is not on the top of God's agenda. Instead, He desires to make us "mature and complete, not lacking anything." If only we could align our priorities with His! I have struggled much of my life to learn to embrace my difficulties as the opportunities that they are to bring me into deeper union with my Creator. That is what He wants above all else- to be close to me. He doesn't rejoice in my pain. Nor does He plan abuse or violence so that I'll draw near. But He does give me the option of using those awful experiences to open myself to His sweet love. In the end, it is my choice to take advantage of the opportunity or not. I can fight and complain and become bitter, or I can surrender to His amazing heart for me and let Him hold me through the storms.

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  3. That is powerful, Misa! It's beautiful to hear of God's love bringing healing through difficult situations. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. This is a beautiful post and a great reminder to be grateful for all that we really do have.

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  5. I learned that when I stop comparing my life to others but ask God what He wants me to learn here and now in my own life, I find peace -- it's not my circumstances that matter, it's a confident faith in Christ in the midst of the storm that matters.

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    1. So true, Karen! I remember realizing how crazy it was to compare my life to other people's, when God has my back and is working out his plans.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. It is all relative! Gratitude has helped me put life into perspective many times.

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    1. Same here, Amy. Thanks for sharing that!
      Blessings.

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  7. Great post! Being thankful for even the littlest things is the key to happiness. :)

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    1. Thanks, Czjai. It's easy to overlook the small blessings when we are distracted by what others have.

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  8. This is an excellent article. God is serious about developing our true hope. It will benefit others, too, as you mentioned.

    2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (ESV)
    ...God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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    1. Thanks, George! That is an important principle to remember when times are hard. Blessings!

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  9. The small book by Ray Comfort, "The Master's Way" makes a good follow-up to this excellent article.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that! Maybe I will write a book review - it sounds very interesting!

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  11. I like the idea of you article. I prefer to use the word perspective. I just don't like to compare myself to others, every situation is unique- which you have also pointed out. Anyway, great concept. :)

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    1. Thanks, Gina! I agree; it makes no sense to compare our lives with others. Glad you stopped by.

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  12. Thank you for the thought provoking post. We have a saying in our house "At least I don't have flies on my eyes." It serves to remind us that things are a lot worse in other parts of the world and puts an instant end to feeling sorry for yourself.

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    1. Lol, love that! Sometimes I repeat, "It's not cockroaches..."

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  13. I just finished: "No Longer a Slumdog: Bringing Hope to Children in Crisis" by Dr. KP Yohannan. Free from Gospel for Asia //www.gfa.org, this Indian native became the voice for suffering children in Asia. He shares stories of lives transformed by the hope brought to families & whole villages when a voiceless slum child places their faith in Jesus. Their hearts are transformed from darkness & emptiness into the brightest dawn of a new day which brings joy & changed lives to all around them.
    Lisa, keep up the thought provoking messages!

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    1. Wow, I can't wait to read that! Thanks, Catina!

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  14. I love Michael Card's music. Not enough people know his music, imo. He really captures the Christ of compassion.

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