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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Quote of the Day (14)

Today I find myself praying for a loved one going through tough times. That’s not unusual.

But somewhere in the middle of my prayer it becomes apparent to me that what I’m most concerned with alleviating is not really the specific problem she encountered today or even her feelings about it: these are only drops in a near-endless and apparently all-but-unsolvable stream of ongoing calamities. Primarily I am troubled by the level of stress her problems are currently causing ... me.

I mean, feeling sick with anxiety is really putting a damper on my day, folks!

Me, Me, Me …

If I’m honest, I’d like her to stop hurting ... so I can. Oh sure, I’d like her situation to be better for her sake too. But the real thing that drove me to prayer was not love and concern but my own very visceral discomfort.

So then I open my eyes and read this:
“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”
Multiple churches and loved ones with pressing needs all over Asia, both personal and corporate — there’s a real prayer list, unlike my five or six fairly minor concerns. I felt better in about three seconds (well, at least I realized my flapping and fretting had little legitimacy in the face of that level of stress).

Knowing Christ

There is no easy way to know Christ, is there; to “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”. This, in the end, is the truly Christian experience, though I can’t say the “natural me” much likes the sound of it. Those of us who seek to follow in the footsteps of our Lord will inevitably find ourselves increasingly uncomfortable, not just physically but emotionally.

That’s where the path leads. Put bluntly, our guts will churn. And they should. If they don’t, I’m not sure we’re really walking the same path he walked.

Becoming Like Him

I don’t think, by the way, that Paul is exclusively speaking of Christ’s literal death — of his crucifixion only — when he talks about becoming like him “in his death”. I’m quite sure he has that bitter and unique experience very much in view (and would later experience something similar, if extra-biblical history is the least bit accurate). But in context Paul is speaking of his own death to everything that he might otherwise have considered “gain”; of any “confidence in the flesh”. It is a death that is non-literal but certainly not painless. Becoming like the Lord Jesus in his death will never be for most of us a physical experience, but rather an abandonment of self and all the things to which we are most inclined to cling.

On that way we might also discard — along with the excuses for former behaviour that Paul here discards — any perceived “right” we might feel to be at ease for any great length of time with the things we see going on around us. If we are to be like our Lord (or even like Paul), we must learn to sympathize intensely with those in our orbit, not becoming debilitated by the weight of that daily pressure but recognizing that it is a necessary part of the package — and, more importantly, a means of identifying with and better knowing our Lord himself.

Growth Without Discomfort

Jon at Stuff Christians Like hits the nail uncomfortably close to its head:
“I would prefer that God teaches me how to be humble through moments that are not humbling. I want to learn humility but not in ways that are unpleasant at all. I want to learn generosity but without that whole hassle of actually giving anyone anything.

I want growth without discomfort, but that’s not how it works. Growth is always uncomfortable.”
Sounds about right.

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