“Jesus suffered ‘not that we might not suffer,’ wrote George MacDonald, ‘but that our sufferings might be like his.’” Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness
Let’s be honest and transparent about a very real tendency. When brokenness visits us, we are often driven to those beautiful passages about having faith and overcoming. We are compelled to claim promises in God’s Word. Our problem is we interpret those biblical promises of God for the here-and-now and not for eternity. We tend to put ourselves in the center.
We must be very careful.
There’s a real danger. The danger is a self-focused, simplistic faith. We must beware of misusing—even abusing—the weapon a faith for our own good, kingdom, or will.
Instead, we must abandon ourselves to a faithful embrace of his Kingdom coming and his will being done here as it is in heaven. Thus, we would be wise to guard against the temptation to claim a tidy faith to meet our immediate wants, even immediate needs. God is love, but we must trust his love and not attempt to manipulate his love. We are compelled by his love, but we must not seek to compel him to love in the way we desire.
C. S. Lewis reminds us, in The Problem of Pain, that God’s love is not some “…senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way…nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests…” Instead, Lewis describes God as a consuming fire himself loving us with the love that created the world. God’s powerful love drove him to go to the Cross. He redeemed us for all eternity. Thus, our redemption is pointing beyond our temporal days and the temporary fixes in this life to eternity’s goal.
“The power of the Cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.” Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness
Maybe the battle in this faith journey we call life is about attaining a proper context. Each of us need to lift our eyes beyond the dirt around our feet—our own world. We need to lift our eyes off our kingdom and will and place our gaze upon his Kingdom and will. Context is vitally important. Perspective is crucial.
“…I have come to understand even suffering, through the transforming power of the Cross, as a gift, for in this broken world, in our sorrow, he gives us himself; in our loneliness, he comes to meet us…” Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness
Be ruthlessly honest and observant with your heart. Proverbs 4:23 warns, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Subtly, we conflate our hopes, dreams, and desires with the promises of God. He promises us good, and we determine what that means. I’ve learned that it is dangerous to confuse my kingdom and will with his Kingdom and will.
We must relentlessly guard against any tendency toward a self-centered faith.
“…the worst thing that ever happened became the best thing that ever happened. …At the Cross of Jesus our crosses are changed into gifts.” Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness