Pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, is so unpleasant that it’s difficult to understand how God can command us to count it all joy under various kinds of trials. (Ja 1:2) Does God expect us to disconnect from reality and not feel the normal, healthy emotional response that trauma typically evokes in our lives?
No, it isn’t actually the pain and suffering itself that God wants us to glory in; we’re to rejoice in the midst of our suffering, confident that God will produce patience in us (Ja 1:3): the ability to endure difficulty without losing hope.
If we value patience, and God works patience in each of us through suffering (He 12:6), then we can rejoice in the outcome of godly suffering. It’s through suffering that God matures and completes us; it’s necessary for our growth in godliness. (He 12:11b)
Patience seems to be the primary goal in suffering: it’s the tendency or ability to experience distress in hope: the confident expectation that God is working it all out for our good (Ro 8:28) and for His glory. (1Pe 1:7)
Patient endurance of suffering produces a wealth of practical, life experience with the faithfulnessof God, as we see how He works so brilliantly through chaos and pain to accomplish His purposes. And such experience produces hope (Ro 5:3), the knowledge that God will ultimately be wondrously glorified through whatever He allows. (Re 15:4)
And such hope makes us unashamed in our suffering, as the love of God shines forth from us by the Holy Spirit. (Ro 5:5) It is in the midst of suffering that our love for God and others shines most brightly, when it’s clear that we aren’t seeking God out of selfishness, but even when it hurts, even in persecution. We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by rejoicing in God and knowing He’s at work; we aboundin hope through the power of God in the midst of our suffering, knowing God does all things well.
So, it’s appropriate to be in heaviness as we’re suffering (1Pe 1:7), to weep and grieve and struggle (He 12:11a) – this is perfectly healthy. (Ro 12:15) But this sorrow and heaviness should not be the whole of our experience; we should not suffer like the world does, without hope. (1Th 4:13) We must also look beyond our suffering in faith, rejoicing in what God will eventually accomplish in and through our suffering. (1Pe 1:7)
We can be thankful inour suffering (1Th 5:18), and also forour suffering (Ep 5:20), knowing there’s a glorious purpose in everything God allows. (Ep 1:11)
Abiding in Jesus Christ is living our lives as He would live them, doing what He’s doing as He lives in us. (Col 1:27)
And Christ is doing today what He’s always done, looking to see what His Father’s doing. (Jn 5:19) So we should follow His steps, doing the same, what we see the Father doing, and not doing what the Father isn’t doing.
Is the Father fearful of Man? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Mt 10:28); that’s not what the Father’s doing.
Is the Father envious, covetous, or discontent? No? Then we shouldn’t be (He 13:5); that’s not what the Father’s doing.
Is the Father troubled, or worried about the future? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Jn 14:27); that’s not what the Father’s doing.
When we’re not doing what the Father’s doing, we’re living like the world, alienated from the life of God through our ignorance. (Ep 4:17-18) This is a life of dead works, from which we turn away (He 6:1), cleansed of them by the blood of Christ to serve the living God. (He 9:14)
So, what is the Father doing? He’s always up to something. (Jn 5:17) We should seek His face(Ps 27:8) so we can see what He’s up to, and be about His business. (Lk 2:49)
God reveals His Way within us in and though our own will as we yield to Him. (Php 2:13) Every glance of our hearts, every whisper, every subtle move, submitted for inspection and correction to the Word of God hidden in our heart(Ps 119:11), cleansing our way all day, every day. (vs 9) Where we stray from His Word we ask Him to make us go in the path of His commands as we delight in them (Ps 119:35); God is able to do this (2Co 9:8), and so He does. (1Co 1:9)
The Father is always rejoicing in the Son (2Pe 1:17); so should we.
The Father is Light (1Jn 1:5); when we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with Him (1Jn 1:7) and become a light proving what’s acceptable to God. (Ep 5:8-10)
Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world. (Ac 15:18) As we obey the Father in faith and wisdom, and are faithful in the little things, He gives us more to do. (Lk 12:42)
This is our privilege and our glory, through the Son to see with the Father’s eyes, to feel with the Father’s heart, to be His members in the here and now (Ep 5:30), to hear from Him in the last Day, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21)
Each of us is an individual, uniquely and personally designed by God (Ps 119:73), made in His image. Yet as believers in God we’re also part of something larger, the body of Christ (1Co 12:27), thus members one of another. (Ro 12:5)
This body of Christ, of which every believer is a member, must then extend across time and space, comprising many distinct living building blocks (1Pe 2:5), all being continuously knit together into a single organism (Col 2:19), as actual members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Ep 5:30)
As Christ raised Himself, His divine body, from the dead, making Himself alive again, overcoming death and the grave, those in Christ are raised up together with Him. (Col 2:13) It is as though the Resurrection occurs both as an historical event, and also as a timeless, ongoing reality, outside of time and space.
As God is ever present in every moment of time, continually experiencing every instant of time all the time, He is always there at the instant of the Resurrection of Christ, always defeating death permanently and fully and completely in Christ.
And in His Resurrection, Jesus Christ is also quickening each believer, raising each particular soul from both physical and spiritual death to be forever alive together with Him and in Him. (1Co 15:22)
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a verifiable historical fact which provesand demonstrates that something profound is continually happening, and that it will continue to happen, until it is complete (Php 1:6): until all that are in Christ are raised to perfection and newness of life. (Ro 6:4)
As surely as Christ has risen, so each and every living soul in Him will one day be quickened in a spiritual body like His to eternal life. (1Co 15:49) Christ is the Firstfuits, the promise and first evidence of the coming harvest: the rest of us who are in Him. (1Co 15:23)
Our resurrection from the dead has already happened in Christ (Ep 2:6); God sees the end from the beginning as if it were altogether one, and calls those things which be not as though they already were. (Ro 4:17) It’s done — Christ leaves none of His own behind. (Jn 6:39)
Christ commands us to be perfect (Mt_5:48); the Greek is teleios: complete, mature, flawless, morally perfect. This is an impossible standard, clearly, but it’s not surprising: God doesn’t tolerate imperfection, and He shouldn’t. (De 18:13) He requires perfection of us because it’s right for Him to do so (Re 3:2); our lack of ability is irrelevant. (Pr 20:9)
So, how should we respond to this demand for moral perfection? There are dangers here we do well to avoid.
Firstly, we shouldn’t complain about God being unfair: fair is giving us all what we deserve – eternal tormentin the Lake of Fire. We’re all desperately wicked(Je 17:9), unbelievably sinful, even on our best day. (Is 64:6) There’s no requirement for God to lower the righteous standard simply because we’ve chosen to sin and corrupt our will. Borrowing more than we can ever repay, and gambling it all away, doesn’t mean we owe any less. We’re guilty as charged: we need mercy.(Lk 18:13)
Secondly, we shouldn’t try to lower the standard for ourselves (Mt 18:26); aiming for anything less than perfection is willful sin (He 10:26); choosing this as a life pattern is insolent, arrogant, disrespectful to God – inexcusable. (vs 27) Every willful sin is a personal affront to God; He hates all who break His laws on purpose. (Ps 5:5) We must try our best, our very best, to be as perfect as possible (2Pe 1:5-7), as poor as that might be. (Php 3:12)
Thirdly, we must ground ourselves in the unconditional love of God (Ep 3:19): God loves each of us because He made each of us uniquely in His image, with His own hands. (Ps 119:73) Real love isn’t conditioned on behavior (Mt 5:44-45): God loves the righteous and the sinner equivalently, because that’s His holy nature.
We must be grounded in the love of God to retain our sanity before Him while we’re stained in our sin. (He 11:6) Our sin is repulsive to Him; it makes Him indignant(Mi 7:9), and every single one of our sins must be dealt with firmly and justly. Yet even in His anger God Is Good – there isn’t a malicious bone in God’s body, and we must count on this in order to function as we consider the second death. While there’s any doubt about our standing before Him, we remain in dreadful peril.
The only sane response to God’s demand for perfection is to find refuge in Christ through the gospel. The terrorof God moves us to seek Him(2Co 5:11), to pursue salvation from our sin until we know we’re safe in Christ, absolutely sure. (1Jn 5:13) We can not afford to stand before God all on our own, and be judged according to our own works.
We should examine ourselves very carefully to ensure that we’re in the faith; we should be able to prove this. (2Co 13:5) There are things that accompany salvation (He 6:9); without these manifest in our lives we’re deceiving ourselves. (Ja 1:22) Until we’re perfectly sure of our eternal destiny, we strive to enter the kingdom (Lk 13:24), and labor to enter into His rest(He 4:11); diligently making our election sure. (2Pe 1:10)
We work this out, our own salvation from both the penalty and power of sin in our lives, with fear and trembling. (Php 2:12) We don’t rest until we know that Christ Himself is our own personal advocate, dying in our place for us, giving us His perfect righteousness (1Jn 2:1) and working His righteousness in us (Ep 2:10), making us as eternally safe from the wrath of God as He is.
It is only from the safety of eternal rest that we pursue perfection with joy, not to be saved, but because this is right, aligned with our new nature to love and obey God. (Ps 119:4) We don’t presume the liberty to sin because He has redeemed us.
And as we pursue God, we don’t let others define good and evil for us, telling us what perfection looks like – we go back to Torah(Is 8:20) and check every requirement against it (Ac 17:11), searching out truth for ourselves. (Ps 119:99) One of Satan’s tactics is to both add to the Word and take away from it (De 4:2), imposing such unhealthy, burdensome regulations that we either rebel, or we or become hateful, proud and judgmental in keeping them. (Mt 23:4)
Finally, and this is key, we don’t focus overly much on ourselves, on our own behavior and how we’re failing; we stop trying in our own strength to be perfect. We grow in holiness through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit as we behold Jesus Christ. (2Co 3:18) Behold Him and rejoice in Him (Php 4:4); He’s the one who gives us faith(He 12:2), our access to grace, the power to live for God. (Ro 5:2) Christ Himself is our life (Col 3:4), and our sanctification. (1Co 1:30)
We behold Christ primarily through Torah, (Ps 119:18), which shows us where we need cleansing (Ps 119:9), then we ask for help to obey (vs 10), hiding His Word in your heart and meditating on it (Ps 119:97) so we won’t sin against Him. (vs 11)
As we receive with meekness the engrafted Word, beholding the living Christ within it, the lies we believe, which keep us in bondage, are exposed and corrected through God’s gift of repentance. (2Ti 2:25-26) This is how Christ transforms us and delivers us from sin. (Ja 1:21) He Himself is the Word, giving us His life (Ps 119:50) through the scriptures (Jn 6:63), enabling us to live uprightly.
We don’t dwell on our own sin, focusing on it constantly; there’s a specific season for this, in which we’re to afflict ourselves. (Ja 4:9) As a general pattern we meditate on Christ through His word (Php 4:8); He points out things that are amiss, where we’re off the mark, imperfect (He 4:12), as He is pleased to work in us.
As He does reveal our sin to us, our imperfections, flaws and weaknesses, we immediately confess and agree with Him, asking Him to quicken and enable us to obey Him (Ps 119:35), and to reveal specific scriptures to us which shed light on our darkness and lies. (Ps 119:130) We meditate on these texts until they become part of us, prayerfully quoting them whenever we feel tempted. (Mt 4:4) This is how we take the sword, the sword of the Spirit, and fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12), abiding in Him, so we won’t be ashamed before Him when He comes. (1Jn 2:28)
God is infinitely self-sufficient; He doesn’t need our worship or our service. He is perfectly complete and content in Himself.
Even so, there issomething God lacks, which He may only obtain through us: affliction. (Col 1:24) God would not afflict Himself, or cause Himself grief or suffering: this only comes to Him through sin.
This suffering in God is not at all for God; it is for us; it is the vehicle through which God chooses to reveal His infinite nature and character to the universe (Ro 9:22-23), and the elect are the primary beneficiaries of this.
And it may very well be that the primary way God suffers is by allowing His children to suffer innocently at the hands of the wicked. When believers are persecuted, Jesus Christ takes it personally, as if He Himself were being persecuted. (Ac 9:4) This is a gift He gives Himself through us and for us, and also a deep privilege he bestows upon us. (Php 1:29)
Perhaps it is only in this mindset that we fully rejoice in difficulty (Ja 1:2) and tribulation (Ro 5:3): suffering not only works patience and holiness in us (He 12:10-11), but will eventually serve to glorify God immensely. (1Pe 1:6-7) If God is allowing others to afflict Himself through us, for a glorious eternal purpose, we can glory in this as well for His sake. (Php 3:10)
There’s something about God’s suffering that will vindicate and glorify Him one day. The nature of His enemies will be open to the universe, impossible to hide, since He’s given them liberty to pursue their own free will. Most all of what they have done will have been perpetrated against His own, whom the world hates because it hates Him. (Jn 15:19) In that day, in the context of the suffering of God, there will be no just complaints, no excuse for the wicked. (Ro 1:20)
Let’s be ready and willing to suffer for God as He wills (Ga 6:14), to let Him suffer in and through us. (Ga 2:20) This light affliction, for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2Co 4:17)
When the serpent was enticing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, where was Adam? Was he standing silently beside her, passively watching as his wife was being tempted? Or was he off somewhere else in the garden, busy about his work? What are the implications of each scenario, and what might we learn from considering them?
Since the text says Eve “gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat,” (Ge 3:6), some claim Adam must have been right next to her the entire time.
Yet we’d use the same kind of language if Adam wasn’t standing right next to Eve, if he were anywhere in the Garden; it’s a matter of perspective. If I’m texting a friend, my wife’s with me at home even if she’s in another room. But to a child in my lap, mom’s not with me in the same sense. Since we’re told about the Fall from a distance, there’s no requirement for Adam to be within earshot of the serpent; this could go either way. What else might we consider?
Firstly, our understanding of the tactics of the serpent differ dramatically depending on our view. There’s no obvious wisdom, cunning or subtlety in attempting to deceive Eve with Adam present. (Ge 3:1) Wisdom tells us that temptation is typically discretely private, not in public before like-minded community who might offer support. Thinking Adam was present misses a key typological example of Satan’s tactical pattern. (2Co 2:11)
And how are we to understand the unfathomable passivity of a newly-married groom who stands by silently while his bride is threatened? Danger is apparent and Adam is charged with cleaving to his wife and considering her needs as his own. (Ge 2:24) An intruder is engaging the weaker vessel on purpose (1Pe 3:7); what reasonably sane husband tolerates such threats without engaging? Passivity here implies Adam is grossly negligent, unconcerned for his wife’s welfare, for no apparent reason. Such failure is sin, if anything is, and precedes the Fall. This is problematic on multiple levels.
And what should we make of God insistence, in light of Eve’s participation in the Fall, that women abstain from public debate in spiritual assemblies? (1Ti 2:11-14) How could this be punishment for being the gender that sinned first … when being deceived is less criminal than sinning deliberately, presumptuously, with our eyes wide open? (He 10:26-27) Adam chose the fruit intentionally, in open defiance of God; sin entered the world through Adam, not Eve. (Ro 5:12)
If the Fall doesn’t teach us that women are, as a rule, more easily mislead than men when it comes to discerning spiritual danger, and that this is a matter of God’s intrinsic, perfect design, one which ought to be benevolently recognized by men (1Pe 3:7), then what essential, spiritual principle are we to discern here, given God’s prescription for church order?
And if this assessment of woman is correct, then Satan’s tactic is much more intuitive and obvious: he would very likely have isolated Eve to exploit her vulnerability and maximize his probability of success.
And what shall we make of God’s observation that Adam listened to his wife’s voice in the context of the Fall? (Ge 3:17) Evidently, Eve spoke to Adam to entice him, a detail omitted from the initial narrative. If Adam were present all along, hearing and considering all the serpent said, the fact of dialogue between Adam and Eve seems incidental, insignificant, yet God mentions this as a key aspect in Adam’s sin. Evidently, it was Eve’s persuasion that moved him, not the serpent’s lies. This doesn’t square with Adam being present all along: Adam was a perfect man, a genius; if he had heard everything the serpent said, it seems unlikely that Eve would have been more persuasive than the serpent.
The above difficulties suggest (to me) that Satan approached Eve strategically, when she was alone, crafting a lie perfectly suited to her unique disposition as a helper; she was more emotionally oriented and intuitive than Adam, more aware of and connected with her environment, and focused on pleasing him, making her a suitable counterpart, yet more vulnerable to deception. Tempting Adam with recovering intimacy and alignment with Eve, in addition to the prospect of being like God, was likely the enemy’s plan. It worked: Adam deliberately chose to sin, pursuing fellowship and union with his lover over his Maker. It was the greater sin, for sure.
The Fall of Man is a foundation of our faith, containing key life lessons for us all. (1Co 10:11) If I am rightly dividing the text, it reveal Satan as a master strategist, with an intimate knowledge of his victims; he divides and isolates with precision and malice (Ja 5:16), leveraging the goodness of our design to take us down. (Mt 10:36) Let’s be sober and vigilant. (1Pe 5:8-9)
God commands us to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. (Mt_5:44) This is so unnatural for most of us it’s almost scary; we deeply struggle to seek the best for those who’re harming us. Is this because we’re afraid justice won’t be honored? Let’s see.
Think of such a person, someone who’s done you much evil (2Ti 4:14), someone you have a difficult time loving, helping and serving. Are you wishing them the best, and acting accordingly? Does the thought of them being blessed and doing well threaten you and make you uneasy?
Now, imagine they have a new form of cancer, and they’re clueless about it. In a few days the disease will begin attacking their central nervous system, compromising all voluntary movement and causing intense pain. The pain will continually increase while their ability to move and respond diminishes. Conscious, yet completely immobilized, they’ll spend the rest of their lives in the most extreme suffering imaginable.
If it’s any easier now to serve and bless and pray for them sincerely, the cause is unbelief. If we don’t believe justice will prevail, in the perfect time and in the perfect way, we don’t trust in the ultimate goodness of God, and it will be difficult for us to love as He has commanded.
Our intrinsic desire for justice is good; we’re all made in God’s image. God is just, and we instinctively align with Him in calling for wrongs to be made right. But God forbids us to retaliate: vengeance belongs to Him (He 10:30) since all sin is primarily against Him. (Ps 51:4)
If we think we know better than God how and when to apply justice, that we’re somehow thwarting justice in loving the wicked, it’s because we don’t know the end of the story, how God’s going to right all wrongs perfectly, in the perfect way at the perfect time, in spite of the fact that we’re blessing our enemies. (Pr 16:4)
Neglecting to love our enemies, to seek their welfare as appropriate (Pr 25:21), is actually being passive aggressive (Pr 24:17-18); it’s withholding proper good from them to try to force God to judge them (Pr 3:27), according to our own purpose and timing rather than His. It’s seeking a sort of back-handed vengeance, denying God what’s rightfully His.
To overcome this we must be convinced that the judgement of God is according to truth in dealing with every single sin that’s ever been committed by anyone. (Ro 2:2) All sin will be perfectly accounted for and dealt with, completely and ultimately and finally. (Ge 18:25) The truth is that God will be much more severe in His response to sin than we can possibly imagine. The worst tortures human beings can devise pale in comparison. (Mt 10:28) It’s only as we’re armed with this knowledge that we will be empowered to love our enemies as God has commanded us to.
But what if we perceive our enemies to be believers, justified by the death of Christ such that they’ll get a free pass, Christ becoming their sin and taking their due punishment, setting them free? The problem with this concern is that it’s unfounded: every believer in Jesus Christ both loves Him (1Co 16:22), and also loves all those that belong to Him. (1Jn 5:1) Deceived believers who willfuly harm us will be fully dealt with in this life – no exceptions. (1Pe 4:17) No one gets away with anything. (1Co 11:32)
When we’re struggling with loving our enemies, we must keep the end in mind, the goal, trusting in the ultimate love and justice of God. While keeping healthy boundaries and protecting ourselves, there’s no room for malice; we must benevolently pursue the ultimate welfare of those who hate us, and leave the outcome to God. He must let His enemies act like enemies in order to reveal Himself and them. (Ec 8:11) In the end, He will be glorified in every single event that has ever transpired. (Ro 11:36); For those of us who love Him, this is enough (Ro 8:36-37); He’s working it all out for our good according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28)
The first principle king Lemuel’s mother teaches him is: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” (Pr 31:3) A man devoting a disproportionate amount of strength to pursuing women is one thing; giving away his strength in the process is quite another, and seems to be the larger point in the instruction.
A strong, confident man is naturally attractive to women, and this is a good thing, encouraging men to be strong in body, soul and spirit. (1Co 16:13) God has designed men with this capability and tendency so they can protect and bless women, since women are the weaker gender. (1Pe 3:7) God commands men to pursue strength and develop it (1Co 16:13), so men ought not neglect, compromise or relinquish their strength. (Ps 84:7)
Men should bring their strength to any relationship, especially with a woman, rather than looking to women to strengthen them. Women want to draw strength from men, to sense their confidence and capability, to be able to depend on them, to be supported, defended and protected.
A weak, frail, incompetent man who refuses to strengthen himself as well as he can, sabotaging himself such that he depends on women for validation, does no one any favors in this; it is a perversion of God’s design. In looking for his strength, a woman may quickly sap what little he has, and find him unable to support and stabilize her in a crisis, or worse, find herself dominating and disrespecting him … causing the Word of God to be blasphemed (Tit 2:5) and frustrating them both. (Est 1:17-18)
When a man believes he’s weak without a woman’s affirmation, he buys into the lie that he’s not uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God, made directly in His image for a unique and significant purpose. This undermines his confidence, such that he becomes more fearful of women, more easily threatened and intimidated by them, and dependent on their acceptance in a way that defrauds them both of what God has designed him to be.
The truth is that Man is made in the image and glory of God differently than Woman, and this is good for both men and women. Man is made directly in the image of God (Ge 1:27); Woman is made in the image and glory of Man, in the image of God in Man: she is an image of an image of God. (1Co 11:7) This is intrinsic to God’s design, empowering a synergistic, interdependent one-flesh relationship between husband and wife which enables them to fulfill their mutual destiny together. (Ge 1:28) A man should respect this design, and guard his dignity here for both their sakes. (1Ti 2:11)
In pursuing strength, a wise man looks to God to strengthen him (Ps 18:32); he does not look to women. He is unashamed of involuntary weakness, and will routinely take stock of his particular aptitudes and capabilities, asking God to enable and quicken him (Ps 143:11), always growing stronger. (Pr 24:5) As he pursues God he finds dignity in God’s design, sufficiency in God’s grace(2Co 12:9), and power for his journeyin Christ. (Php 4:13)
Though unafraid to face his own weaknesses, a man ought not to seek weakness, voluntarily weakening himself, either by speaking so as to make himself appear inappropriately vulnerable or deficient, or by neglecting to discipline and exercise himself physically, mentally and emotionally. He should always act in a manner that engenders respect (Ec 10:1), both for himself and for others. (1Pe 2:17)
God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) This is true for all of us, for both men and women, but in a day of role-reversal corruption and proliferating anti-male sentiment, this reminder is particularly needful for men.
Life is suffering, and suffering is hard; apart from God’s restraining grace, pain and hardship often produce bitterness. (He 12:15) Fear that we’ll become resentful in our suffering is to doubt God will give us grace to overcome.
God is certainly able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24); He’s able to make all grace abound toward us, so that we’ll glorify Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)
This motivates us to pray for ourselves (Ps 119:25) and for each other (1Th 5:23), encouraging one another in the midst of suffering (He 12:12-13), that patience will have her perfect work in us (Ja 1:4), and that God will perfect us — establishing, strengthening and settling us. (1Pe 5:10)
Believers are saved by hope(Ro 8:24), delivered from worry and despair by our confident expectation that, in the midst of suffering, God will strengthen us to the praise of His Glory (Ep 1:12): this is what He’s chosenus for, and predestinated us unto. (Ep 1:11) We’re His workmanship, created by Him in Christ unto good works, in which God has predetermined us to walk. (Ep 2:10)
Once we understand the purpose of suffering, that God’s design is to glorify Himself in us through it, we rejoice in tribulation (Ro 5:3), knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. (Ja 1:2-3) Patiently enduring trial enables us to experience God’s faithfulness, and such experience produces hope. (Ro 5:4) God is faithful to sanctify us, and He will do it. (1Th 5:24)
Look for His smile in and through suffering; it’s only in being willing to die for Christ that we may experience the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)
Strange as it may seem, I’ve been struggling with regret that I will die and go to Heaven. It’s irrational, of course, and it’s unrelated to anything temporal; it isn’t because I’ll miss some physical or relational aspect of my life here on Earth.
The dilemma is that I haven’t been able to imagine how I could possibly have more access to God than I already have. Now, I can be as close to Him as I like, closer than my own breath. I can talk to Him any time, commune with Him whenever I like, as much as I want. (2Co 13:14) No one else can separate me from Him (Ro 8:39), or have any claim on Him that might constrain my access to Him; nothing ever interferes or limits His availability to me.
Yet, as Christ was in an earthly body, bound by time and space, He could only personally converse with one person at a time; only one disciple at a time could lean on Jesus’ bosom (Jn 13:23); He could only hold one or two children in His arms at a time. There’s something about the physicality of Heaven that seems intrinsically to break down the omnipresence of God to me: once I seeHim, I will then also see the millions of others who clamor for His attention, and I cannot understand how I could possibly have the same unfiltered, unbroken, unrestrained access to Him there that I have here and now.
This uncertainty has been causing me to hesitate about Heaven; my fellowship with Him is themostprecious thing to me, and I cannot let the smallest particle of it go without feeling a sense of immense loss. As the disciples could not possibly understand why it was expedient for Christ to depart from this world so the Comforter would come (Jn 16:5-7), I’ve been feeling similarly. How could it possibly be good for me to die and go to Heaven, where both Father and Son will appear so very far away, surrounded by millions of saints, from whom I’m essentially indistinguishable?
How it could be better I cannot actually fathom yet, but God says it is not just better, but farbetter to depart this world to be with Christ. (Php 1:23) To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Co 5:8), and it is, in fact, evidently the kind of presence that makes what I have now much more like absence (2Co 5:6), more like blindness than sight. (2Co 5:7)
If from the vantage of Heaven I will consider what I had on Earth an absence from Jesus Christ, a blindness compared to how I am finally seeing, then this heavenly state must indeed be infinitely and indescribably precious. Now, I can align with Paul, and know a passion to depart this life to be so much more withGod than I am now!
Meanwhile, it’s like I’m straining to see Him through darkly colored windows, but soon it will be face to face. (1Co 13:12) This hope I have as an anchor of my soul, both sure and steadfast, entering within the veil, the holiest place in the universe, where Jesus Christ abides (He 6:19-20), and I in Him.