My heart was pained. Ironically enough, the cause of my anxiousness was an event devoted to the theme of thanksgiving. As I sat through three cycles of videos, testimonies, and songs, my heart sank deeper and deeper into despair.
I heard various Christians talk about the Jesus who gave grandparents great families, who gave widowers new spouses, and who made sick children new. But the Jesus who wept over his friend’s death, who suffered on the cross, and who ordained for the apostle Paul to be tortured, robbed, and shipwrecked was nowhere to be found during this holiday.
Moreover, the God who comforts the daughter who buries her father and her mother within a blink of each other was not mentioned. The God who promises to vindicate the abused child was overlooked. And the God who sustains parents as they place their newborn under a tombstone was omitted. In his place, I was offered a Jesus who looked remarkably like the genie from Aladdin (minus the blue skin and red sash). Rub the bottle; say the magic prayer; and poof, your best life now.
I was grieved because this shrunken view of God does injustice to both the gospel and our savior that I have come to love. If our boasts about God are always linked to material gains and physical health, we’ve missed out on the greatest benefits of the gospel. The beauty of the gospel is best seen when health, wealth, and physical happiness our ripped from our arms.The awesomeness of the gospel is having nothing and discovering joyful reality that God is everything. As Christians, we don’t have to brush our suffering under the rug, assuming we lack the faith of the super spiritual and hoping that our next year will be magically better. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
As we slide out from the Thanksgiving table into the Christmas season, we should thank God for our families, our health, and for everything and anything that contributes to our happiness. All good gifts come from above! But we also must realize that the beauty of the Jesus does not end with the safe and serene pictures of the Christ child lying in a designer manger surrounded by non-smelly animals. Our savior went onto the bloody agony of the cross. And as he did, Jesus both experienced our pain and then defeated its source. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Christ offers hope, joy, and peace to the grieving daughter, the hurt child, and the heartbroken parents. Jesus offers us an eternal life that transcends our earthly trappings whether good or bad. Our greatest gain is not a great family portrait placed on fireplace mantel. It’s Christ! Him, we can never lose!
As we prepare to celebrate the holidays listed on our calendars, we should not assume that our churches exist to demonstrate the end of suffering. We exist to show world that Jesus triumphs over suffering through the cross! And when the unfathomably huge God of the Bible is proclaimed, I cannot help but be thankful!