Don’t Pretend Life Is OK; It’s Not
I hate water chestnuts. You know those little crunchy devils of texture that ruin practically any casserole. Unfortunately, my mom went through of phase of water chestnut love when I was in the midst of my grade school career. The annoying little things seemed to pop up in every dish. Every month or so, I would reach my tipping point and refuse to crunch another little circle. My mother would respond to my breakdown with these words: “You need to eat and be thankful for the good food you have. The poor, starving children in China would be happy to eat it.”
Being a gracious kid who humbly thought himself always right, I would whisper back, “Send it to China, then.”
Children and moms all across America continue to repeat this conversation day after day. Tons of kids are ready to pack up their nasty food and to take their boxes to the nearest UPS drop-off location, willingly sacrificing their allowances to cover international shipping cost. “Was it India or China, mom?”
I believe these common and inconsequential conversations are perfect analogy of how many Christians deal with pain and suffering.
We see suffering as something to be minimalized and trivialized. When we are tempted to think our life is bad, we remember that great truth: ‘Someone’s life stinks more than my life.’
We break a bone, but our hospital mate is in a body cast. Our child leaves the faith, but Sam’s kid left the faith and is a drug addict who regularly steals money from the church. We have a miscarriage but Sally has had three. We have to eat bad food, but the kid in India featured on the latest commercial has nothing. Someone else’s life is worse than ours. With this thought in mind, we find the content and the strength to power on through life.
Ironically, we tend to find great comfort in the suffering of others. We see that our suffering is not the pinnacle of human suffering. And because there is some pain, sorrow, or grief that is worse than what we are currently walking through, we convince our soul that our problems are actually rather trite. And if our problems are trite, then they are a manageable. And manageable problems are problems that we can handle, fix, and overcome on our own strength with minimal help from relatives and our local church.
And if we can manage our problems, we do not have to admit that we need Jesus. We do not have to surrender our self-sufficiency and submit to the whole counsel of God. We do not have to surrender our demi-god status. Because if we got this, we really do not need Jesus to do much for us.
The cancer patient who is convinced that his cancer is treatable with Advil will not subject himself to the live-saving chemotherapy treatments. And the believer who is convinced that his sin, sorrows and trials are can be handled with some positive thinking will never embrace the beautiful remedies proscribed in the Scriptures. The well have no need for a physician.
Consequently, we make light of our suffering and sorrow. We do not tell anyone that we had a miscarriage. We do not talk about the death of our mother. We do not let our kids attend their grandmother’s funeral. We do not want to admit that our suffering is entirely beyond our control. We do not want to admit that we are broken people trapped in a broken world.
Thankfully, we do not have to pretend to be God any longer because Jesus saves.
Notice what Jesus says in Mark 33b-34,
See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.
Jesus comforts his disciples by talking about suffering. He addressed their fears by detailing all the evil and bad things that are going to happen to him. He is going to be arrested falsely, handed over to the Romans, publicly humiliated, physically abused, and murdered.
This is not the most encouraging promo for an upcoming leadership event.
“Follow our Leader as he gets mocked, abused, and murder. You will not want to miss this exciting experience.”
These words ring hollow in our ears.
Yet, we need to hear them. We must realize that our problems are bigger and greater than us. We need to realize that we need a savior.
If our greatest problem could be solved by buying a new pair of shoes or by finding a better financial planner, then Christ would not have had to suffer and die on the cross. But he did. And he did so precisely because we are sinners who live in a sin stained universe. Christ dies because our problems truly are beyond our control and ability. To admit that we cannot control our pain and suffering is to admit that we are fallen creatures in need of a savior.
Such a mindset is not weakness. It is immensely biblical. Jesus did not come to save the well and the healthy. He came to save the sick and the broken.
To have hope in this world, we must by humble enough to admit that we need a savior. Only from our brokenness and weakness do we find hope.
When we cry out to Christ for help, we do not find a harsh father figure who spits out all our failures like an adding machine. We find a gracious, loving, and merciful God who fully understands our experience. Tim Killer writes:
There is nothing more difficult than the disruption and loss of family relationships, but here we see that “God knows what it is like to suffer, not just because he sees it in far greater clarity than we, but because he has personally suffered in the most severe way possible…the agony of loss by death, the separation from a beloved…[and] the disruption of his own family (the Trinity) by the immensity of his own wrath against sin.
God knows what it is like to suffer. He hurts with us and for us. And he died for us so that we can escape suffering and sorrow. We do not have to pretend that suffering is a myth. We do not have to cover up our pain with positive words.
At some point, we will lose our demi-god status. At some point, we will all face death, the ultimate sorrow that no man or woman or child can escape. If we are trusting in Christ, he will deliver us from our sin because he has conquered death.
By why wait for the dark clouds of death to roll in. We need to cry out to God for help, today. We need to admit that we are broken, weak, and foolish vessels in need of healing. We need to stop focusing our other people and focus on our hearts, pleading for God to save us. Jesus knows we have problems and sent he son to rescue us.
Are you ready to admit that you need a savior?