Thursday, May 4, 2017

Receive the good news (2016)

We live in a broken world where we hurt the people around us, and they hurt us. We often feel "weak and wounded, sick and sore." And so we try to manage our discomfort in any number of ways. Some go about their days and weeks in anger, in their attempt to insulate themselves from the fear, the pain, and the near panic that gnaws at them. For others it may be cynicism, the near cousin of anger, that becomes the ointment they hope will numb their troubles. Or, if not anger or cynicism, it could be lust (of any kind), or greed, or alcohol, or gluttony, or a host of other things. What about me? O, I am multi-talented when it comes to my own attempts to numb, pacify, or otherwise deny the brokenness of my soul, body, and relationships. I often live like witch doctor of self-reliance; constantly adjusting my witch’s brew in my vain attempt to meet the needs of the moment, day, or week. It can be hard to even imagine what it would look like to interrupt or stop this vicious cycle.

Attempting to deny our hurts, aches, and longings is another attempt at self-reliance. The witch doctor approach is one attempt to numb our pain and our longings, but when we attempt to deny these things we are more like mad scientists, believing we can train or make ourselves into a more advanced being. But it just doesn’t work. Attempting to live in denial, we may think we are transforming ourselves into a bionic man/woman, when the result is really more like Frankenstein. (Even Frankenstein eventually learned to feel though, right?) Perhaps another way to think about it is to think of the world of science fiction. Attempting to live in denial of our wounds, aches, and longings is like trying to perform a Jedi mind trick on ourselves - with a wave of the hand we try to think: these are not the pains you’re looking for, they are gone! Move along.

The problem, of course, is that it is frightening to acknowledge our aches and longings, while at the same time acknowledging that we are powerless to heal and satisfy ourselves in our own strength.

So what are we to do?

One day my middle daughter got lost. We were at a party at a friend’s house. My wife had stayed home with our son, but my 2 year old daughter and I were there together. Most of the guests were outside, enjoying a time of friends, food, and relaxation. In addition to the adults there were a number of other children there, and my daughter was having a great time laughing and playing with these friends. But there came a time when I noticed that I had not seen or heard my daughter for a few minutes and so I began to look for her. I called for her and looked around outside for her before going into the house. A number of people had been going in and out of the house off and on for various reasons, so when I realized that my daughter was not outside, I ran into the house to look for her. As soon as I came through the back door I could hear her crying. I called for her and ran to the sound of her cries. I found her, tears streaming down her cheeks, in the dark of the foyer, desperately pushing on the closed front door that she could not get open. I drew her into my arms and sat on the floor holding her as she told me through her sobs that she couldn’t find me. As I wiped away her tears, I told her that I had come looking for her and that I loved her. 

How many times have I felt just like my daughter did that day—lost, alone, searching, and desperately crying in the dark. It is precisely here that the Bible and the historic Christian faith comes to us with gospel good news. God has come looking for us in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus comes to us in our fear, in our pain, and in our desperation saying, “I’ve been looking for you, and I don’t ever want to lose you again.”

So whatever cocktail or witch’s brew of self-reliance you are currently using to self-medicate your body, mind, and soul from the wounds and aches of your life, won’t you dare to try Jesus? Aren’t you tired? Wouldn’t you like peace and rest? Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And, instead of attempting to deny your pain, hating yourself for continuing to hurt and struggle, reach out to Jesus.

The Christian gospel of God’s breathtaking grace through the person and work of Jesus presents us with another way, a better way. A real relationship with a real and living Jesus means receiving from him acceptance with God, the forgiveness of all of our sins - our rebellion against God, and the harm we have done to others, to ourselves, and to our world - adoption into the family of God, a record of perfect and spotless righteousness, and an eternal inheritance of life and flourishing, which can never perish, spoil, or fade.

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