When there is a cloudy day sometimes the mountains look clearer. When there is a furious cloudburst sometimes the sun shining elsewhere makes a rainbow. The greatest seasons of spiritual growth are often during the times of highest trauma. Our greatest discoveries often come when we’re under the most pressure. When we are on the edge, the edge of sanity, the edge of our limit, the edge of holding it together, there we seem to be, strangely, most in the center.
Why is that? Why do the greatest breakthroughs come through the hardest struggles and the things cherished most greatly are often those things won through the hardest fight? It seems to be part of the equation of life with God. We travel on this journey on our way to death which is a transition to eternity. As we approach that portal we know change, trouble, struggles, and challenges will all be a part of that great approach.
What we can celebrate is that we have God that doesn’t just say, “Life is rough and that’s too bad. Deal with it the best you can and I will see on the other side.” That would be bad not to mention a really rotten recruiting strategy.
However, that is completely opposite from the God we serve. Jesus came to earth and experienced all of those things: the stressors of life, the emotional pain of seeing others suffer, of suffering himself, of betrayal, of not being liked by everyone, of giving his invitation and seeing it denied, of instructing his disciples again and again only to have them fall short and disappoint, of being physically harmed by those who claimed to promote peace, being misunderstood and frustrated by those who refused to think deeply about life or who just thought about life differently and were too stubborn to conceive of it any other way.
On the cross he experienced all of those things including a cosmic separation which we can’t quite wrap our minds around that he had never before experienced. He was always with his Father and his Father with him. He was always with the Spirit and the Spirit with him, but on the cross this changed and he was, for the first time and the only time in eternity, alone, to die and feel his life force leave his body alone.
Despite the horror that event, it ended up being the content of his greatest accomplishment for our sake. It culminated in the closing of the deal of the century; it cemented his authority and power. Now, all of that is available to us. The worst of the worst our life in this world offers becomes the stuff of our greatest triumphs, our greatest accomplishments, the extraordinary clothed in the ordinary, the impossible accomplished through the daily possible. That’s you and me and our life with God!
I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about the state of Grand Ave. One person called what happened here “the purge.” Another person used a more biblical image, “the pruning.” Still another used on even more foreboding term “the judgment.” Whichever image fits your perspective the same result ensued. We have fewer people regularly attending the church, fewer people financially supporting the church, and with that the challenges that accompany an exodus.
However, I want us to remember that the God we serve. In our times of greatest pressure comes our greatest insight, our greatest surge of secret, unknown strength, our astounding moments of divine dependence and assistance. It is these times our strength evaporates, we call on the name of the Lord, we cry out for holiness to flood our hearts, for the mind of Jesus to instruct our minds. It is in these moments where we realize anything is possible because we serve and anything-is-possible kind of God.
We are becoming a “servant church.” That is something I am proud of. Not because I set out to build a servant church, but because the Great Servant has taught us in this time of struggle.
Please be in prayer, and ready for action when that opportunity for you to act comes if it has not already.
When it’s raining, the rainbow is often the brightest. When we strain the greatest, we gain the most muscle strength. Be encouraged, and be blessed by the God we serve!