When Hope Fades On A Friday
At the start of last year, I was given a promise that a promotion was coming. Simultaneously, I observed so many around me going through very difficult circumstances. There was loss of jobs, sickness, and horrendous setbacks. I got to the point where I did not even want to look at Facebook because all it seemed like was bad news. Soon I found myself going through one of the hardest and darkest seasons of my life with intense physical challenges. My illness got so bad; I began to feel like the word about “promotion” was more about dying and going to heaven!
As I was going through this I saw that something was shifting in our nation and in the church. Suddenly there was a sense of hope and promise for our nation, but it was difficult to put language to it. It was more than a change in the presidency but rather a sense of destiny and awakening were here within our reach. God seems more tangible and evident to those who do not know Him.
Today happens to be called “Good Friday.” Who came up with that name anyway? I’m sure nothing seemed good at that moment to anyone close to Jesus on that day. The rabbi, the disciples, shared life with for three years who embodied all the ancient promises of the coming Messiah and freedom from Roman oppression was suddenly taken from them, whipped, beaten, stripped naked and nailed to a cross to die. Hope seemed dead on that Friday…but there was a process and a plan in place that most could not see.
Let’s face it, church culture does not celebrate weakness, and we certainly turn away from the idea of suffering. We have a billion dollar religious enterprise in the west pumping out resources to prop up our lives and our beliefs in a way to insulate us from anything uncomfortable. In most of the world, suffering and weakness is an essential price one must pay for being a follower of Christ.
The apostles knew this lifestyle well as they were familiar with perplexity and pain. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9 and 10, But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.… He embraced the pain as a pathway to the promise.
In the west, we do not have the privilege of serving God in the midst of persecution and hardship like other nations around the world. Did you know that persecution is so intense in China that congregants don’t trust a pastor to lead them until he has served time in jail?
However, God remedies our souls by inviting us into a tailor-made wilderness experience of testing and trial. It is where our identity as sons and daughters is galvanized, faith and love become real and once again He becomes our All in All.
I know personally it is so easy to loose my place of trust in God and strive for things He readily wants to give in His way and timing. God will often allow us to run to the end of our own strength so that we will finally loose confidence in all things that are merely human.
Loren Sandford writes in his book “Renewal for the Wounded Warrior” Why is a crushing necessary? Because of our own strength, what we have known in the past, cannot sustain the glory into what God is leading us into. To cope with the increasing depth of destruction and despair around us from a world we must reach we need a transcendent level of compassion and a sense of peace under fire that cannot be threatened.
You see, on our own, we are completely inadequate for the task of ministry or for the glory God puts before us, but it is in weakness that God perfects His power. Jesus multiplies the little we can offer and glories Himself far beyond what we could have produced on our own.
When we started CRI, this was always our prayer. “Father do not let us get so strong that we can do this without you.” It is in the wilderness that we are stripped of all human capability, and it becomes the pathway to God’s promise in our lives. It is here that God prepares our character for the greater glory He wants to bring. This pathway, however, requires a death but it comes with the surprise and amazement of a glorious resurrection.
I’m not saying God is the author of our sickness but God even used the plan the enemy during the death of His son and redeemed it. He will use every set of perplexing circumstances of this life to bring about His purposes in us.
Dallas Willard said often, “After all it’s not what we achieve in life but rather who we become.” God is radically committed to who we are becoming and who we will forever be. He is delighted when we are dependent upon Him for everything in our lives.
I believe this season is loaded with promises and purpose for us all. I believe something great is about to take place in America and God is giving upgrades to those who are ready for it.
One day in the midst of my recent sickness. I decided I would go to Walmart. Going into public was excruciating due to intense neurological and physiological issues I was having. “Ok,” I told myself…” in and out… I can do this”. Of course, I ended up on the longest line in my least favorite store in America. Finally, I get towards the front when a lady on a scooter was checking out very slowly and holding the lineup. I was annoyed, felt trapped and thought this was a big mistake. I started getting dizzy and felt sick. I just wanted to run. As I looked closer, she was holding items back from being rung up to see if she could afford them. My heart sunk. I decided I would pay for her groceries since I hadn’t sown anywhere yet that week.
I stepped up and swiped my card as I told her I would like to pay for her things. She kind of turned around and said, “Thank you! ….oh and I just got a scripture for you. Well done good and faithful servant…The Lord says He’s called you to see the things of the Kingdom and release it on earth, and a double portion is coming your way…make sure you walk in it…see you in heaven!!!” Then she scooted off. I never got her name or saw her face, but it reminded me that when we sow in tears, we will reap with joyful shouting.
If you find yourself in the place of trial and you have lost hope. Know He is behind the scenes and answering your deepest desires to be closer to Him.
If things are just fine then remember to give till it hurts, trust till you sweat, love till it costs you something and for God’s sake, make yourself uncomfortable for the Kingdom somehow. This is where “the abundant life” Jesus promised is found. Not in stuff. It is when we embrace His sufferings and we live and walk like Him that we enter into explicit joy and intimacy.
On this “Good Friday,” we can take stock that what looked like death and hopelessness ultimately lead to a glorious resurrection. Jesus endured the cross for the sake of the joy set before Him and purchased our liberty from sin. Let us to embrace our sufferings with the hope and expectation that He himself will redeem and resurrect us all.
Happy Ressurection Day!