Wednesday, May 02, 2007

finding the good in our struggles

Jesus lived nearly the first thirty years of his life in relative obscurity. He lived in Nazareth, pretty much ignored and even looked down on by the rest. He shows up at the temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve and wows the teachers there. But other than that we read nothing about him until he comes to his cousin John the Baptizer to be baptized.

Did Jesus encounter struggle during those silent years? We know he did struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. Surely he did so along the way in his life too; surely he struggled at times which prepared him for his encounter in the wilderness when he was tempted by the devil. We know Jesus was tempted in every way as we are with the difference being that he never sinned. Temptation was as real to Jesus as it is to us, but of course, temptation itself is not sin. Though we can in our sinfulness subject ourselves to unneccessary temptation, I believe.

What good comes out of our struggles? We can be tempted sorely in something that may seem trivial or another matter which is not trivial at all- knowing, of course that no sin however big or small is actually trivial. Though some can be catastrophic in our lives. What about when our hearts seem full of paralyzing and deadening fear? Or we can't shake the heaviness that seems to take the life right out of our "souls"?

I remember Dr. James Grier once telling us that he believed God looks higher on the Christian who is struggling and may not look pretty, but is maintaining their integrity before God and others, over the Christian who seems to be walking on air all the time (my paraphrase and additions to trying to get at the thought Dr. Grier was conveying). We read in Scripture that Paul struggled, and more importantly (in some ways) Jesus did so himself! I'm reminded of Job, and of many of the psalms. Their's was not some "happified" existence. Michael Card's recent book and musical album (both very good, by the way) both hit on this theme.

Only those who struggle can empathize with other strugglers. Only those who know what it's like to live in "the dark night of the soul", or are working through intellectual doubts, or feel in danger over some temptation, etc., etc., can empahthize with others. Even some failure can be good here, if we've known the grace, forgiveness and restoration of God along with that. And we all know failures along the way.

Struggles can also deepen our walk in God. They can drive us more to Scripture to meditate on and chant (as I like to do sometimes). And drive us more to God, in prayer and trust as well as learning a costly obedience. And as we continue on in God's way for us in Christ, these struggles can confirm us in the sense of more habituating us to that way as well as to more conformity to Jesus. And so much the better as we in Jesus seek to do this together. In fact we need each other, unless all the "one another" passages in the New Testament mean nothing.

What might you add here?

11 comments:

Doug Jones said...

If I can conflate your last two posts... one observartion that I can make and one that I believe to a small degree I have experienced is that - prior to Jesus' baptism the Father reminded him of his belovedness. This reality this core truth of the Son's identity as the beloved one of God ringing in His ears may have been a major way in which he dealt with the temptations in the wilderness. A truth which Henri Nouwen so beautifully elucidates in his small book - The Beloved.

When we take that time to hear the gentle whisper that we to are beloved by God - the lies that we are what we do, or have, or who we know seem so hollow. In our identity as the beloved - the trials and struggles of this life to be spectacular, or noticed or effective or sucessful don't have as much weight.

Ted Gossard said...

Doug, Thanks for sharing that and anything from Nouwen would be good. I'll have to read that!

I think it must be a given, but one not ever taken for granted that we in Christ are God's beloved. This makes all the difference in the world as to how we face the troubles of life.

At the same time this really needs to get into our hearts alot more, how we are loved by God, the grace of God we find in Christ. And we need to live that out in our relationships with others.

Thanks.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted

What I've noticed is that temptations to discouragement and fear in the life of a believer can be used to draw them to God.

These seemingly negative experiences are used by God to remind us of His sovereignty, His love, His wisdom and ultimately promote faith and love in our hearts toward Him. At least that's my experience.

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Yes. Really good points.

I see God's sovereignty as assurance that he in his greatness and goodness is there for us to see us through in his Son to Christlikeness and in being fruitful in good works. And the faith and love that you note is such an essential part of that.

Much of my life even as a Christian and certainly prior has been full of internal struggle. In the last several years I've been somewhat away from that, but now find myself struggling again. For a number of reasons that seems to be a part of my personality. Though I don't let it stop me from what I perceive to be God's will, or at least from seeking to live in that truly even if at times in a general way.

Ted Gossard said...

...let me add that I'm not at all saying I've stayed close to God and his will all along the way, in spite of inward and outward trials. Not so.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted

Thanks for sharing your heart. Christian life is like war...it's messy on the ground. Since you shared, let me be a little more specific.

Whenever I struggle with fear or discouragement, it usually uncovers aspects of my heart's disposition. It reveals my idols (what I crave, what I worship) and the Spirit uses these moments to remind me of my true treasure - Christ.

Charity Singleton said...

Funny thing about finding the good in our struggles, it's always easier to do when the struggles are over. When I am in the middle of a difficult time, it's hard to imagine that Jesus is using THIS one for good. The more I struggle, however, the more I am convinced even in the middle of the difficulty that He is using it for good. In fact, sometimes I try to take particularly note of how I am feeling, of the slowness of time and the pain in my heart, so that when I am through the suffering, I can remember how He sustained me.

Great post, Ted. The Lord is certainly at work in your life.

Betsy Lin said...

I like the idea of being one who struggles- with faith, with sin, with loving - yet maintaining integrity.....

I picture the woman caught in adultery ( i have a whole theory on that but i wont get into it )
But what strength she had to be competely naked before Christ, in her sin, and to then stand again-

In her struggle Jesus met her face to face....how I long to stand comepletely naked before God.

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Amen!

I also find in my case that I've had to struggle through intellectual issues, and in part that's a big part of what I'm going through now. In no way pertaining to the undermining of the faith itself, in my life. But definitely pertaining to my walk in the faith. And that has hit me quite often throughout my Christian life. Though I handle it much better now than before.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Thanks. And it is interesting, our experience in the midst of trials. I think alot of the psalms reflect this as well as Job. I think it's probably best to look at it in terms of our relationship with God, including a wrestling with God or acquiescense (having trust in its meaning as well as compliance, I believe) in some way to him.

Your point about remembering afterwards is a good one, too. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Betsy, You should post on that sometime! Yes, we all need to do that before the Lord. I know he sees me completely just as I am. Yet I must come to him just as I am, with no "window dressing" or put on. Good thought to add here. Thanks.