Saturday, February 22, 2014

Still in Exodus: Acknowledging Suffering with Hope


Many Christians don’t handle suffering well because they are not ready for it. They don’t know how to think about pain, hardships, and disappointment. This is partly because we live in a culture, including our Christian culture, that likes to make things appear better than they are instead of seeing things as they are and learning the truth about them. As an athlete learns better offensive tactics by anticipating defense, Christians are better able to deal with suffering when they anticipate it.

The Reality:

We know the axiom, “those who don’t learn history or doomed to repeat it.” This is true of redemptive history as well. That is part of the value of biblical narrative, especially since the God of the Bible never changes, nor do his plans.

Our current state as Christians is one of suffering and longing for redemption. In order to illustrate this, the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, constantly look back to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and their wanderings in the wilderness.

An example is Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10, who warns Christians not to grumble and turn from God as Israel did in the wilderness. Likewise, Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 speak of how the Israelites desired rest in the wilderness, but failed to attain it. The author reminds us that rest is promised us, but that we should “fear lest any…should seem to have failed to reach it.”

The Hope:

If we are in a spiritual wilderness, why should we be happy? Paul speaks beautifully to this.

In Romans 8:18, he says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

In Ephesians 1:17-19, Paul prays that God would give the believers in Ephesus a spirit of wisdom and revelation, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened, that they may know what is the hope to which he has called them.

Our Wilderness Experience:

This hope is not a fairy tail wish. If you are a Christian, it believes that you mean these things to be literally true.

Expect suffering now. Don’t be surprised by it, but despise it with hope. Let it set your heart longing for the redemption prepared for us in Christ (Rom. 8:24-25) and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in seeing it in perspective (Eph. 1:17-23).

We await a spiritual Jerusalem (Gal. 4), a heavenly Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:22).

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