It isn't often I write two consecutive posts about the same thing, but 2007 becoming reality is a big deal to me. [Read the last post for why.] So, one final word before the New Year.
Were it to come and go, which I personally doubt as per my last post, the year will find us experiencing both pain and pleasure. It is axiomatic that being a christian does not exempt one from pain or guarantee pleasure. Both are part and parcel of this altogether human experience called life. This is well understood by those of us who blog as evidenced by the struggles that we witnessed in the lives and families of the bloggers themselves. Struggles in ministry, [both finding and keeping a ministry] health,[we've prayed and continue to do so for our children, spouses, and friends who've gone through heart attacks, cancer, and, as my grandaughter, major surgery that will enable her , after eighteen years, to care for her own bodily needs as she eliminates waste materials from her body, an amazing story within itself.] and a myriad of other difficulties have revealed this.
Add to all this the pain we create with our words. [Many words have done so this past year.] We remember the little ditty that goes this way..."sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt me." A truer statement is..."sticks and stones CAN ONLY break my bones but words can wound a heart." I'm sure this is the reason the scriptures speak often of the care we are to give to the words we speak. [Or write for that matter.]
There is no reason to believe that 2007 will not hold it's share of pain and pleasure. I can, as can you, do my part in removing the pain I'm responsible for creating and bringing pleasure to others as I have power and opportunity. But with that understood, I have little power or control over most of the pain of life, my own or others.
Someone has said that christians are the living stones of the true Temple God is preparing for eternity. That preparation, while for eternity, is done here during our sojourn on this earth. Rugged and shapeless the stones are at the beginning. But the hammer and chisel do their work. And, because these stones are living, there is always pain associated with the process. Paul Billheimer, whom I was privilaged to know and have in our church before his death, wrote a book entitled "Don't Waste Your Sorrows." He articulates this reality as well as anyone I've ever heard.
When I write this way I'm always aware that, too many times, this life has been viewed/taught as a prison or even that our body is the prison of the soul, and to escape [die] is the only hope for pleasure. This, of course, is both sad and unscriptural. Jesus said "I've come that you might have life and life abundantly." But that "life" is not "bios" [life] but "Zoe." [Life] The difference is, one [bios] is simply the cataloging of events, [biography] while the other is an inner quality of life independent of any and all circumstances. It is that last definition of life Jesus has come to give and so few christians associate that kind of life with abundance. But when you've faced the pain...you begin to understand. This may be the reason the Church of the third world knows more of the power of God than does the western Church. It takes God's power to live life to it's fullest when the things around you are so painful.
The western mind-set is, all too often, ready to associate pain with the failure to get a raise, or a gift, or recognition for a job well done. To read of Rwanda and her 200,000 killed and 2 million displaced as our neice, who writes speeches for the present President of Rwanda, has recently reminded us, is the stuff with which pain is properly associated. This is not to minimize our own problems or losses, but it is to give pain a broader context. So, as we hear of the tragic episodes in Sudan's Darfur, we have yet another illustration of pain that adds to a new context. It is, without a doubt, the power of God that the third world Church is forced to rely upon which, I believe, is available to us when faced with our own pain, as we are truly convinced of His Purpose in the shaping of the His stones for eternity.
So it is because of the Purpose of God that we are able to rest in His providence. If His providence brings pleasure....we shall enjoy it. If His providence brings pain....we shall embrace it. But He does not work without pattern or design. Our life is to His Glory. This is why we can, with confidence, say "Good-by to the Year of Our Lord--2006" and say, with confidence, "Hello to the Year of Our Lord -- 2007."
No chance has brought this ill to me;
Tis God's own hand, so let it be.
He sees what I cannot see.
There is a need-be for every pain,
And one day He will make it plain
That earthly loss is heavenly gain.
Like a piece of tapestry
viewed from the back appears to be
Naught but threads tangled hopelessly.
While in the front He doth a picture share
And viewers are rewarded for His care,
Proving His skill and patience to be rare.
Thou, oh Lord, art the Workman, I the frame,
All for the Glory of Thy Wonderful Name,
Perfect thine own image through this pain
Based on Ps. 119:167-175 Author unknown