The Pain of Today Strengthens You For Tomorrow

As we prepare to enter our sixth week under “stay at home” orders in Chicago, the emotional and physical toll is beginning to set in for many. With it comes an increase in the temptation to point fingers and join the misinformation and political campaigning that divides rather than unites under the circumstances. It’s important we acknowledge any feelings of deep confusion, anger, fear, and sadness. These are normal responses in times of loss and trauma. Christians are not immune to such feelings, nor should we be. They humbly remind us of our shared humanity in brokenness, suffering, and fragility. These days are tragic, but also a gift. Because when we’re confronted with the stark reality of who we are before God, we begin to find true freedom and our purpose in life.

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The Tenderloin

This week I had the privilege to be part of a 4-day “Church Intensive” with We Are Church, the church-planting network founded by Francis Chan in San Francisco, California. We learned first-hand the heart behind their ministry, the ‘why’ behind their methodology, and caught a powerful vision of what the church can and should be in our communities. The following is one story from my time with them.

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When Life Gives You Lemons …

lemons

PRAY!

That’s right, pray. Then wait. Then pray some more.

All too often our pragmatic “can-do” cultural attitude says get off your butt, wipe those tears and show them who’s boss by making lemonade out of a painful or disappointing situation. The problem is, on the surface it appears the making lemonade approach seems to work. After all, who really likes to wait for an answered prayer? I hate waiting. I once waited in line for a ride at an amusement park for over 2 hours, only for the ride to break down when I was steps away from getting on. What a waste of my life, I thought!

Our approach to prayer is much of the same. Why spend this time asking God for his will in the situation when I can muster up all the will-power, good vibes, and happy thoughts under the sun, all the while cranking my favorite playlist through my earbuds as I drown out the depressive thoughts? Clearly I can move forward in my life faster by making lemonade rather than by praying. But that’s the first lie we believe. We believe that by our doing, acting and will-power, we can overcome anything that comes our way. And just because we seemingly appear to have overcome it, then we assume it’s the best and healthiest means of achieving success over our misfortunes. The truth is, we are emotional beings who are designed to mourn, suffer and reflect, just as much as we are made to create and thrive.

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The Problem with Job

jobFor what has God above chosen for us? What is our inheritance from the Almighty on high? Isn’t it calamity for the wicked and misfortune for those who do evil? Doesn’t he see everything I do and every step I take? Have I lied to anyone or deceived anyone? Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for he knows my integrity.
(‭Job‬ ‭31‬:‭2-6‬ NLT)

Job spends more time defending his righteousness before God based on his works rather than his faith. His friends too, also zero-in on this same common error – accusations of hidden sin must have angered God, leading to his just punishment.

Job’s lesson was to learn the art of abiding in faith, not to defend his works-righteousness.

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