No one gets exemption from hardship on planet Earth. How we receive it hinges on whether we believe in an alternative reality that transcends the one we know so well. The Bible never minimizes hardship or unfairness– witness books like Job, Psalms, and Lamentations. It simply asks us to withhold final judgment until all the evidence is in.
‘Do not be afraid’ is the most frequent command in the Bible…. We have a thousand fears: mammograms and prostate tests, our children’s future as well as their present, retirement funds, job security, crime. We fear not getting the job we want or the lover we desire, and if we have them we fear their loss. In the face of such everyday fear, Jesus points to a lily, or a sparrow, and calmly says, Trust. Seek first the kingdom of heaven.
~Philip Yancey in Rumours of Another World, p. 217
My brother-in-law, John Friedlund, sent this out in his “Just Thinking” email today. I’d heard it before — even quoted it. Reading it today was good for me.
…we treat our wounds and grievances like pets. Whenever we can, we pull them out, pet them, show them off, caress them, and carry them with us. Our pets are never far away, always ready to sit on our laps, roll over and do tricks, and entertain our friends. Yes, we do all that with wounds and grievances over which we have long been angry. It’s an odd picture, but a true one. — Bill Denton in Pulpit Helps, August 2006, The Skeleton at the Feast.
John went on to note:
The difference between a good pet and an old wound or grievance however, is the pet loves us and adds to our well-being. An old wound or grievance is poison on the devil’s serving tray. Maybe it’s time we pass on that drink. It’s true. When we hold on to a hurt, who exactly is it that we’re hurting?
Or maybe it’s time to take that “old pet”, so to speak, in for euthanization.
I just received this excellent comment in an email from my brother-in-law, Rev. John Friedlund.
I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God. — Elizabeth Elliot
This makes sense to me. I see my own tendency and the tendency of those around me to avoid pain in their lives, but I realize that without pain, there is no depth to the shaping of the soul.
Don’t you wonder how God might have shaped us if we’d not sinned in Eden? Perhaps we would not have needed shaping at all, since we were without sin. I doubt it. I think you can need to grow without being in a state of sin. And I think that growth was part of God’s intention for humankind from the start. So shaping would have been part of that growth. But I think that we would have been more pliable — more able to accept direction than we are in our “fallen” state.
The real question is this: Do we accept direction any better since we’ve been redeemed?