My Dad, a good guy, impressed a kind of masculinity on me that included being ‘tough,’ brushing off pain and getting back up when knocked down. As he aged, Dad became more sentimental and cried more readily. But, I cannot recall seeing my father sob except for the day his father died. Seeing that man, who I thought of as a rock, fall apart emotionally left me shaken! Now, 35 years later, I am the one sobbing, not just crying, but stricken with terrible sorrow. Yesterday, as I was going through Bev’s desk, while alone and tired, I was overcome by such a torrent of grief it actually felt as if I might die! The depth of my emotion brought on a full-fledged panic attack – complete with breathlessness, pounding heart, and irrational fear! Thankfully, my daughter answered her phone and talked her old Dad back to terra firma.
The Word teaches me that those tears are not without purpose. They are, of course, the overflow my heart, and help to release the emotions inside of me and they can be even more significant. Peter says, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT) Remember Jesus’ words about the impossibility of a rich man entering the Kingdom of God? He was stating that when we are living with the illusion that we have life under control, our nature human tendency is to live with a nod towards God, but not with a desperate hunger for His Presence. It is not that we are terrible people, or evil, or even rebellious – we just do not have the same kind of need.
Since my heart was crushed by Bev’s illness and death, I have lived very near the Heart of God. I awaken to simple prayers that call for the Spirit to come with comfort like a little child who calls for his mother at midnight! I have a nearly endless conversation with the Lord throughout the day, imploring His to keep me together. The words of Scripture, stored in my memory, are stabilizing truths, never far from my conscious thought. I am much more tender with others, patiently hearing their words, as one of the Kingdom ought to be! Yes, this grief has driven me, already a Christian and a person of some devotion, to become a “partner in His suffering!” Some part of me hopes that the change is life-long, that I never forget what I am learning of Him in this awful and dark misery. Don’t read me wrong. I am no hero or saint. I hate the tears, sometimes even resenting the emotions that grab me when I least want them to come. But, I am learning to let this thing do God’s work in me.
Peter continues his teaching telling us that as suffering opens our heart to Christ’s Presence, breaking our independence and helping us to enter more fully into the Kingdom, we can anticipate a great result. When Christ’s kingdom is fully revealed, we will be standing with Him in triumph, sharing the victory over sin. Those things that broke our hearts and open our fingers so we could let go of our trinkets and toys will be of great value then because we will see that they were full of purpose and meaning.
On the shore of the lake where Peter had lived most of his life, Jesus found him fishing one morning after the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Peter had gone back to what he knew, trying to solace in something he understood. He could not sort out his emotions, could not make sense of the gruesome death of his Friend and then the subsequent appearance of the Lord on several occasions. His mind and heart were so ripped up, he just went home. John tells us that Jesus found him there and confronted him with a question: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15, NLT) In those moments, Peter got it right. His desperation was met with God’s grace and he realized Who and what he loved most. He never went home again! He became the powerful rock of the first century Church.
God uses suffering to challenge us, too. In it all, He asks – What/Who do you love most? Will you lose yourself in the pursuit of lesser loves or will you turn to Me?
May we find grace and seize the kind of faith that helps us to choose Him.
Here is a word from the Word. Lord, help us to love You most. “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”
“Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you.
I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
“You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.” (John 14:21-28, Message)
Lovest Thou Me
Modern times have brought us many comforts,
People live in wealth and luxury.
But the Master still asks this question,
“Lovest thou Me, lovest thou Me, more than these?”
I love Thee more than this old world can offer,
All sinful follies I deny for Thee,
My love, my life, my all I pledge Thee.
I love Thee, Lord; I love Thee, Lord; more than these.
Lovest thou Me, more than these, My child?
What will your answer be?
O precious Lord,
I love Thee more than all of these;
More than fame, more than wealth,
More than the world.
William J. Gaither
© 1962, 1989 William J. Gaither, Inc. (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)
CCLI License # 810055