“Do you want to be healed?” he asked, immediately following my run-on statement of
exterior problems (eloquently stated, of course)
all of which are contributing to my current, toxic state of mind.
I didn’t even have to wait a full second for the offer, “Do you want to be healed?”
Hmm. Such a poignant question.
He didn’t say, “Do you want me to fix all your problems?” and to be honest, I might want that more.
As if I could just… be fine.
I even created some of these problems.
Very likely, I will still have to exist with these conditions that pull at me, derail me, exhaust me, grieve me; but I could be filled with the fullness of peace… and general “all-shall-be-well”-ness.
That doesn’t sound like enough.
I might just rather complain about things.
Do I want to be healed? What a question.
I shall consider it.
Creation’s Original and Ultimate Design
Think with me.
Think with me about well-functioning, collaborative systems. Think about the solar system, and the nervous system. Or how about sports teams, or the human eye, or a symphony.
Think Eco systems, or mosaics. Consider how each piece works together, forming a bigger picture that is far more dazzling and capable and advantageous than each piece in isolation.
Now think politics.
Wait—don’t think about that yet.
Go back to thinking about wholeness. Think about the importance of each element in good design. Contemplate the meaning of “Gestalt: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”—it’s a condition where the whole is greater—to be whole is greater.
Imagine a well-balanced bottle of wine.
Remember, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he likens of the body of Christ to the human body: each person and part is different, but absolutely useful and beneficial to the whole. Sure, the body can adapt to being without some of its parts, but how much better for the arm and the body to be together.
Think about life! Think of all of the different things that must come together in order to be alive.
In well-functioning, collaborative systems, everything is important; every ability is a blessing to the whole. Every part is intended for a place of relevance and dignity because it has the purpose of perfecting-by-participating-with the whole.
Non-interrelation means non-sustainment or obsolescence.
THINK about that.
The Template for Creation’s Original and Ultimate Design
Now think about the Triune God.
God the Father, Son, and Spirit is a well-functioning, collaborative, living system.
He is not just “good”, He is “all things working together for it”.
He is a triad of power, sacrifice and connectivity for the sake of a fuller, bigger, more complete version of power, sacrifice and connectivity.
God is fluid diversity. He is complimentary differences as one complete Being.
Scriptures from Genesis illustrate that this collective Being is the Creator God who creates in like fashion. He is the over-arching system. He is the template for all systems. And specifically, the human creation is formatted as this—like God himself. In fact, not just like God, but after, in, through, because of, and for, himself the Triune God.
Furthermore, the verses in Colossians and Philippians and more convey that we have been created diversely with the intention of working together like (with, in, through, for….) God.
The active element, the life-giving element, present even before the beginning—“working together”—is the key. It makes stuff happen. “Let us create…”
Collaboration is the Key
With so many moving parts in the boundless Kingdom of God, working together is what keeps all things from becoming a lifeless and spoiling heap. While there might otherwise be contradiction, redundancy, separation, and ultimate cancellation; working together enables growth, and places of dignity and purpose, value and effectiveness.
Think of “working together” as reconciliation—not as in just the good absorbing bad, or the unity that triumphs separation in the sense of forgiveness, though it is that, too—but consider reconciliation simply as: all things collaborating respectfully, perfectly.
Reconciliation serves to edify and enhance. It shapes, sharpens, and develops. It is active and inclusive; the means and the end. It increases the whole as it increases all things in size, number, attributes, and behavior to further perpetuate working together with all things (viz. magnify).
Reconciliation is our Template.
The burgeoning universe reflects its Template in this same way in that all things are working in correspondence with its nature of being active and inclusive. As a result, it further reflects its Creator by way of it being infinite and expanding… In the similar way that we can be saved, and yet also have a fuller salvation: isn’t it enough to just have a dose of it? Apparently, that goes against its nature—it’s not either/or; it’s all.
(I can’t help myself here, I love this stuff. I have to say this: infinite and expanding—a paradox—two different concepts which work together to reveal the nature of its Creator. Here, it showcases the idea that God is big enough to include two opposite-seeming truths. It also reveals the presence of God: an edifying fusion of two or more bodies which could otherwise stand alone is an expression of the promise in Matthew 18: “Where two or more are held together, there is the Triune God”; for THERE is reconciliation.
Think about that!)
Humanity’s Highest Potential and Ultimate Design: Reconciliation/Collaboration. Reflecting a Diverse, Collaborative, and Loving God
Now think about the human creation.
The human creation is a reflection of God. It’s not just what we ought to be; it’s that we ARE. By virtue of our vast differences, we reflect a giant, diverse, equipped being. And when we’re in a spirit of togetherness, we’re in a posture of rightness and authenticity according to our ultimate design (our true identity) simply by being in alignment with what IS: triumphant, unfailing, collaborative oneness (which is actually the definition of love).
Expanding this thought: “God-as-oneness, and humans made to reflect such” would suggest that collaboration is our highest form of potential. Or at least, it’s the spirit which enables it.
When it comes to a concept or a movement, reconciliation is the most important thing. Being “with”—not “against”—is the nature of our truest identity. It is more important than any offering to God, says Matthew 5:23-24. On these grounds, the highest form of righteousness therefore is not isolated purity, but rather collaboration (within/despite the messiness.) It is not rightness by solitary, it is rightness by solidarity.
This kind of rightness glorifies the over-arching Truth, and the end-game of God—oneness and unity in and under Christ—a as clarified in John 17:21, and in Ephesians 1:10 (initially, this is a most insulting message; and then it is the most relieving, joyous, freeing, empowering message an individual could hear. This is not unlike the way the Gospel is typically received).
Collectively, we are as multifaceted as the components of the universe, and each component is nothing short of splendid. Taking our cue from the systems around us, success for us both individually and collectively actually requires that there be differences. And its triumph is not realized with a contest of importance for the individual; but rather upon the embracement of the importance of everything.
My point with all of this laborious contemplation of the indefinable God, and in exploring concepts like “all” and “paradox” and “oneness” is to propose that a being—specifically the collective human race—which is seemingly all over the board and/or existing in contradiction with itself might not be wrong so much as it is just not yet fully aware. All of the right parts and pieces are there, it just hasn’t grown into itself yet. It may be self-aware, but it is not wholly conscious. And it won’t get “right-er” by cutting off itself apart.
Any dysfunction within itself is not due to the fact of widespread differences, but rather the disparaging nature and lack of willingness to work together—a sign of immaturity, and a behavior that further compounds itself.
This state of disunity indicates shortsightedness. It reveals a lack of understanding of whom we’ve been modeled after. It’s an indication of an absence of God-mindedness, and therefore an absence of the nature of God: humility, for example, or the goal of genuine unity, to name another.
Without the presence of God-mindedness (the ability to see things as God does), and without understanding of where God is leading us, “all things” looks like a sin. Without any hope in the ultimate goodness and authority of God, “working together” looks like a mess. In-congruent. It’s counter-intuitive. It looks like an insult. It looks impossible.
A divided/divisive group is a group which has not grown into the reflection of its Creator who is big enough to include two opposing-seeming concepts, and big enough to overcome the threats of inclusivity. In its state of immaturity, a divided group sees contradiction (as it is itself in contradiction), where God might be seeing potential for corroboration. A divisive group sees threat to its individual ideologies, where God sees a place to work together toward a full and perfect ideology—unity in Christ. Reconciliation.
How Those in the Kingdom Might Collaborate Toward Their Ultimate Identity (Practical Suggestions for Being Participators in our Maturation Process)
Incidentally, with this talk of collaboration, and all things… I am not suggesting that there is no wrong. On the contrary, there is wrongness and potential for wrongness everywhere. There was even potential for bad in the Garden of Eden, remember? There was that tree-option; and also, notice that the Voice of Separation visited Eve even before she chose wrongly. No, there is badness and wrongness in every direction. But there is also goodness. So, I’m suggesting we heed Philippians 4:8 and err on the side of focusing on God’s ultimate goal.
Furthermore, I’m not proposing we align with, or even allow, destruction, and partner with hate. Even God himself finally cleaves from any being that cannot disembody destruction or a desire for it. We have the right to dust off our feet and move on if reconciliation is refused.
Slander and malice are wrong, but they are God’s enemies to fight. They are symptoms of disunity. So, in the case of our politically divided country at-large, I’m suggesting we work with the root cause: our state of separation.
How do we turn the tides and begin working together? Surely we can draw upon the illustrations of our own personal trajectory of becoming more fully one with Christ!
For example, here’s how God works with me: He doesn’t require my 100% agreement in order to begin working together. Mostly, he relates to and works with the things we have in common. He does not turn a blind eye to my sins, but calls them out as an exception to the norm. He takes my “yes”, feeble as it may be, and works with it. He is empathetic to my conditions. He validates my perspective and invites me to see His. He calls me “friend”, and desires that we should “come and reason together”. He is patient. Persistent. He works in correspondence with his nature of edifying, collaborative oneness. And slowly, over time, though we are vastly different, we are working more and more fully, together.
OK, now think politics.
What if, in the realm of politics, our right(eous)ness is found more in the way we conduct ourselves toward others, than it is in the causes we are for or against and how passionately we fight for them.
What if, on the spectrum of politics as it relates to us Christians, right-ness (correctness) isn’t a place on the spectrum, or a side, or a wing, or a movement; but instead, it’s the act of being reconciliatory from whatever side we’re on. Doesn’t this seem like a truer reflection of God?
You know this already: we are an either/or culture. The concept of compromise is completely out of vogue. It is considered unholy, largely by Christians (even though the most transcending act of love by God was to lower himself—to give—to compromise).
Compounding our state of division, is a constant focus on certain platforms, sources, and outlets which regurgitate and perpetuate a bias toward division, and who parrot the rhetoric of a comfort zone: polarization. Some of its followers assume that doing this in kind (reflecting its idol) is the method for remaining in right-ness. The world is a dangerous place for non-thinkers.
Our positions and proximities may dictate our involvement in fighting for a cause, but let’s not forget our ultimate identity in the process: respectfully collaborating oneness, in/under/like/through Christ. If being “Pro”-anything is turning us into a hater, then we’ve lost sight of our true calling.
Ideals Versus Creations Ultimate Identity: The Christian’s Higher Calling to Sincerely and Respectfully Collaborate (Love)
The current status of much of the human race is: antagonistic, divided, angry. There are several variables contributing to this, but ironically, this is the fruit of a generation preaching tolerance.
Well, we tried it. Tolerance. Perhaps it was a mistake, or maybe it was a necessary step in the process, but it certainly isn’t our ultimate destination. How do we treat differences? Our counterparts? (Our opposition?) With tolerance!?
Tolerance doesn’t work with humans—we can’t be lukewarm about differences. It’s like prescribing apathy, numbness, and denial as the answer. It’s like telling a husband and wife to begrudgingly coexist and hope for the best.
While those have helpful short-term benefits in shoring up further-destructive ripple effects, it is not the actual healing vaccine. It’s like merely administering anesthesia to the eye instead of proceeding to also remove the plank from it, so it may function as it was intended. It’s a right “first do no harm” initial response, but there’s no final virtue in tolerance—there’s no bonding compound there.
If the ultimate, final goal is the “oneness” prayed for in John 17, then it’s time to evolve beyond an ideal of tolerating our differences.
It’s time to try loving our differences.
Ew. But seriously.
I’m not talking about forsaking your own beliefs and jumping sides—no, we’ve been intentionally scattered to all sides so that we can represent each one well. Neither is the opposite true: that we should coerce or require another to fully align with our beliefs (that’s not love—loving is not predicated on agreeing).
I’m talking about being a willing participant in God’s movement toward edifying, collaborative oneness in Christ, in the way that glorifies (reflects) the oneness we understand him to be talking about in John 17:21.
A few, immediate clarifications to help talk us off the ledge:
When we collaborate, compassion meets wisdom. Ideals meet strategy. Justice meets mercy. Freedom meets accountability, and “righteousness and peace kiss…”. Provision meets sustainability and aptitude, so that deep need meets deep fulfillment.
With regards to politics, we are not inconsequential as civilians in this movement toward collaboration—quite the opposite. Politicians may posture as leaders, but the privilege of a democracy comes with the burden that it is the people who need to change first—not the politicians.
So, if I may, here’s something that we the people could do to help enable edifying oneness.
As far as what to do, let’s consider reflecting, toward others, the collaborative process of salvation in our own lives.
As far as what not to do: let’s examine the words and deeds that come out of our own mouths which have only served to defile us as a people, and especially as Christians. Christians, please reconsider that smug remark. We tend to fancy ourselves cognoscentis given our prolific access to information, but God alone is the only source which offers absolute truth, and we need people on all sides to help us understand it because he is all-sided.
Inserting a derogatory quip into a conversation or into a social media post is like airing dirty laundry or a hoisting the flag of immaturity or hypocrisy in one’s own front yard. Especially if it is in the name Christianity. It simply displays a lack of understanding of our own identity, and therefore God’s. Or vice versa.
Inasmuch as it is up to us, let’s be a collaborative people, leaving the vengeance up to God. The responsibility alone of becoming a person who could sincerely hope for unity with all under Christ is plenty enough to keep us busy at work—far too busy to be throwing stones at others.
There are a lot of right causes out there; and there are even right causes which currently oppose one another, prompting many to wonder, “Which cause is the most righteous?” But righteousness is neither a cause nor a single ideal like tolerance. Righteousness is Christ-in-us, working toward an even fuller measure of Christ-in-us. This is God’s goal for us. Eventually, Christ alone is to be creation’s identity, manifesting in infinite and diverse ways throughout all of creation. Let’s be about this business and see how that affects politics.
If we can focus on that goal first and foremost, I wonder how that would influence our actions as we fight for good causes and/or address those who oppose us.
Reconciliation and collaboration require sacrifice which poses as injustice and suffering, but it is the catalyst to becoming whom we’ve been created to be in Christ. Sacrifice (lowering oneself for the sake of unity) is vital to our participation in the kingdom of God in this world. It is the way out of our current, dead-ended, divisive environment (Philippians 3:10). It is the way to participate in God’s ultimate glory (I Peter 4:13), because this is how we magnify the complete, perfectly-collaborative God. This is what it looks like to work in correspondence with his nature.
Reconciliation is a miracle. Even more, that we would want reconciliation—be assured that this will take a miracle. But God promises he will give us our heart’s desires, so pray that he put this desire in our hearts.
Then, when the tides begin to shift, and we begin to collectively turn toward one another instead of on one another, we can be certain it was God who began a good work, who remains persistent, using all things to work together, that all of creation would reach its fullest potential—an edifying body of oneness full of Christ—like (as, with, in, for, under, and respectfully collaborating with…) God himself.
This one is for the Drama Geeks, because nothing makes the rest of the population more uncomfortable than a dramatic monologue. The following is a conversation between two people, but the script was written for just the one part. Anyone know if there’s a name for that kind of thing? Anyway:
The Seer: A Conversation-Monologue
Hello, my friend! It is so good to see you. Please come in!
(The Seer welcomes the Visitor in)
I’ve been looking forward to today. May I take your bags and coat? I’ll put them right over there.
(The Seer takes the bags and returns to the Visitor)
Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I know how much trouble it can be, but I am so exited you came. Would you like to look around?
(Pauses for the Visitor’s reply)
Of course—you’ve had quite the trip. Please, take a load off. Have a seat—there’s a great view of the town square from here. Feel free to put your feet up. How was your trip?
(Listening to the Visitor)
I love people watching, too. And you’re exactly right, this town is known for a little bit of everything: artists, philosophers; teachers, students; liberal, conservative; new and old… There wasn’t always such a broad spectrum, but we’re the better for it.
I’ve had this place forever—just off the square, to be close to everything. I’m glad you found the entrance. It’s fairly modest because I wanted people to feel comfortable approaching it; but you’d be surprised of the irony: it’s such a simple door, that no one seems to find it in the first place.
I know you’ve got some questions, but would you like some tea first? Cucumber water? Anything you want… Kombucha, coffee, lavender soda…
(A pause to listen for the Visitor’s request)
I sure do have an orange blossom + lemon verbena spritzer with a dash of elderflower-infused simple syrup, and a sprig of mint and blackberries for garnish. Made with fresh ingredients just this morning!
(Silence while the Visitor looks around and then asks some questions about the interior)
Why thank you, yes, that boarder is a frieze, carved quite awhile ago, but I meant to tell a timeless-togetherness type of story with it. No, no—I didn’t do it myself. My favorite artist did it for me. Actually we sort of did it together.
The parquetry flooring? Yes, painstakingly chiseled and polished and fit together perfectly—so many different shapes and pieces of wood and yet there’s not even the slightest gap between each one—only lines which compose a most beautif—
(Seer is interrupted by a question)
My favorite artist did it!
Oh, that mosaic took quite awhile. I love how big it is. Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? All those colors… It was done by my f—
…How’d you know? Yes! My absolute favorite!
…Who? Well, all kinds of people.
…Yes you can too have “all favorites”.
(The Seer chuckles endearingly at the youthful, shortsightedness in the Visitor’s retort)
Now. Would you like to stay here, or would you like to move onto the terrace? There’s a fantastic view of the countryside.
Wonderful! Come with me.
…The tile was hand-painted—
…No, no!—I absolutely love that you notice all these things—and ask about them, too!
…The hallway, yes, real gold in the gilding.
…For sure. The favorite. See that painting? Look closer. See those brushstrokes? Each one, confident. Definitive. Purposeful. I love it.
(They walk down a hall, lined with artwork toward a room whose exterior wall consists of single-lite double-doors)
Let me open the doors for you.
Ahhh… do you smell that?
…Well, let’s see, it’s a combination of grass, fertile dirt, lavender, the bread being baked in the shop on the square… And also, very faintly, since the breeze is coming from all the way over that mountain range, it’s carrying a bit of an alpine smell.
(A pause to take everything in. They sit at a table)
I agree. Very peaceful. But… you still look tense.
…I don’t know, something about your shoulders, your heavily creased brow, your clenched teeth… your… knuckles, yo—
…OK, I’ll stop. How about, you start?
…Those are lemon trees. Lemon trees! That’s what else you smell. Now THAT is my absolute favorite fragrance…. And olive trees. By the way, I have some olives—
…Yes, fresh Buffalo mozzarella and feta, too. Tomatoes from right down there, and some fresh figs. I just happen to have a platter piled with all of those things on the credenza inside. You enjoy the fragrance of those citrus blossoms while I grab the platter.
(The Seer returns carrying a platter of cheeses, tomatoes, olives, figs…)
My pleasure! I put some baguette chunks on there, too. Still warm—I just picked one out at the bakery.
…Yes just now.
…I can be very speedy.
(The Seer offers the platter, and then eats an olive)
Mmm. Exquisite. Simple, and exquisite.
Indeed I do have gelato. The finest quality, too. But what do you say we leave some room for that later. My hope is to leave room for something… more important. We’ll get to the gelato in a bit.
…It’s OK, we can just sit together.
I agree. Computers can be very frustrating.
….And that pesky vacuum of yours, too…
Why don’t you tell me why you came today.
…I know, but I like to hear it in your words.
…..Hello? Did I lose you again? So many worries…
I have a tissue box here.
…I know, you don’t cry. It’s not for you, it’s for me.
(The Seer listens. And weeps). Oh, my heart.
Yes. She is …my favorite. So delicate! I love that you sing to her every night.
…My heart aches for your friend, too…
…Oh my, that is a lot of money. That must feel overwhelming…
…So much pressure you put on yourself.
…I’ve noticed that, as well. Why do you think you feel so low?
(The Seer listens intently, compassionately, and hands the visitor a tissue)
So many things. So many, many things.
I mean to tell you something about all of your worries. I hesitate only because people don’t believe me when I tell them this, and that makes me sad.
May I tell you? Oh, I hope you’ll believe me. I have seen what happens with each one of your concerns, and I have such good news that I can’t stop smiling—even though right is… Well, anyway, do I have you? Right now? If I tell you, will you listen?
Listen, now. Here is the truth:
(Seer leans in, and says quietly):
It all works out.
(The Seer listens to the doubtful but hopeful questioning)
Yes, that works out.
…Something bigger happens there—so big that that becomes a non-issue.
…I’m intimately aware of that. I knew it was coming, and I’ve had a plan since forever to make sure that that specifically would soon work out to even better than before you saw it seem to come to fall apart.
…You’re seeing it from the other side. Yes, broken, but I can do far more with brokenness than without.
…I got it. I have it completely.
It works out in the end! It ALL works in the end.
…No, the “end” is different than the way you define it. The beginning is different, than where you’ve pegged it, too. It’s bigger than what you think. But whether it works out here or there, does it make a difference to you if it finally does, once and for all?
…Yes, I understand. Sooner is better than later. But… neither sooner nor later are relevant when—
(The Visitor seems to object)
…It will all be OK. Please believe me.
…Not practical help—it would seem not.
…Ridiculous? I’ve been told even worse… but that doesn’t make it any less true.
This is the part where you become a little bit relieved, maybe? Or… hopeful? Perhaps you might be willing to entertain a teeny bit of joy in your heart about this?
…But I DO know.
…But I AM here.
…(Seer chuckles) Well, I’m even smarter and stronger than you.
(Silence for awhile)
It all works out in the end. This is a promise and a guarantee. Everything. Every last bit. Every tiny detail, every concern, every fear, every problem… it is finished. Resolved. It all turns into something else that will make you want to jump up and down and do flip flops.
But, my favorite one, in order for you to be OK while everything is being worked out… You have to believe me, too.
“What is good? Who is right?” many ask.
“God alone”, some would say.
“Then who or what is God?” ask some amongst those.
A select few might pursue an answer—and might even be willing to lose themselves in the question—and ask, and wrestle, and contemplate, and persist, and be willing to learn, and might even allow themselves to change.
Their findings, though, would lead to a problem: God is a mystery, and a contradiction in terms.
He wants to be known, and yet cannot be fully known. He sanctifies some, and yet loves all. He implores us to endure, and yet saves the ones who surrender.
He is only, and yet all: two seemingly opposing concepts.
Even more, God is a Trinity(!) of … of what? Spirit, matter, and oneness? Purity, dichotomy, and reconciliation? Authority, willingness, and medium?
More compounding yet, the beloved creation is created in this image: paradox—diversity—bonded polarity, which is reflected even down creation’s molecule!
“What then?” ask fewer still. “What is right amidst mystery and paradox?”
The least of these remaining seekers might consider that the problem is neither God, nor differences; but rather their own limited framework which has not evolved to possess paradox—an immaturity which cannot grasp that “right” is not one solitary, isolated concept which can be fully contained or manifested individually; but rather it is all things, working together for the good of all things.
If the Triune God is good, then perhaps this is good: paradox collaborating sustainably, mutually, in a way that is both humble and edifying.
Perhaps “right” is not a place or a side on the spectrum; but rather the whole spectrum working together, toward more togetherness.
And then, the only thing out of step with “good” is a total disregard or devaluation of diversity; or fear and suppression of differences; or anything which fosters a fracturing of “whole”-mindedness; or an isolated or elitist nature…
The only one good thing to agree upon is God alone; and the way to reflect this good is not to demand sameness, or merely tolerate differences; but instead to embrace, with fierce respect and utter relief, seemingly opposing concepts, knowing that each completes the other—that one isn’t right without the other.
This is my political statement:
(I like the artist’s word for “opposite”. They call it “complimentary, or complimenting”.)
Let’s not muzzle our complimentary counterparts with a derogatory label. Especially if our definition of “right” has not evolved to embrace paradox.
Let’s not magnify destruction and division that exists on all sides by participating in it, ourselves. Instead, let’s value the person who sees the same thing, but from a different angle—even more, let’s expect that what they have to bring to the table might be wisdom of a complimentary nature, and worthy of the honor of, at least, consideration.
Consider that valuing the complimentary (read: opposing) parties actually glorifies the paradoxical, Triune God (that is, if glorifying means “to reflect; or to magnify, or make bigger by participating in the same nature”).
We have been selectively and specifically placed at certain spots all over the spectrum—not to alienate or even stay put, but to balance and weigh in from our different vantage points, and to work with the whole, toward “good”, understanding that “good” = sustainable, humble, optimal, and edifying wholeness.
Wherever we’ve been put—wherever we are right now, let’s strive to exemplify this side of good.
“The Lord will never give you more than you can handle”. This phrase has practically risen to scripture-status.
I have never found comfort in it.
Its origin is earnestness and hopefulness; but possibly, also, ignorance and denial.
The young, pre-suffering me used this saying to rationalize and categorize suffering away from me, because I surely couldn’t handle it. And it compelled me to take it a step further—I judged people who were suffering, but weren’t handling it well.
Fast forward a decade or two, when hardships came. To the me who was now suffering, this saying meant “I should be handling my suffering”. If I’m not handling it I’m failing.
Fast forward another decade, post-crisis. Now, “The Lord will never give you more than you can handle” sounds like a terrible thing to say to anyone, but I appreciate the good intentions.
Isn’t the Gospel message about God handling it?
May I make a suggestion? How about instead, believing that God will never allow anything to happen that He can’t fully restore. He’ll never give me more that HE can handle.
I know we know this, but life and culture have a way of dissuading our focus; and instead of hoping on God in our hardships, we easily promote hoping in ourselves handling it.
How about instead, banking on the hope that God will never let anyone go farther than where He can’t reach them?
Consider re-phrasing that unfounded but beloved proverb above, to: God will not allow even the smallest thing to happen, which He hasn’t intimately foreknown, and consequently provided a way for redemption. And not just back to “how it was” redemption, but to ultimate, better than new, honorable and deeply loved status.
If even our Wounded Healer didn’t “handle” his own resurrection, neither should we put on that aspiration or criteria for coming out the other side.
Do you know someone who is suffering? Believe instead these things about God for this person. Hope in this about God for the person, more so than the wounded’s (or perhaps your own?) proper handling of things.
“Preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi.
Yes, my mind tends to think in cheesy billboard rhymes. But it was the sound bite that downloaded instantly into my head when someone asked me to speak on “Finding God in Suffering”.
Plain and simple: The Gospel message (that God will save those who profess they can’t do it themselves) is for receiving—not achieving. In fact it is a contradiction in terms to attempt to achieve the Gospel.
In my beginning, I approached religion just as I approached any other merit-based entity. I was good at earning things. Meritocracy promoted a world order that made sense to me, and put me towards the top of that order. I believed that God loved me here: in the light of my self-manifested goodness.
This logic was woven in my DNA. It had nothing to do with how I was raised—I know this because my parents went to opposite extremes to tell me that I was marvelous and wonderful just because I was theirs—because I existed, because I was me. I knew without a doubt that their love was unconditional, and had nothing to do with my achievements.
Boring. A love that anyone could have didn’t seem very special.
Free love didn’t seem very self-edifying, right? It had nothing to do with my awesomeness. It had more to do with their awesomeness. So I sought the other kind—the kind of love that values the things that young Me valued and possessed (good choices, self-discipline, abilities, high scores, etc. All very noble, yes?). A love based on this would reflect ME. Would edify ME. And I really liked myself. In fact, I still do :).
I was good in the arena of this religion—Eugene Peterson calls it the gospel of “Salvation by self-help” (see his fabulous translation of Hebrews).
Alright. Enter suffering.
Suffering removed the things of me that I valued–good and bad things. I lost my valued ability to control things, to be admirable, to achieve goodness and worthiness according to the gospel of achieving. With the loss of valuables comes the loss of perceived self-value. This is suffering. Or at least one form of it.
In that state of suffering I found God. Or as some people say, God found me. Or, I let myself be found… I suppose any version of that is right.
Here’s what suffering (finally) did for me:
Anyway, suffering is fertile ground. I hate to even make a bulleted list, because it comes off as exhaustive, yet the beneficial dividends of suffering are infinite. So let this only be an encouragement to patiently endure, with certain hope, toward your own list of the payouts of suffering.
As with everything in the Kingdom of God, the Gospel is wherever there is space for it. Think Sabbath, communion, Nativity… The things of salvation come to wherever space has been made for it, or to where a sacrifice has occurred. (And sometimes it just comes no matter what because God is that good).
But for me, suffering created (gouged, gored, gutted, and crushed) space in me to RECEIVE the good news. GOD saves! Not me! What a relief, because suffering also showed me my limitations, and proved that I cannot save myself. To hope in this is futile.
Where I was once full of myself, as is the inherent way of the flesh-organism, I now had space to want something grander. And that I could accept that there really even was anything grander, and want it, was the work of God alone, regardless of whatever evil-seeming means that realization came about.
It’s right there in the beatitudes. Blessed are you who suffer. Blessed are you who are unable. For that which you cannot do for your own self will be given to you by God, eternally and infinitely. If only you will RECEIVE it!
This is a perennial lesson. I have learned this, I am still learning this, I will be learning this again.
Is to believe this:
God is sufficient for me regardless of the choices others make
God is sufficient for others regardless of the choices I make.
Do you know how much better my life would be if I really believed that?
God help make it so!!!