We fear what we think may happen in the world we see. But the world we don’t see is the source of our real fears. Our spiritual lives hold the solution to it.
(Photo: By Alex Micheu Photography from VILLACH, Austria Uploaded by Sporti CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
That’s what happened with Jacob.
Returning to the land of Canaan forced Jacob to face a problem he had run from 20 years earlier—his deception of his brother Esau. As he approached the border of Canaan, angels of God came to meet him.
The presence of the angels gives us a critical reminder during our times of fear.
Sometimes we need a good dose of hope and encouragement.
We can get so obsessed with the weight of our cross that we forget Jesus showed us what lies beyond it. Today’s hardships can distract us from tomorrow’s hope.
Jesus’ Transfiguration wasn’t some sideshow He did one day for fun. It came at a point when the disciples desperately needed some hope.
Scripture records it to offer us the same thing.
Some hope when we need it most.
Unfair. That’s how it feels. Remember that childhood Christmas when your sister opened the gift you wanted? Or when your brother got a T-bird for graduation and you got stuck with the family Nova? Not fair.
Fast forward to today and ask yourself how it hits you when:
- A coworker gets a raise but you do more work—or perhaps, his work?
- A neighbor decorates her home from an unrestricted budget and you’re gluing the peeling wallpaper back on the wall?
- Your job reduces your salary because of the economy, but another business gives raises and bonuses?
We find ourselves kids again pouting around the Christmas tree.
There’s a reason Scripture has to command us not to covet. It’s in our nature. It’s systemic. If we can’t have more than others, at least we want it equal.
But less than others? Uh, no. That’s not fair.
I have discovered that the most difficult battles in life simply mirror Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. His words to the Father remain the most challenging words we could utter:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” —Luke 22:42
Surrendering your will to God in difficult times is often harder than the trial itself.
I have found that my greatest challenges come not from those circumstances that press in upon me, but from the internal struggle to surrender my will to God. I enter Gethsemane daily and have to drag my will to the Father in prayer.
(So do you.)
The awesomeness of creation exists as more than beauty for us to observe.
In spite of the chaos in our culture, the world screams of order in its origin. Its predictable seasons and trustworthy laws of nature reveal wisdom in its design.
(Photo by http://www.ForestWander.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons)
The wisdom of creation we see is explained in the Bible we read. Wisdom played such an integral role in creation that the author of Proverbs 8 personifies it as a person present with God:
“Before the hills I was brought forth . . . When He established the heavens, I was there . . . When He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman”—Proverbs 8:25–33
God’s wisdom displayed in the wonders we see also proves His wisdom in all areas of life.
Including the painful ones.
One of my daughters used to come to me as a toddler and say, “In the air, Daddy, in the air!” She wanted me to hurl her up and catch her. I did so to her utter delight. My other daughter saw this and asked me to toss her too. Yet as she leveled off, her face contorted into sheer terror.
When I caught her, she clung to me with all four limbs and begged, “No, not again!”
Later I considered why the same flight gave joy to one and terrorized the other.
- One focused on my ability to catch her.
- The other focused on her inability to control the flight.
We do the same thing with God.
We had no idea what following Jesus would demand when we started out. We thought we knew.
We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, God would bless us, protect us, put us at ease—basically dote on us as His children. To some extent, we still expect that.
But God wants to give us something greater than those things.
What does it take for God to change you? In the Bible, when the Lord changed Jacob, it took a brawl. Isn’t it often the same with us?
These times we struggle with the Father represent His grace, I believe.
Jacob shows us how to win the struggle.
John the Baptist struggled with his own sermon.
He had preached about the Messiah’s kingdom coming with power and justice. But instead, Jesus’ ministry centered on preaching and on acts of mercy, and John found himself unfairly wasting away in prison near the blistering shores of the Dead Sea.
Gentle Jesus hardly seemed the political Deliverer everyone expected.
(Dead Sea shoreline, the area near where John the Baptist was imprisoned. Photo: By xta11, via Wikimedia Commons)
Unable to reconcile the contradictions and imprisoned in his thoughts, John doubted his own preaching. John sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).
In other words, the Expected One had certain expectations placed upon Him . . . and Jesus had failed to meet them.