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Luke 9: 47 – 48
“Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” He said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”
I’ve now reached the book of Job, in my attempt to read through the entire Old Testament, without relying on commentaries to shape my understanding. This is a book I have turned to repeatedly because I feel it epitomizes our humanity and God’s sovereignty.
In turning to it this time, though, I am struck by God’s message to Job’s friends. He tells them He’s “had it with” them because unlike Job they have not “been honest either with me or about me”. And then later we see that all of Job’s brothers, sisters and friends “consoled him for all the troubles God had brought him”. As I reflect on these words I am both convicted of deep wounds I have inflicted and reminded of deep wounds inflicted upon me. I am reminded that:
Proverbs 12: 18
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 16: 24
Gracious words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
After my mother passed away I came to see that surrendering to suffering ushered in God’s peace. I also witnessed it from afar through the testimony of Kara Tippetts via Mundane Faithfulness. But rather than allowing this to soften my heart toward those in suffering, I let it turn my heart in anger toward those who I saw speak out for ending suffering by taking life into their own hands.
I read a blog by a woman of faith who saw her son suffer excruciating pain from brain cancer, who spoke out for the possibility to end life, when suffering became unbearable. Instead of meeting her grieving and aching heart in embracing love, I was angered by what I perceived as her nullifying the excruciating surrender in pain and faith of my mother. I even wrote a post on her blog, in couched terms trying to point out her error.
Now, I look back and am deeply convicted of my error. God calls me to accept her, to embrace her in her suffering and allow the Spirit within me to minister to her in her deep grief. It is not up to me to point the finger and assert myself over her, as Job’s friends at first did to him, but to accept her as if she were Jesus. I am called to console her, not to judge her.
I am also called to be honest with God and about Him. When I wrote my comment on her blog, I was stifling a deep-rooted anger at God for allowing my mother to suffer in excruciating pain, but rather than admit that, I spoke self-righteously and religiously, saying the “right” thing from a dishonest heart. Yes, I believe in the sanctity of life, but if I am honest, I also sometimes struggle with the pain inflicted upon us in this broken world. I am not advocating euthanasia, but I am advocating embracing and consoling those upon whom pain has been inflicted and being honest about our own human struggles.
Not long after I had posted this comment I met a similar response to my own heartache, as I had given to this grieving woman. When I shared of God opening my heart to fully grieve the death and suffering of my mother amongst fellow believers, a woman tried to encourage me to be “strong” in the LORD, recounting her own story of how God had strengthened her in her own grief through Psalm 23 several years ago.
She saw my tears and yearned to “fix”. Her heart was full of compassion and yet by leaning to “fix”, she failed to “accept” me and see God at work in and through the suffering. I, in turn, failed to see her compassion and responded defensively and with words aimed to pierce, rather than heal. And I let the piercing done to my heart take root and fester within me. I let it drive me to almost bully myself into being outwardly “strong”, rather than express the rejection I felt in the “fixing” words of this sister in Christ and allow God to move in on my weakness, to allow His grace to unravel the hurt and hardening within me.
And yet Jesus calls all of us, as His little children, to come sit on His knee. He embraces us in all our broken weakness and gently leads us into greater and greater freedom. All He wants from us is that we come with open and trusting hearts:
- that rather than stifling our anger that we express it to Him (as Job and King David both do),
- that rather than turning our hurt inwards, that we turn it to Him (as King David does throughout the Psalms),
- that rather than letting pain and grief harden our hearts, that we allow Him to use it to soften and open our hearts toward others in lavishing grace (as Joseph does upon his brothers),
- that rather than turning to “self-help” and “fixing”, we “embrace” the path of suffering, allowing Jesus to lead us further into His leading Love, as He calls us to do in Luke 9: 18-27; and
- that we admit that our hearts are “desperately sick” and “deceitful” and allow God to “search and know” us, as King David does repeatedly, so that God can transform our hearts into greater union with His.
I am all too often guilty of turning to “fix” others. Sometimes this comes from the wish to take away their pain, while at other times it stems from my own hurt, insecurities or fear. When I think of Jesus’ example, I see an example of “quietness and trust” of His Father we are called to emulate (Isaiah 30: 15), not of self-asserting to prevent others from seeing the pain or anger within Him, or “fixing” to remove their pain. And I’ve seen this quiet, trusting example in men and women of faith around me:
- in the woman who witnessed the “fixing” words of her fellow sister in Christ and invited herself over to sit and listen to my story, to embrace me with her own tears, as she mourned together with me and openly admitted her own struggle with deep loss in her life;
- in the (often tearful) prayers behind closed doors of family and friends for me, through the many years in which I had turned my back on God;
- in my best friend back home choosing to love and accept me in my unbelief and in my weaknesses now. By turning her deep hurt and prayers to God in trust, she has been enabled to lavish amazing grace upon me in the past more than twenty years;
- in the community of faith God has surrounded me with, both here and abroad, who have “spread[s] everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 16), our God; and
- in the surrender of my beautiful mother to Her Savior, who walked into suffering holding the hand of Her Savior, trusting in Him to complete the good works He had begun through her, as He poured out His peace upon her.
I thank the Lord for this lavishing of grace, for this embrace in our weakness, for this Love that chooses to “accept” us right where we are, so that we get to marvel all the more at His power to transform us. And I pray that He would convict my heart to turn to embrace, where it naturally turns to judge or “fix”, so that His transformational Love would be given greater space to bless.
If you continue with me on my journey into God’s Love, you will discover how these Fatherly arms continued to reach out to embrace me in my weakness, to encourage me to be myself before Him, to turn my “desperately sick” and “deceitful” heart to Him.
Have you found yourself in similar situations to me, either on the giving or receiving end of “fixing” or “judging”? What has God taught you through these experiences? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts on this.
Luke 18: 15 – 17
People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”
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