Monday, March 9, 2009

God’s Very Personal Blessing: Given in Our Need & Suffering

“It’s in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings... that your noblest dreams are born... and God’s greatest gifts are given... in compensation for what you’ve been through...”
–Wintley Phipps before a live recording of It Is Well With My Soul on YouTube.

People might think me sick to say it but suffering well is a blessed activity; it’s a sacrifice that pleases God--not because he’s sadistic--quite the contrary; he meets us and empathises and alleviates. He can bring stillness in the eye of our pain. Why else would the psalmist say, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”? –Psalm 51:17 (NRSV).

I keep finding purpose in quoting that famous Chicagoan pastor, A.W. Tozer; the hardliner who had cause to upset many a ‘modern’ Christian (especially Christian ministers) for heralding a hard truth for the lazy times. He put it like this: “Until you have been able to meet God in loneliness of soul, you and God, as if there is nobody else in the world, you will never know what it is to love other people in the world.”[1] We see here suffering’s intrinsic purpose... well, at least one of them.

And here is the essence of worship. It’s me and God. It’s you and God. It’s in the break of the harrowing, excruciating pain. Worship is not something we do on a Sunday at church at all (though it can occur there). It’s the thing we do as a complete sacrifice of anything we bring to the party. We take ‘church’ with us. Everywhere in life it comes with us.

Recently I worshipped God naked. I took all my clothes off, even my wedding ring, and I would have even taken my tattoo off if I could’ve. I wanted to bring absolutely nothing before God but my lonely and broken heart, so he could heal me. And it’s not that I am even at rock bottom; those days are past at least for the present period. I wanted simply to weep tears of utter need of God, and for him to fill me. I believe nothing and no one can bring me closer to a loving truth--the essence of life--than God can.

God waits for us; in a sense he doesn’t need our worship but he knows we need him, and hence our need is to worship. The lay pagan person cannot understand this babble that I speak, for it is totally off the wall for them; more is the pity. What a lot they’re missing out on, not the least of which is heaven, both now and to come. Some of these are regretfully in my own family, social network and workplace.

God is such a person-al deity. He openly invites us in to his courts whether we need him in the moment or not; even better when we just want to praise our Father. Psalm 100 elevates our praises, just like the Psalms of Ascent, for we have so much to be thankful for; so much to praise him about--and mostly it’s just simply about his nature. The great “I AM”...

Part of what God can do for us is to introduce us to ourselves. One of the ways this occurs is through the trials of life; we would learn nothing about ourselves if we got everything our own way, though it is normal to despise this fact. We just normally can’t fathom such a sadistic mess... but it’s the dead wrong angle. Our wills, ironically, can hack the mess, and more. We try and we see finally.

God does truly compensate us for our pains. He makes everything right for those who choose to suffer well; for him, I mean. He’s puts that yearning in our hearts--that feeling of desire that is never quenched. Yet, we look for it to be sated in all the wrong places most usually.

God has a very personal blessing for the person who will humble themselves before him, for recognising him for who he is, and coming to that place out of reverence and acknowledged need. He fills our cup. He brings us to the resting place where we have confidence and light we’ve never known before. And it was something we just couldn’t do for ourselves.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Worship Driven Life, The Reason We Were Created – Ed. James L. Snyder (London: Monarch Books, 2008), p. 122.

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