Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Christian ‘Greatness,’ Having Suffered

“All great Christians have been wounded souls.”
— A.W. Tozer (1897–1963)
Titles of articles don’t come naturally to me, and the title of this one – with the word ‘greatness’ included – doesn’t sit entirely comfortably, but the Holy Spirit confirms it in my heart; it is the one who has suffered, the one who has been a wounded soul, who is great in the kingdom of heaven. As those who are last come first, so this polar reversal extends to those who have endured significant pain. They are blessed because they have been, what the world would call, cursed. They become well-rounded, ‘great’ Christians.
This truth is an encouragement to many; to those who are enduring, to those who have endured, and even to those who will endure.
The only one not rapt by this rapturous compensation of God’s is the person who resists endurance because they refuse to suffer. The gospel is of no help to these. Why would such a person need hope from elsewhere (i.e., God) when they can procure their own hope, especially via coping mechanisms far removed from obedience?
An Encouragement to Continue to Struggle Well
We can trust this 1) fact and 2) promise of God’s: 1) Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart...” 2) Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:3, 11 [NRSV])
If Jesus struggled, so will we. If he was lifted out of death into life, so will we be. Going to the cross is symbolic, as is carrying the cross. The resurrection is also symbolic for the life we receive – which is the fruit of obedience – by the power of the Holy Spirit when we submit to suffering rightly.
This is no sadistic calling, and we have to be careful not to reduce it as Stoicism for Stoicism’s sake.
Wounded souls get a great boost in understanding and applying this Christian life because they know how to understand and apply themselves to this life in general. Their hearts have been tenderised and their minds, opened. But there is no false humility in these. That’s the test. Suffering ensures pretence is a luxury ill-afforded when the only thing that matters is authenticity and compassion.
A cosmic Gospel reversal resounds: those who have suffered and who bear evidence of healing for the wounds of past are blessed disciples.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

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