Sunday, March 13, 2005

Broken Before God

This is not going to be easy to write. Have you ever been at the end of your rope and no knot to hold onto? I do not mean that in a trite way. I mean that mainly in a spiritual way, but as a product of the physical and spiritual occurrences within your life. Have you ever had the events of your life bring you to a point of seeming total despair by the struggles, pain, and suffering life faces, with absolutely no vision for recovery? Have you felt like you were broken? I ask you this whether you are one seeking God or if you profess to be a Christian. The scriptures are full of believers and seekers that were in this situation. The Psalms and history of the people of God in the Old Testament testify to this reality. My past posts on pain also mention some of these passages. In Psalms 34:18 it says, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” And in Psalms 51:17 it says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Read all of Psalms 34, it has been a help to me.

I am sure that many of us have had conditions or occurrences of grief or loss that produce suffering and pain in our life. Life has a way of kicking us in the gut and then kicking us once we are down. Most of the time others counsel us to just get up and get to work and everything will work out. We are told to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, that only the strongest survive, or that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Well, I am of the conviction that while these challenges may have some merit, they are not the answers in every case. I am of the conviction that while many times the struggles, suffering, and pain we face are due to our own failures, and that we should repent of them; other instances of struggles, suffering, and pain are due to conditions or occurrences that are not in our control. I further believe that regardless of either situation, God knows the truth of the situation, and while He may let us ‘do our own thing’ or allows these other painful conditions or occurrences of life to exist, they are only to bring us to a place of brokenness in our life that He might strengthening us for His purpose as Christians or to bring us to Christ for salvation. In all of these various conditions or occurrences God is teaching us to seek more faith with these situations, that we may trust in Him foremost and trust less within ourselves and our abilities.

Now to many of us that can sound cruel of God. Why would a loving God allow this struggling, suffering, and pain to happen? Especially if the factors involved are not our fault. (See James 1:2-5) It happens because He loves us and wants the best for us. Ask yourself this, when do I most often learn anything in life that is of lasting spiritual value? Is it when everything goes well and I am happy or in the times of struggle, suffering, and pain? We can learn, if we are truly focused on God, when we are happy and life is going well, but if we are truthful about life, we learn life’s greatest lessons during the times of struggle, suffering, and in pain more often than during those times of happiness. (I also find that we have a greater tendency to question God’s love at these times, and not when everything is going well.) You and I will always prefer to be on the mountain top with Jesus and feel His peace, and see Him in all His glory, as did Peter, James, and John, however, like them, we must go down the mountain and live in the valley of everyday life and still see the glorified Christ in our daily lives; for this valley is where we must live for and serve God the majority of our lives. Despite the seeming cruelty of God at these times, He is showing His greatest love to us.

Consider this example. Our life is like unrefined gold ore, until gold ore goes into the furnace it is only a lump of mineral with some value, but really of no use other than as a pretty rock. Once gold ore has gone through the furnace the beauty, usefulness, and greater value becomes apparent. Sometimes the refiner takes the gold and refines it again and again to make of more value. We start out like that valuable, impure, unrefined gold ore to God. He wants to refine us in His furnace of life with its heat of struggle, pain, and suffering. It is a work of love on God’s part, at first to save us from our sin and to make us useful to Him. In that furnace God separates us from the impurities of the flesh that we are bonded to just like the bonded impurities gold ore has in its natural state. The heat of the furnace causes those impurities to burn off or fall away and the pure gold to flow into a mold as something beautiful and useful. Similarly in areas where we are not responsible for the grief, God is using His furnace of life’s troubles to bring the fineness of the gold of our life to a higher level. We must allow God to refine us.

I want to testify that these thoughts are not just the ramblings of theology by a believer in Jesus Christ. I know first hand that they are true. I am in the furnace of God’s refining love. The occurrences in my life of the past several years have slowly begun to burn away the excess of the flesh life and are melting the pride of life that I have lived with most of my life. And it hurts, oh does it hurt, I feel so weak, so ashamed, and useless. In anger at myself I strike out at those who love me most, including God. I feel all the self pity and self loathing that comes from this process. I hate this darkness I am in and I crave the light of God’s grace. But, I know God is at work, that He loves me, that my family loves me, that my brethren in Christ love me, but the process is not over and I have learned to say as Job said in his trial, though He slays me, I will trust in Him, and as Jonah learned in his darkness, to obey God. I also know that when He is through, I will be a vessel fit for the Master’s use.

Jesus knows darkness, suffering, and pain, though He deserved none of them as you or I do. He endured all of them for you and me. In the garden of Gethsemane, in an unjust trial, and on the Cross of Calvary, He struggled with the pain, suffering, and darkness for you and me. He did this in love to provide a way of salvation for us from the sin that separates us from God. Jesus provided a perfect sacrifice in which He broke down the wall of separation between God and us, caused by our sin. He made it possible for us to be free from our sin by providing a true Atonement for sin and we can have redemption from sin by faith in this finished work of Christ on the Cross and in the power of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead.

In this new birth we find ourselves transformed by the renewing of our minds. We crucify the old man’s fleshly way of thinking. We then become the workmanship of Christ, created unto good works that were ordained from the foundation of the world for us to walk in, as a new man in Christ, and by which we bring glory to God. And when we lose sight of all this, God is faithful to put His children in the refining furnace of His love to burn off and separate from us the dross of life that separates us from Him. When some grievous situation overtakes us, God is faithful and will use our suffering to make us stronger and purer. I know, for I am there.

For those who suffer in God’s furnace, may the light of His grace come soon to truly lighten the pain and lift the darkness of your soul for your good and His glory. For you who seek to know God may His Spirit come to your aid. May God be ever closer to you and strengthen you in faith that you may truly be one with Him through Christ, yielded and prepared for the Master’s use. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.