I believe it is impossible for us to fully recognize our identity in Christ until we have struggled, until we have tasted the bitter harshness of fighting sin, rooting it out of our lives, and what's more, suffering the effects of the struggles in the lives of our brothers and sisters as they sin and suffer and fight beside us. I remember the time when I finally got over the frequently asked question, “Do I really know God? Or do I just know about Him?” It happened during what I believed were the worst years of my life. I realize these are what most people know as their middle school years. I was home schooled, so I am not sure if I had a legitimate middle school phase of life. But I know there were several years when I was unsure of who I was, unsure whether Jesus loved me or not, and whether my God had ears to hear.
My intellectual ideal of god was abruptly removed and replaced during this time, replaced with Job’s God, the God who gives and takes away. And I was anything but prepared to fall on my face and cry, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” in the face of my struggles. I had little idea what the Christian life was supposed to look like, but I never had imagined that it would look like me suffering, much less me suffering for the sake of anyone else’s sin but my own. To make things worse, God seemed perfectly ignorant toward my pleas for His hand in the harsh situation I was in. Was His eye possibly blind to how dire things really were? How could that be, when I kept explaining it to Him?
I had a lot to learn. During these years, during the doubt and the fighting, a moment in my life continually replayed in my mind. It was from those first weeks during the summer of 2006 when Calvin had just come back from the hospital. I must have been twelve years old at the time. My father was trying to persuade my brother to eat, which was a very trying task. A six-year-old boy cannot understand that he must eat when it hurts him to eat. I cannot remember exactly what my father said, but it was something to the effect of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12, how the power of Christ rests upon us in our weakness, how God's grace abounds within suffering...
In short, my brother had reason to rejoice. Because he would receive an abundance of grace throughout his life and his physical battles, an abundance of grace that very few get to experience in this life. If my brother had an abundance of grace, then it was clear that our entire family shared in that grace, that I was a partaker of it. And this was vaguely comforting.
This moment and these words were imprinted on my mind—I clung to them—but it took years for them to penetrate deep enough and reach my heart and soul. And I have only just come to begin to understand what it means to be a partaker of God’s grace and how abundant it really is. I have got this far, far enough to know that all those years while my entire family was struggling through the chaos of sin and heartache, I had it backwards. I was praying for God to make it stop. I was asking Him, to take it all away, to make us happy and content like we once were. In short, I was praying for Him to stop His grace. My eyes were so fixed on the outpouring of my sufferings, my selfishness making me so shortsighted, that I completely missed the flood of God’s grace that was being poured out on us.
I did not realize what was happening, what God was doing, until the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I, feeling very resigned and foolish, noticed for the first time that a very sturdy ark had carried us all through the storm or maybe it still is carrying us through the storm and we are not quite there yet. I am not sure. But I imagine the disciples of Jesus had a similar sort of humiliation when Jesus awoke and said “Peace” and suddenly the storm ceased before their eyes. Before the struggle I had this misconceived idea that if Jesus was in the boat with me, the waters would be continually tranquil.
If anything, the Christian life is quite the opposite. Every Christian is willing to admit that we as Christians, though we are saved and are being sanctified in Christ, still sin. But I am not sure if we all understand what the consequences of sanctification, of being made Holy, really are. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is described as having a sword for a tongue. In the same book, Jesus says that He is coming to the church, coming to destroy the false gods and idols that are hindering her from loving Jesus. And in the same way, Jesus comes to each of us, to destroy the false gods and idols of our own hearts, and I don't think He plans on using persuasive speech in order to make us let go of our sin. No, I think He intends to use His sword, which means there is pain and suffering involved. He will do what is necessary in order to cut the sin from our lives.
“Don’t Stop the Madness”
This post was originally inspired by the band Tenth Avenue North and their songs "Don't Stop the Madness" and "The Struggle". I wanted to share it again because, praise God, his faithfulness rings true even now and this prayer remains on my lips even today, "don't be afraid to break my heart, just bring me down to my knees."