My apologies to my readership that I haven’t been blogging recently like I said in my last post I would, but recent events have made blogging near impossible as of late. Between much work, preparing to move and several other events, my time has been short and something had to give. Unfortunately this blog is that thing. I am hoping to blog more once I get back to California, but I am giving no promises.

Now, to move onto my post. I mentioned above that several events have prevented me from blogging. One such event was the discovery that my Father had cancer. I can say that in the past tense because he had a surgery to have it removed a couple of days ago, and the doctors are very optimistic that they got everything. Which is good news. I think I realized how good it was when a friend of mine commented that “it’s nice to finally hear some good news for a change.”

I think that that comment reflects the amount of suffering that my family has undergone at least in the last four years and really, for as long as I can remember. When I reflect on that, it is tempting to simply be angry at God. True, he never promises his children that life would be easy, but constant suffering for one’s parents is something that wears on the child’s psyche after a while. I can’t count the number of times I have sobbed into my pillow, angry at God and longing for relief for my parents.

So, you might be wondering “What does all this have to do with Christmas?”

I think it connects in this way: Christmas is the season in which we celebrate the incarnation of Christ. Philippians 2:5-11 is one of my favorite passages because it talks about what Christ gave up in order to save us and his extreme humility in obeying what the Father asked of him. Christ chose humility, chose humanity, chose suffering because of his love for us, his children. We have a God who loved us enough to enter into our sufferings with us. God did not choose to put suffering into the earth, Man chose that when he turned his back on God in the Garden; but He DID choose to enter into our sufferings with us. We have a God who knows our sufferings, intimately. We do not have a God who does not empathize with our weaknesses, or who has not felt the hurts we have. I think there is great comfort in that.*

However, this is not the end of the story. God did not just enter into our weaknesses to empathize with our sufferings. He took upon himself the task of removing suffering from us, by removing sin from us. When Christ died, he took the penalty that we deserve: eternal suffering, and when he rose he conquered sin and death. What a glorious hope we have!!! We have the hope that one day our sufferings will be ended, and that we will see Christ face to face and he will wipe away the tears and welcome us into his kingdom.

Further, we have the hope that our sufferings are producing Christ-likeness in us and is purging our sins from us. It’s hard to be proud when one has crippling infirmities, or when one sees first hand that one is not God, and there is nothing to be done for a loved one who is hurting. Often, our sufferings are the result of our sins. At other times, it’s due to the cursed earth that we live one. Regardless, we have the hope that our sufferings are not in vain, but that if we can only persevere through them, it will produce in us the Fruit of the Spirit and a transformation into a new person.

Finally, we have the hope that one day, all the earth will be totally renewed and there will be no more sin and suffering on the Earth. No longer will the earth be subject to futility, but will be set free from that. Yes, even so, Come Quickly Lord Jesus.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

(Romans 8:18-30 ESV)

Lord God, help me to remember that my present sufferings are momentary and are producing in me a greater glory than I can ever imagine. Please remind me of the hope that I have, the hope that Jesus brought when he came down to earth, “To set the captives free.” Amen.

Merry Christmas

*I gathered many of these insights from Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium, a fiction book that I would highly recommend.