There are two powerful truths that I use as a filter for the ongoing events that unfold in my life. One is the truth of God's sovereign rule over all things, and the other is the truth that my life will be marked with trouble. Accompanying this truth of trouble is the expressed warning that I will experience an internal groaning that resembles the pain of childbirth as I wait for my full redemption. Trouble. Pain. Groaning. Heartache. God told me to expect these things.
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble..."
Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Romans 8 "...we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbrith right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies."
The message of the gospel is not about finding love, joy and peace in the midst of comfortable lives filled with fun families, obedient children, happy marriages, safe leaders or solid governments that serve as reflections of our godly wisdom and moral living. The message of the gospel is that we are wholly broken and that in Christ alone we find genuine love. That in Christ alone we find pure righteousness that is free from sin. That in Christ alone we find real joy and true peace. The message of the gospel is that it's only by His grace that we aren't living out the deepest corruption of our hearts.
As I wait for redemption of creation and of my body of decay, I groan inwardly. Because of what God has told me, I don't expect that life in this world should be filled with good feelings. I don't expect that life in this world should leave me feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Sometimes God allows these good feelings, but many times He doesn't.
Until we learn to accept the inevitable groaning of our soul, we will be tempted to deal with our yearning in a superficial way that fails to cultivate that place where eternal hope of our heavenly citizenship grows best. We'll find ourselves dancing on the surface of life, numbing ourselves with amusements and activities that distract us from fully embracing our neediness. We'll settle for a superficial relationship with Christ that doesn't prioritize the kind of quiet communion that soaks in His Word and welcomes Spirit conviction. We'll prefer shallow friendships that allow us to ward off the inevitable negativity that comes with meaningful interaction. Hungering for expressions of merriment, we'll be unwilling to extend the required effort to probe beneath surface smiles and shoulder the sorrow and suffering of others. And with the help of social media, we'll live out a charade of contentment that convinces those around us that we are happy.
We live in a culture that idolizes good feelings and optimistic sentimentality, an idolization that places hope in things that are hopeless. When we allow the world to hone our thinking, we inevitably end up either living in despair when these idols are threatened or living in denial when they are broken. Fixing our eyes on Christ is the only way to neither despair nor deny.
In 1778, John Newton wrote a series of letters to a friend about the corruption of the world, a corruption that's always been rudely present even if when dressed in pleasing attire. There's always been trouble in River City. Trouble with a capital T, trouble that resembles you and definitely rhymes with me. But Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and we can live in confident joy that we stand on solid, unshakeable ground. Not because of any merit of man or government, but because of the glorious Rock of our Salvation!
"The state of the nation, the state of the churches — both are deplorable. Those who should be praying are disputing and fighting among themselves. Alas! how many professors are more concerned for the mistakes of government than for their own sin...The Lord reigns! He governs the world. Let men contrive and plot as they will, they are all instruments in His hand, and shall in the end bring nothing to pass but what is worthy of His wisdom and goodness to appoint or permit." John Newton