Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Softening or Hardening?

15 For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite."--Isaiah 57:15

Illness, whether chronic or acute (or both at the same time), can make one more tender and receptive to the Spirit of God or harder and more rebellious against the Lord. Or, it can do both, at various times. But what matters is the general direction of your soul your very life.

Illness comes unbidden--against our will, our dreams, our hopes; it invokes fears, even terrors; it can bring out the worst in us. However, under God and in God, we can take this as an occasion to learn of more our creatureliness and fallenness. We are agents and patients in a world that is groaning amidst the groaning of God himself (Romans 8:18-24). East of Eden we are, yet still under God's heaven.

The world is, in one sense, out of kilter, out of alignment--a bent and broken world. When we cannot escape this systematic brokenness, we may hate the world and its Maker, cursing the darkness as well as the Creator. But if we come under the authority of Scripture, if we take up and dwell within a biblical worldview (which takes a lifetime), we can see the disease and despair of the world as a result of human sin in the beginning and sin ongoing. When we hit the granite wall of illness, we can realize the reality of the space-time fall of humanity and our incorporation into it (Genesis 3; Romans 3). Yet, we do not stop here, but God does not stop here.

Jesus Christ came to redeem the world, all of it. That takes time, of course. One may be forgiven, justified, and set right with God in an instant, if we simply entrust ourselves to his grace by faith alone. Yet our own sanctification and healing is incremental and episodic. The End of all Things is future and unchartable (yet certain). When illness strikes us or a loved one, we--still beset by the proclivities of sin--may strike out at God. I often do. But, God in Christ offers forgiveness to his disciples (1 John 1:8-10). Our hardness may, through repentance (Matthew 4:17) turn to tenderness and genuine humility before God Almighty. We realize that illness indicates the fall of humanity and the cosmos: it is not right. But we can seek God for deliverance from illness and that we might learn what we need to know through the process, whatever it may be. We can be both contrite and earnest seekers of God's healing power, which is so evident in the Gospels and Book of Acts.

But we must not turn against God, for that means alienating ourselves from our only sure hope, our only consolation, our only true friend in trouble (see Psalm 91:14-16). We may lament; we may weep. But let us do so before God, knowing he is at our right hand with his strong right hand (Isaiah 41:10). When we do turn on God, let us turn back t God. God is ready to forgive and restore. The biblical pattern is simple: submit and draw near to God; resist the devil (see 1 Peter 5; James 4). If we reverse this pattern--resisting God and submitting to the bitterness and hatred of Satan (who came to steal, kill, and destroy)--we only grieve the Spirit and wound ourselves and others.

May we become tender and teachable before the Lord in this groaning world--not ceasing to groan, not ceasing to exercise faith (even a mustard seed's worth), not ceasing to hope, not ceasing to passionately pray through the promises of Scripture; but never giving up on God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

1 comment:

  1. Amen!
    "turn against God"? "giving up on God"?
    In what other direction would we possibly turn? Although God is not merely the only rationally defensible, existentially viable, spiritually satisfying alternative, there is no other one one of whom the promise rests "in all things God works for the good of those who love him."