Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Lord has come to bear the grief and carry the sorrow

The Lord has come to bear the grief and carry the sorrow

The Lord has come to bear the grief and carry the sorrow

The December issue of National Geographic, in an article about faith, said two things about suffering that based on Steve’s sermon we can also say are prophetic. The first was that as freshly experienced pain travels up our nervous system towards our brains, our expectation of good things coming – hope – comes down from our minds and meets our impending suffering, and betters it.

The second is that when going through a painful experience with other people we suffer less than we would without them. People who were told other people underwent the same thing did better than people who thought they were going it alone.

One of the central tasks in my work as a psychologist is to help people suffer. Learning to suffer well – the way Jesus has – is one of the things that our lives pivot on. Or they don’t. Grieving loss, overcoming the fear of pain and sting of rejection, voicing the lament Steve talked about this fall, becoming long-sufferers, these bring us in line with the heart of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. Becoming part of the kingdom coming on earth in this way is life-giving in no uncertain way. It is a key to the good life.

In reflecting on the prophecies about Christ’s coming, what better encouragement during Advent than the prophecies about Jesus coming into our lives so he could suffer. Christ came and entered into the affliction. Then he subjected himself to the entirety of our suffering. Now seated up on the mightiest throne He continues to feel what we feel and know what we know.

One of the things everyone I work with wants is the improvement of their suffering. Something else everyone wants even more, but are often too scared or beaten down or just don’t believe it’s possible, is the total redemption of suffering.

Here He is. Jesus’ Advent into the world was the end of suffering under the law and the beginning of human suffering that takes place under the shadow of the resurrection. Now we may weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn and allow the troubles in this life to move us, and even do the painful, arduous work of laying down our lives for our friends, because we know that none of this is futile. Quite the contrary.

Let us bear a prophetic witness to ourselves and our community and our world this Advent of the suffering of Christ that comes down into our lives and out of our hearts and minds to meet the pain coming up to us from sin and suffering, and resurrects it. If in fact ‘we suffer with him so we may be glorified with him’ suffering with Jesus as he suffers in this world is one of the great announcements of the Gospel. Let us bear witness too to the comfort and encouragement and power of His Body, which gives us strength and makes us to know we are not alone and that this is not in vain. Most people inside and outside church in the West just don’t know Him very well, so Advent is particularly apropos for such a time as ours. Let us in our prophetic activity this Christmas be messengers of this moment in the Gospel. Let us help each other in the experience of our troubles to see, clearly: indeed, the Lord has come.

Survival during the holidays

Survival during the holidays

Repost from Advent 2016

This last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent which comprises the four Sundays before Christmas and proclaims and celebrates God coming into the world by the birth of Jesus Christ (Christ is the Greek title for messiah; Advent means arrival.)

Arguably Jesus is the most influential person to ever walk earth. His life was congruent and his mission was clear. We believe Jesus came to fulfill God’s promises to bless all families on earth. (Genesis 12:2-3) Jesus confirmed this in word and deed. (John 10:7-11; John 21:25)

Every day we struggle to fulfill our mission and overcome barriers to living a fulfilling life. We struggle to meet the real or perceived expectations we feel from others. In fact, during Advent it may seem like you have more struggles than usual because it’s this time of year when we put pressure on ourselves to find the right gift for everyone on our shopping list. Merry Christmas feels more like manic Christmas! Amy Grant sings, I need a silent night, a holy night, To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise, I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here, To end this crazy day with a silent night. What’s the antidote? Humility. It re-aligns us to reality and right-sizes expectations. Humility allows us to simplify.

Humility is letting go of the pressure to perform. Living to please and impress others is a sure pathway to depression! Humility frees us up to simply be, as in being present to God. Humility begins in his presence. Not my will but yours be done, is what Jesus said and it’s what we need to say. Be still and know that I am God, is what the Lord says to us. We stop expecting perfection of ourselves that belongs alone to God. Humility allows us to serve God and others with what we have. We humbly bring our gifts.

Jesus humbled himself to fulfill his mission and that’s what he wants us as disciples to do. Humility reminds us of our absolute need for God’s absolute love and grace. Humility makes us teachable and motivates us to serve God no matter what. Humility is not false pride but trust in God’s promises.

Jesus overcame barriers to fulfill his mission and he helps us overcome barriers. We emulate Jesus to fulfill our mission. Emulating him means receiving him and believing that God is at work through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith brings us into a personal relationship with God. It involves learning his Word, discerning his ways, doing what he did, and enjoying his presence in our life.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a rhythm of work and rest… doing the things God has empowered and equipped you to do out of the abundance of his abiding presence. It is our calling, our privilege, to serve the world that Jesus is saving.

In very practical ways we become Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. We bless others not to impress them but to demonstrate God’s love and compassion for them. This advent season be renewed and refreshed by walking in his grace and living in his love. I like the way Leonard Cohen described it: Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. Reflect the light Jesus shines on you!

What are you overcoming to do that? Laziness, fear, fatigue, pride, insecurity, selfishness, pain? What are you struggling with right now? That’s the place Jesus will enter your world this Advent.

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