Running to Jesus at My Worst in 2016
The beginning of 2016 caught me off guard. It really shouldn’t have, because what it revealed is nothing new. It is the reality for all Christians. I am still a sufferer, and I am still a sinner-- in desperate need of Jesus. Actually, it wasn’t so much the objective news that blindsided me; it was the very personal manifestation of it. Thankfully, the solution is simple: Run to Jesus.
The world is a broken place, which leads to various kinds of suffering in each of our lives. For me, the worst kind of pain comes because I am separated from those I love. This was brought home to me again after my family, who is lives far away, came for Christmas. There was lots of laughter and games and food. Then suddenly, they were all gone. My house was quiet and empty. And in the silence, the temporary separation from them opened up the ocean of grief in my soul over the loss of those I can’t see. My dad , who was killed in a car accident when I was four. My brother, who died of a drug overdose a decade ago. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. I hadn’t anticipated it, but I felt myself slipping into the darkness of despair.
What is the solution to suffering? Run to Jesus. So I did. I poured out all of my grief to him. The Bible tells us that he is acquainted with this kind of emotional pain, so he can sympathize and comfort us in a way that no one else can. When Jesus saw the sick or the bereaved or the poor, he was filled with compassion for their suffering. Darrel Johnson, in this book The Beatitudes, explains that in Christ, “The Living God chooses to so enter all the wreckage that he feels it himself – he feels it as his own.” Better still, this same Jesus has done something about it. Suffering exists, because sin exists. When Jesus died, he undid the curse of death and sin. Right now, he is working on our behalf in history to bring it to its glorious conclusion. One day…perhaps this year…he will come again, and when he does all pain will be finished forever. So, when we run to Jesus in suffering, we are running to the One who can understand our pain, because he has experienced it. We are running to the One who can comfort us, because he has done something about it, is doing something about it, and will do something to end it once and for all.
I felt frustrated and out of control, so I began to try to make plans for my future apart from the Lord. All of a sudden, I didn’t trust him.
At the same time, unlike Jesus, I am not a perfectly righteous sufferer. I am a sinful sufferer. Or perhaps I should say that I am a suffering sinner. Either way, as I pondered the separation from loved ones, the ugliness in my heart began to manifest itself. It started with a feeling of self-pity, which quickly morphed into a subtle resentment of God. I thought, “He could do something about my suffering, right? He could have saved the life of my father, my brother. Jesus could come back again right now…but he hasn’t.” I felt frustrated and out of control, so I began to try to make plans for my future apart from the Lord. All of a sudden, I didn’t trust him. And at the same time (since sin makes no sense), I was self-righteous about my suffering. I self-congratulated: “You’ve endured a lot. Other people don’t really understand. You see the world better than most.” I hadn’t anticipated this depravity in my heart, and the Holy Spirit revealed it all to me at once. I was overwhelmed with guilt.
What is the solution to sin? Run to Jesus. So I did. I didn’t want to – it felt wrong to say to the one who died for me, “So, um, I’ve kind of returned to the Enemy’s side, and I’m doubting that you are 'for' me. In fact, I’m frustrated with you right now, even though I know that the problem resides in me. I’m also thinking way too highly of myself, and I don’t care about your purposes right now. I can’t change my own heart, so would you do it for me again, please?”
As wrong as it felt, though, it was the right thing to do. Remember the tax collector who prayed, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Lk. 18:13). That kind of person is the person God justifies. And Jesus paid for our sin – all of it – so his response to us is, “Take heart…your sins are forgiven!” (Mt. 9:2). Octavius Winslow writes,
We are always welcome in Christ.
Although the beginning of 2016 caught me off guard, it did not catch Jesus off guard. He knew that I was still a sufferer and sinner, and he had provision for it all. He changed my heart. He reminded me that he is “for” me. He comforted me in my grief. He humbled me. He gave me love for his people again. All I had to do was run to him and cry out for help, as I expect to do every day in 2016, and he answered. The same is true for you.