“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” Revelation 21:1-4 ESV. Our great eschatological (end times) hope. The great Christian hope. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not that we are going, but that He is coming, coming down out of heaven from God. God will, finally, come and dwell with us, walk with us, and forever be with His people. And we with Him. And there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more pain. A wondrous and beautiful end to the story, not so much an end but a final beginning, with all things made new, right and beautiful. More beautiful than our minds can even imagine…
This is the end we wait for, the end we hope for, the end, in fact, that we actually believe all things are headed for. For all the pain, violence, anger, hatred, ugliness of the world in which we live, we live with the hope of an ultimate beauty in our hearts. The hope that for all the ugliness with which we live, the beauty for which we strive will ultimately be our dwelling place. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, ‘tis beauty that will save the world.
Oh, we do catch glimpses now. We do can find beauty in the ugliness around us. We find the beauty in God’s good creation. Maybe that’s why our Millennials are all about the experiences of life, all about the destination, the next destination they can snap or tweet their presence to the world from. The next beautiful place they can take their selfie and prove to the world that such beauty exists, and I was there.
This is ultimately what we hope for. But how? How do we get there from here. By what means will the world come to such a beautiful ends? How will this peace on earth, with God reigning, finally, as our one true king, with every knee bowed and every mouth declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord come about?
We know that it will be God’s presence and power that ultimately brings this about, but does that mean we have no part?? Are we mere spectators to what God is doing? The answer is, no we are not. There is a human instrumentality involved. This is why God waits for the fullness of time determined by our abilities and capacities to receive what he would give. We are called to be part of his efforts. We have a participation in the making of all things right and new. God works with humankind, and we with him, to extend his Kingdom into all our affairs, and the works around us.
Look at Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 ESV. This is part of Christ’s message to the church in Laodicea, which wraps up his direct message to the seven churches in Revelation. Christ stands and knocks on the door, that is for sure. But it is not the door of the individual human heart, as we are so often told and so quickly assume. Rather, Christ is knocking on the door of the church. It will help us greatly to understand the gospel, the church, and indeed our own lives today if we can understand from this that Christ is outside the church as know and identify it.
Yes, we know that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” Matthew 18:20 ESV. And yes, Christ is with us always. But he is also on the outside, calling in to us. Remember Him, he’s out there, in that big bad world, chasing down that lost sheep. He left the ninety nine to chase me down, he still leaves the ninety nine to chase that one. He still eats with the sinners. The prodigals. The lepers. The outcast. Those who don’t go to church, ain’t going to church, and don’t wanna hear about no d**n church…
Yes, Christ is with us always, but he calls us further up and further in to a. deeper fellowship than we’ve ever known. He’s out there, in the world, where we don’t have the courage to follow him fully. Our little church, no matter how big your church may be, will always be too small, too cramped for Him. Inside is just not big enough, only outside is great enough for the creator of the universe. He’s out there, building his kingdom. One sinner at a time.
Meanwhile, the church cries out. We struggle with hating the sin but loving the sinner. Jesus doesn’t worry about all that. He just loves. The loves the sinners and the saints. All the same. We still struggle to accept and understand this. We hold onto our stones, ready to throw them at any time.
Yet he knocks on our door. He invites us to invite Him in. We are, after all, the ones most prepared to fully receive Him, and fully cooperate and participate in what he is doing. We are the ones waiting and praying for his return. We are the ones most longing for all things to be made new.
He stands at the door, knocking. Will we ever let Him in?? Or, would we crucify him all over again?
Looking at Mark 4 today, specifically the story of Jesus calming the storm.
If you don’t know this story, then here it is. It is the story of Jesus and his disciples getting into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee when a great storm comes upon them. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. They took him just as he was…Jesus had been teaching the people all day from the boat, so they left without returning to shore, heading for the other side where He would heal a demon possessed man who had been living in the graveyards. They wind up in a great storm, which is not unusual for the Sea of Galilee due to the presence of the mountains and the up and down currents of the winds there. This storm must have been particularly powerful to have frightened these experienced fisherman.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The disciples may have been afraid, but apparently Jesus was not concerned. He was in the back, sleeping like a baby. Sleeping like he was unaware they were all about to die!!
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” So Jesus wakes up, and calmly commands the storm to stop. To which, the storm listens, the wind ceased, and all was calm. And Jesus then does something that, maybe, seems a little strange, maybe even unfair. It seems as though he rebuked his disciples here – “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Is it just me, or does it seem like Jesus is a little irritated or impatient here? Why does he rebuke them? Their boat was about to sink, was it not? I would think that would be the perfect time to cry out to Jesus to save them! What else were they supposed to do? Didn’t the fact that they cried out in their panic, in their time of desperate need, show that they DID have faith?
So here is my take here. Mark says they went to Jesus and cried out Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Matthew’s account of this event says “And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”” Matthew 8:25 ESV. The disciples were terrified. They were panicked. This is why Jesus asks them “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Maybe the correct response for the disciples would have been to, calmly, wake Jesus and just say “Hey, we need you to calm this storm Jesus.” And just expect that it will be done. Because, what else were the disciples to do but to go to the Son of God in their time of need and ask for salvation?
They were rebuked because of their fear. Because if we are trusting in the Lord, we should not have fear. These disciples are a little like us today. We are freaking out in the world right now, are we not? We have issues. We have North Korea, The Donald, and nuclear weapons all around. Not a good combination. We have Russian investigation, hurricanes that keep coming, scientists are telling us the earth is boiling. We have to do something, don’t we??!!
The question is, do we trust God or not? If we say we have faith in God, then at some point we have to trust God. We do all that we can responsibly do, but that still won’t calm the fear in you heart, the anxieties that keep you up at night.
Think about this – every time a human being kills another human being, whatever good reasons there may be, it comes down to not trusting God. If you have a gun pointing at me, and I can kill you before you kill me, I can only obey Jesus’ command to love my enemies if I’m trusting in God. There’s no other way. Because if I die, I die. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of me. Do I believe that or do I not? Our money has the inscription “In God we Trust.” But, really, should it not say “In guns we trust”? Because do we not trust FAR more in our guns than in our God? When we take matters into our own hands because we are not trusting, and we act out of fear, we almost always turn to violence.
What exactly are we trusting God for? We are not trusting Him to get us out of our situation. That’s not the point. We are trusting that if this happens, and I die, I’m ok with that. I’m trusting that God is going to work this out for good, make the best of this situation, and work it out ultimately for good. Because I believe in life after death, I believe in the resurrection of the dead. So, if you kill me…then what? You got nothing else…
The hope of the New Testament is always directed to that ultimate future. We are not trusting God for a new car, or to pay the bills, or to buy a bigger house. That is not our hope. For believing Christians, the worst case scenario is not a bad scenario. Christian leaders tell us to trust in God, but they don’t tell us what we are trusting for. So, we think that God is supposed to get us out this our out of that. But if he does, or if he doesn’t, either way that day is going to come. It may seem dark, but we will all die eventually. And if not, scientists tell us the universe is decaying, how are you getting out of that one? What are you trusting God for? He may not, he will not, get us out of every bad situation, but we trust that there is a good situation he’s getting us into, no matter what happens.
The New Testament says the here and now is a war zone. Bad things can happen. We might get fed to the lions or be burned at the stake. But we trust in the character of God, who will ultimately win in the end.
So they can kill us now, but so what???
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””
Mark 4:35-41 ESV
The Book of Revelation. The last book of the canon of scripture. Chapter 1, verse 1 begins “The revelation of Jesus Christ…“. “Of” here carries a double meaning. It is the revelation about Jesus Christ, and it is the revelation from Jesus Christ. He is the content, the subject, of the revelation, and the agent of the revelation. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Jesus Christ is the way in which God reveals himself to us; Jesus Christ is also God himself being revealed to us.”
As such, we need to understand that revelation is not given to be information about the broken world we live in. It is not a report about the persecution of the church in the first century, and it’s certainly, ABSOLUTELY, not chiming in about all the geopolitical events of the 21st century. Anything regarding past and future evens in revelation are only given because they are useful in revealing Christ to us. Because the Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther disagreed with this statement. In fact, brother Luther wanted to remove Revelation from the Bible altogether. Martin considered revelation to be “neither apostolic or prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it…they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one seems to know what that is, to say nothing of keeping it…Christ is neither taught nor known in it.”
All of which did not prevent him from using the revelation to prove the pope was the antichrist. The same pope who, in turn, used revelation to prove that Martin Luther was the antichrist. The same antichrist who, by the way, is not mentioned in the book of revelation. Anywhere.
But I digress. Like I said, Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ (despite the objections of Martin Luther). It may be hard to maintain this focus through all the symbolism and topics flashing at us (especially for our ADHD, instant gratification minds), but it is the only way to read the Revelation with any degree of sanity. In fact, the only way to read any scripture rightly is in subjugation to Jesus Christ. If Christ is not the center of it all, then our Holy Bible is little more than an encyclopedia of religion, with no more plot than a phone book.
Without Christ as the center, all the individual stories and words of the Bible are just out there. So we have a talking snake, floating axe heads, a snake on a pole, strange rules strangely repeated like the law not to boil a kid in its mothers milk. We have seemingly pointless genealogies at random points, which we need for what?? We have the thundering “Thus saith the Lord!” moments. We have some of the favorite sayings of Christ himself – “you are salt of the earth…and the light of the world“, “Enter by the narrow gate“, or “Do unto others..“. We have Paul’s paradoxes – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We have Paul’s stirring conclusions – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” or “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” AMEN!!
So, what does it all mean?? What do we make of the information, all the stories, this mass of material we call our bible?? By this time, we can be completely confused and bewildered. This is where the revelation steps in.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. We turn the page and find the magnificent Christ described in such a way that everything is imaginatively subordinated to him. He was suggested, anticipated, prayed for and promised in the ancient Hebrew scriptures. He’s been presented in the Gospels, taught and preached in the epistles. If we are careful and maintain our focus, we could have held true to our awareness throughout of Jesus the Christ. But we don’t read carefully and maintain our focus. Instead, we argue about predestination, we theorize about atonement. We count miracles and worry about grammar and style. Then we come to Revelation and we are startled out of all our tangential arguments and diversions. Everything that was said before is brought back into proportion. Christ himself is the last word. He was and is the word made flesh, John brings us back on track, brings Him back into focus. We’ve been climbing the mountain but we’ve lost our way. We are climbing, seeking after Christ, but we’ve lost sight of the guideposts along the way. John brings the path back into focus, and clears the brush for us. A mountain peak determines all the preparations and the path climbers take to reach it, even when it’s still out of sight. The peak is always the goal toward which everything was aimed. The Revelation gives us the last word on Christ, and this word is that Christ is the center and at the center. He is the mountaintop we are seeking throughout the mountain of scripture.
Keeping Christ at the center can be difficult. We get lost along the way, and other things find their way to the front. The golden rule, our doctrines of atonement, the Ten Commandments, justification, diagrams and explanations of the trinity, denouncing the wicked. We know all along that Christ is one to be reckoned with, but we forget that he at the center of all, filling all things with himself.
So what is Christ, who is he, and how will he be presented to hold onto this centrality? John is commanded by the trumpet voice and describes him as one like a son of man. This phrase originates in the vision of Daniel – I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. Jesus, the Son of Man, is a commanding, all powerful, redeeming, glorious figure! We want to manage him, keep him in his box, but he will not be managed. We go along with, we believe in, we teach Jesus as a piece of the puzzle for our own private lives, a private decision to be kept out of the public space. We believe in a secularized, managed-for-our-own-purposes Jesus. But he will not be managed. He does not fit nice and tidy into our little shoebox.
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. The word from the word, coming forth like a sharp two edged sword, searching hearts, judging rebels, and slaying sinners. BUT, the word tells us Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. He is the word, slaying sinners with a spoken word like a two edged sword so they can then be resurrected into newness of life with Him. He died, yet he is alive forevermore, and he holds the keys to death and Hades. He is “...the firstborn of the dead…” Revelation 1:5 ESV. Because he went ahead of us we can Fear not, even death, because He has conquered it forever.
He does not live in our acrostics. He’s not a part of our self help plans, he’s not contained by our 12 step programs. He migh meet you on a Roman road, but he does not live there. We can’t keep sinners from his table, because no matter how hard we try he just keeps calling out and inviting them. He is the one who sits, eats, and drinks with sinners. He doesn’t care about atonement theories, He just forgives sins and sinners. He doesn’t argue about justification, He justifies.
He is the Son of Man, to him is given dominion and glory and a kingdom. He is the beginning and the end, the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn of the dead. He is the first word of creation, and the last word of Revelation. He made all things, all things were made through Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and no, the darkness has not overcome it. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV.
“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
Revelation 1:12-20 ESV
“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Daniel 7:13-14 ESV
He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
We inhabit a world of hurt. Pain is an ever present possibility. Grief stalks us. We are haunted by the specter and possibility of sorrow. We know it can strike at any moment. This reality is not restricted to third world nations, it is not present only for those living under violent dictatorships and backward regimes.
This IS the human condition. Pain is no respecter of persons. It comes to all of us. Most people know this instinctively. And most, at least to some degree, accept it.
But there are three kinds of people who struggle with the real occurrence of pain in this life. These are the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious. There are people in this world, perhaps you are aware, that believe that if you have enough power, enough money, and/or the right religion, you can mostly avoid pain in this life.
Throughout history, the rulers and citizens of the richest and most powerful nations have been especially susceptible to this particular line of propaganda. With enough money, enough might, and the right kind of religion, we might be able to get out of this thing alive. Rich and powerful nations feel as though it is their birthright to live above the pain and sorrow that falls upon the rest. We just need a big economy, a big army, and a big God on our side. Get enough gold, guns and God, and you can avoid all pain.
This is nothing new. This is exactly what the rulers and citizens of the Roman Empire thought. This is what John the revelator mocks in Revelation 18 – ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ Revelation 18:7 ESV. But of course she sees mourning, it’s all just empty propaganda. The Romans sat on top of the world, the playground bully, they believed pain and suffering were for the rest of the world, to be doled out by themselves upon others as necessary, but never for them to suffer through. The problem is, they were still left with their own real world hurts and real world pain, but their own propaganda added the additional burden of keeping up appearances…
Modern Americans are tempted to believe the same propaganda, and propaganda it is. We have a big economy, big guns, and a big God on our side, Amen! Things should be different HERE. We are, after all, the wealthiest, the most powerful, and one of the most religious nations on earth. But, unfortunately, that is no guarantee (and we do like our guarantees). But there is no guarantee that tomorrow we won’t face a terminal diagnosis, financial ruin, crushing bereavement, bitter betrayal, personal rejection, or some other event that can cause us to take up residence in the house of pain.
Understand this – the idea that if you can become rich enough, powerful enough, and religious enough then you can make it through this life without pain is a pernicious lie. We try to live without pain, do all we can to avoid pain. But to try to be without pain is to attempt to be superhuman, and when we attempt to be superhuman, we wind up being less than human. We wind up as less than human because those that use power, wealth and religion to avoid pain only end up inflicting that pain on other people.
Look at what happened in Syria a couple of years ago. A powerful man who wanted to avoid all pain, inflicting it en masse on others. How about the financial crisis of 2008? Very, very rich people acting very irresponsibly in an attempt to avoid pain. And we don’t even need to start talking about how much pain religion can and has inflicted upon the world.
Or how about the Vegas gunman? An extreme example, but the last article I read about him talked about how, for the past two years, he had been on a bad losing streak in the high stakes gambling rooms and had lost much of his wealth. He was at a point where he was about to feel the pain of the loss of his status with family and in those high stakes gambling rooms. A pain he was not prepared to bear, and so 59 people had to die and hundreds more severely injured and otherwise scarred. I know, it makes no sense, but the portrait we have is of a man who couldn’t bear even that pain of losing his image. That burden of keeping up appearances…
Look at the passion of Jesus Christ. Here you had the whole gathering of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious. Pontius Pilate had the military might of the worlds most powerful army. King Herod was the wealthiest man on earth. Then there was Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, at the top of the great religion of the world. It was these three who were directly involved in the crucifixion of the Christ, it was these three who controlled the money, the guns, and the temple. And their whole lives , not just in relation to Jesus, were spent dealing out pain to others to insure they never had to experience pain themselves.
Attempts to live without pain do not make us superhuman, they make us subhuman. When we try to be inhuman, we wind up inhumane. Because pain is the price of admission…
In a meditation on the nation of Israel and the expected Messiah, Isaiah wrote He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We know this now to be a vision of Jesus. The word made flesh, God incarnate. He came and joined us in our humanity, pain and all. He did not come and take up a partial share in what it means to be human, he took a full share. He was fully immersed in all that it means to be human, pain and all. Because pain is the price of admission.
The price of admission to what?? It is the price of admission to life, to existence, to being. It’s the price of admission to being real, authentic beings.
Have you ever seen a newborn baby? Not a week old newborn, not even an day old, but two minutes old? It’s our welcome into this world, but sometimes the poor baby looks like they’ve been in a fight. Because they have. We cry tears, but they are tears of joy, because it’s a joyous thing, the birth of a baby. We want to cry out “Welcome to the world!!” But the baby just wants to cry out. Because pain is the price of admission.
It is a traumatic experience, being born. Maybe that’s why it’s the picture Jesus paints for fellow rabbi Nicodemus in John chapter 3, that you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God, because sometimes rethinking a lifetime of knowing can be a traumatic experience. But as we say to the newborn baby, welcome to our world!! The introduction is pain. Because if there is no possibility of pain, there are no possibilities at all.
Think about this – if you take away all possibilities of pain, then you take away all possibilities. For God to create beings in his own image involves real risk. It’s the risk inherent with freedom. The freedom to be real, authentic beings, the freedom of real choices in life.
In the beginning, God said “Let there be…”. And he created the stars and the sky and the light. He created the seas and the land. He created the plants and the animals, but something was missing. There was creation, but it was a creation which, maybe, was missing something. So then God says “Let us make…man in our own image,” now He has risked something. Because God made man, creatures, in His own image and yet distinct from Him.
He made man, created beings with true freedom, real choices, and now there is the real possibility of sin and death, pain and suffering. God always knew this was the chance he was taking, but He made us anyway. Not only did He create man in His own image, making possible for pain and suffering to enter the world, but He comes and meets us in that world right at the intersection of pain and suffering…
But there is a hope, after all. As Christians, we do have a great hope for the world, do we not?? “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…”” Revelation 21:4-5 ESV. Christ will come again. This is our hope. It is what we confess by faith. There will be no more pain, no more mourning, no more sorrow, and all things will be made new.
So, how will this happen? How will all things be made new, and now mankind, with all of our freedom and authenticity, be able to live in that freedom and authenticity without pain?? I don’t know. I don’t know how the plans and purposes of God are being and will be played out. But this is what I hope and believe will ultimately happen.
But why risk in the first place? Why do we take risks? Why did God risk making us in His own image? What risk is acceptable? Do we really even want to live in a world without pain and without risk? Do we want to live in a world where we could all just live as couch potatoes, fingers on the remote, doing nothing but eating potato chips and drinking beer, then step on a plane, fly to Nepal and scale Mt Everest without any problems? Seriously, is that even worth it? Again, without the possibility of pain, are there any possibilities at all?
We live in a world where the former things have not yet passed away, of that I am sure. Maybe we are only in the first stage. Maybe this first stage was always necessary, something mankind had to go through to get to where God wants us to be in our journey.
The great Christian mystic Julian of Norwich once said “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God…” Sometimes (maybe every time), we have to fall down before we can look up. But those of us who have fallen, if we can stay the course and not jump off the ship when we feel it sinking, can look back and say “It was good to fall in the first place.”
We have hope for our world beyond hurt. But we are not there yet. It is pain that remains the price of admission into God’s good creation. We do cry tears of joy at the birth of an infant even though we know that baby has just been through a traumatic experience – with many more to come.
“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”
Isaiah 53:3 NLT
“As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’”
Revelation 18:7 ESV