The Green Frog Blog!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A SUFFERING GOD (Warning: graphic examples)


I have spent twenty years in personal, relational ministry with only seven of these as a paid staff person.   The other thirteen years I worked a normal job and committed my free time to the pursuit of young people in the name of Christ.  I can tell you this: ministry is breathtaking but heartbreaking.  During these years of incredible friendships and discipleship, I have also grieved greatly over the suffering of my friends.  I have become familiar with the pain of rejection and the almost unbearable burden of loving someone who self-destructs.  Although my heart has been hurt and my faith has been challenged, I have also had my mind renewed and my hope emboldened.  There were people I love, and still love, who choose not to follow Jesus, and there are many still who wrestle with accepting him as both Savior and Lord.  Part of their struggle could be connected to my poor leadership but I also know we both struggle because we share a common Enemy.  I have had a front row seat to the consequences of rampant sexual misconduct, the scars and wounds of physical abuse, the damage and destruction of drugs, and even the sting of death by suicide.  I have watched my friends suffer.  I have watched them bleed.  I have watched them cry.  I have tried, honestly I have tried, to love these people the best I know how and yet the suffering seems endless.  And yet it is in this painful process of loving others I have come to know the heart of my Father.   I know his heart is broken.  I know why his Son wept and I know why his Son had to die… because when you love someone your greatest concern is their suffering and your greatest act of kindness is to become personally acquainted with their suffering to enable your heart for their care and rescue.

     Almost everyone has heard the expression, “walk a mile in my shoes.” It means that to understand people it would be helpful to live as they live, experience life on their terms.  To truly love someone you need to know their story, you need to become familiar with all that has happened to them, you need to know all the pieces of the puzzle to get the big picture.  And it is fascinating that God looked down on man and decided to do exactly this, to enter into the human experience.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”

    When we read the New Testament account of the life of Jesus a few things become very apparent.  One, as much as He missed his Father,  Jesus appeared to fully enjoy his experience with man in spite of the fact his visit was heartbreaking. You follow Him through the gospels and you find a Savior whose heart is aware of the crisis of his creation, a Savior who engages the marginalized people of society, a Savior who is actively loving, helping, and serving broken mankind.  He is not untouched.  He has children on his lap, women clinging to his leg, and men leaning on his shoulder.  For four thousand years he has endured the separation  of his children created by  sin and now among us again He embraces the moment.  With us He speaks the mysteries of God and talks about how man must be born again. With us He eats and drinks and talks about never thirsting or hungering again.   With us He leads us to repentance referring to us as lost sheep and precious coins.  With us He defends us and loves us by not defending himself as He is hung on a cross.  And when it comes time to say good-bye, Our Savior once again reaches out to touch us but this time He washes our feet.  (crying)  The Creator washed the creation’s feet.

    Two, He intentionally limited his power to familiarize himself with our human sufferings.   He did this to prepare himself to become not only a sacrifice for our sin but also the perfect high priest, our advocate before God. This is the equivalent of me playing Frisbee golf left-handed with my friends.  I am very good at throwing a Frisbee but I restrain my power to level the playing field, to make our fellowship more interesting and prevent resentment toward my ability, and, to demonstrate my heart toward them.  More than demonstrating his power, Jesus was intent on demonstrating his love. By practicing restraint He developed an intimate rapport with the disciples.  I once heard that the fullness of God is a beautiful equally fearful thing to behold.  The disguise of his humanness allowed him to slowly reveal himself at a rate that his followers could receive it.  Also by subjecting himself to our trials and tribulations, he acquired a unique perspective of our suffering and we acquired a unique perspective of how He responds to it.  Jesus has a unique connection to mankind because he endured the fallen human experience and He has a unique connection to God because he is His only Son.  Who then is better to reconcile us to God within the act of the Cross?   As He slowly revealed the heart of God over the course of his life He was preparing our hearts for the unimaginable and unfathomable beauty and horror of Calvary were no man can stand and every knee shall bow as we look at the full glory of Love.

     During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

     Jesus entered into our suffering to reveal God’s love toward us and He also came to show us how powerful the relationship can be when we love God back.  And if we are to love God wouldn’t it be helpful to walk a mile in His shoes like He did in ours.  Through ministry we enter the heart of God.  Let’s take a moment and imagine we have a son, and it is Christmas.  We have been busy all morning preparing a huge meal and putting special gifts under the tree.  We cannot wait for him to come visit.  It has been many years.  We miss him dearly.  We love him and think about him all the time.  Instead he has chosen not to come home.  Rather than returning to our outstretched arms he has chosen to rape, torture, and kill a young boy and then dismember the body. Our son is Jeffery Dahmer.  Jeffery Dahmer tortured, raped, and dismembered seventeen male victims during his lifetime.  His victim’s bodies, and body parts, were found hidden in barrels, freezers, shallow graves, and closets.  I seriously doubt when his parents held their infant son in their arms they ever imagined the horror that he would grow up to be a serial killer.  Nor can I imagine the pain of discovering the details of how their son had thrown his life away and the horrific pain he had created for so many families in the process.  Jeffery’s father actually reached out to him after he was incarcerated for his crimes and mailed him literature about the Gospel, signifying his broken heart and hope for his son.   Neither his mother or father ever recanted their love for their son, a son the world hated. He was bludgeoned to death after a few years in prison by inmates with broomsticks.  Several families of his victims made it publicly known that they approved of his murder.    Imagine how it would feel to watch a son you love become something that is so evil that people rejoice at news of his death.  God knows how Jeffery’s parents felt.  He watches his children throw their lives away every day.  And these are children He loves deeply.  He watches them cheat each other, envy their neighbors, kill each other, prostitute their young, rape their women, spit on their Redeemer, rip the flesh off the back of their Savior, and mock their King.  He comes to us in our prison of sin and we reach through the bars and we choke Him. (crying)   Now you know how God feels.  God’s heart is broken. 

     When we devote ourselves to the fellowship of ministry we get acquainted with the grief and suffering of God.  As we stand in the gap with our patient, powerful Father and experience the sweat and blood of actively participating in the redemption of his creation we cannot help but love Him even more.  I have a deep respect for God and I must tell you, I cannot imagine how much I myself have made God suffer.   I am prone to wander.  I am a rebellious Son.   Grace, grace, amazing grace.  I must commit to true repentance that I might bring my Father joy in the midst of this unbearable sea of sin and sadness. 


Anonymous AJ DePriest said...

A really beautiful excerpt. Thank you for posting this.

June 15, 2012 at 1:40 PM  

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