Friday, March 25, 2016

Knowing Christ in Suffering and Resurrection

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”
(Philippians 3:10,11).

Throughout my life  I have struggled with this verse.  I want very much to share in Christ’s resurrection.  Sharing in His sufferings, however, is less appealing.

Until my chronic health conditions began, I truthfully wanted no part of Christ’s sufferings – at least no major suffering.  I thought I could endure the small inconveniences of life and even the more difficult situations related to child-rearing and financial crises.  But when suffering involved physical pain, I preferred to bypass that altogether.

Now that I live with frequent pain or sickness, this passage has taken on an entirely new meaning.  Although my pain cannot compare to what Christ endured on the cross, it enables me to identify in a small way with what He experienced.   In my times of greatest pain, Christ has been the nearest.  I have felt His peace and presence during my most agonizing moments, assuring me I would survive and did not need to panic.  Other times I have felt tremendous power flowing from the prayers of those around me, carrying me through times of trial.

The wonderful aspect of this verse is that resurrection does come.  After the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary, Christ rose in glory and is resplendent in heaven even now.  Our pains and sufferings will one day explode into pain-free resurrection.  We will be perfect and healthy. 

Until then, my trials are a constant reminder of the One who loves me most.  I want to be thankful that I have someone who has gone before me on this journey of suffering.  He understands my pain as no one else can.  He is with me through it now and will one day raise me to my resurrection wholeness.  Hallelujah!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let me feel the joy of Your glorious resurrection in this earthly life.  Draw me ever deeper into knowing You, in sickness and in health.  Amen.




Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rejoice and Be Glad in THIS Day

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”
(Psalm 118:24).

There is a simple praise song based on this verse which I sang with my children when they were little.   Now that I deal with ongoing pain, at times I have difficulty singing those words truthfully from my heart. 
I once learned something very interesting about this verse from Beth Moore’s Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent.  Psalms 113-118 are part of the Hallel, which were Psalms sung by the Jewish people during Passover and other festivals, even before the time of Christ.  Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover just before His death.  He would have sung these words at some point during the seven day celebration, possibly even on the night of the last supper (Mark: 14:26).

Jesus knew that within a few days or maybe hours of singing these words, He would go through the agony of Gethsemane, betrayal, trial, excruciating pain, and crucifixion.  Yet He still sang with His disciples.  Although He was sinless we know from Scripture that He experienced human emotions.  How hard it must have been for Him to join in song knowing what lay ahead. 

Although my pain and trials cannot begin to compare to what Christ suffered, He understands how hard it is for me to rejoice in a day that may very well be filled with great difficulties.  He is able to sympathize with me in my every weakness (Hebrews 4:15).  Keeping these thoughts in mind, I hope I can believe and speak these words of rejoicing regardless of how I am feeling. 

Even though that first Good Friday brought great agony for Christ, it truly was a day to rejoice.  Death and sin were defeated forever.  Whatever suffering I may be experiencing will also eventually bring a reason to rejoice.  Therefore, I will rejoice and be glad – Resurrection Day is coming.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I thank you for the example You give of praying and praising in times of difficulty or suffering.  Give me the perseverance and desire to rejoice and be glad every day, even as I wait for my own resurrection into new life.  Amen.