This week, Citylight’s very own Walter Shaw illuminates the glorious fact that “God is good, even when He hides” by diving into how He sees, He hears our requests and He is still King.
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
ESV Study Bible
After beginning his ministry in Galilee, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth and proclaims the good news of grace. In a shocking turn of events, his hometown friends run him out of town and reveal the offense of grace.
Luke 1:1-9:50, Baker Exegetical Commentary by Darrell Bock
ESV Study Bible
Jesus knows the pain of grief.
It is true that God has a purpose for all of our pain and all of our grief. In Christ, we can rejoice that one day all of our tears will be wiped away and we will no longer know the pain of grief. However, acknowledging that God has a purpose in all of our grief does not remove the sting that comes along with the loss of something that or someone whom you dearly love. During his earthly life, Jesus grieved and was known as a man of sorrows. He intimately knew the sting of grief and loss. Isaiah 53:3-5, speaking of Jesus, reads:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
When one of Jesus’ dear friends, Lazarus, died of a seemingly preventable illness, Jesus knew that there was a purpose in it. But when he approached Lazarus’ grieving sisters and finally his grave, Jesus was brought to tears. In his head, Jesus knew that, in just a few moments, the pain that he and his friends were experiencing was going to be reversed. Yet, in his spirit, he was deeply moved and greatly troubled. He wept moments before raising his friend from the dead. God was glorified both in Jesus’ tears and in Jesus’ action of raising Lazarus from the dead.
A second experience in the life of Jesus came in the Garden of Gethsemane as he grieved his own upcoming death. Again, Jesus knew that there was a purpose for the pain and loss that he was about to experience. He even knew that his pain would be undone and that he would be raised from the dead in power and glory. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was determined that God would become a man and undergo great pain and suffering in order to rescue His people from their sins. Yet, in that dreadful garden, Jesus bitterly wept and cried out in agony to his Father. Although Jesus was certain that there was a purpose in the suffering that he was about to undergo, he still felt the sting of grief.
The passage from Isaiah also highlights the interpersonal effects of grief. The emotional toll of losing something that or someone who is dear to us is more than enough, but grief can also change the way that people look at us. Others may look at you differently after you experience material loss or lose a loved one. Jesus knew that feeling very well. During his earthly life, culminating in the ultimate humiliating loss that was his death on the cross, he lived as one from whom men hide their faces. He knows the feeling of isolation that grief brings.
What then can you do with the sting of grief? When all you want to do is hide from the world, hide yourself in him. Jesus experienced grief so that he could sympathize with the pain that his people feel as sufferers living in a broken world. When everything on earth fails to comfort your grieving heart, look to heaven. The One who sits on the throne is the one who has come down to suffer, just like you and me. He is not coldhearted and far away; he is near to the brokenhearted and grieving.
Yours in Christ,
Contentment is not out of reach because Christ is not out of reach.
If you are anything like me, contentment is a state of being that always seems to be a few inches out of your grasp. Contentment for me feels like it lies right on the other side of my next career advancement or life stage. Even during seasons that are relatively normal, something inside of me looks at what God has given to me and, without fail, says “this is not enough, I want more.” It always feels like contentment is out of reach where I am right now, but if I just work a little harder, exert myself a little more, and accomplish one more goal, then I will finally reach that elusive state of being.
If this is true in normal times, how much stronger is our discontentment in a season like this? In this season, where decisions made by others have an even more pronounced impact on our lives and we are hearing the words “sorry, no” more than ever before, the temptation toward discontentment may be as strong as you have ever felt it.
In his devotional book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Puritan author Jeremiah Burroughs defines Christian contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Imagine how it would feel to look at what God has given to you and, instead of thinking “this is not enough, I want more,” to think “this is exactly what God intends for me to have in this moment and I’m thankful for it.” That kind of contentment is reminiscent of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11 when he writes: For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians is a letter of joy written to a downhearted people. Paul wrote this letter of joy from a jail cell, absolutely content with what God had given to him.
Paul was able to be content even in the most challenging of situations, and yet even this apostle needed to learn how to be content. If Paul needed to learn how to be content, it only makes sense that we ourselves also need to learn to be content. My encouragement for you is to remember that learning to be content is not out of your reach because Christ is not out of your reach.
Contentment is accessible right where you are, even at home, because Jesus is present with you right where you are. Jesus is not waiting for you to get a promotion before he loves you. He is not waiting for you to enter the next stage of life before he begins seeking your good. He isn’t even waiting for you to clean yourself up of all your selfish ambition and desire. He loves you right where you are, in the midst of your discontentment and imperfection. Draw near to Jesus, share the desires of your heart with him, and he will draw near to you. Jesus is the one who can make us truly content, even more than the right career or life stage.
My prayer for you and for me is that we would see God’s provision in our lives for what it really is – wise, fatherly, and ultimately for our good and His glory.
Jesus was weary too.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)
I tend to forget that Jesus is truly able to sympathize with my weakness. I find it hard to imagine that Jesus would have gotten weary after a long day’s travel to preach the good news of the kingdom to other weary souls. It is almost as if I functionally believe Jesus floated along day by day, never experiencing any kind of pain, tiredness, or weakness. Yet, it really is true that Jesus, the eternal Son of God who took on flesh, got weary too. The Creator God of the universe became a man who got weary so that we could draw near to him with confidence, so we could receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.
In John chapter 4, Jesus is traveling from one town another and experiences weariness.
So Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. (John 4:6b)
Jesus was weary, so he sits beside a well and asks a woman to draw water for him. The conversation that Jesus and the woman at the well shared changed that woman’s life forever. Jesus personally revealed to her that he was the messiah that would not need to be worshiped on a mountain but instead will be worshiped in spirit and in truth. A woman was saved and God’s purpose in the universe advanced during that conversation, all because Jesus was weary and wanted to drink some water. The weariness of Jesus is what allowed this woman to draw near to him, and she received mercy and found grace to help in her time of need. God used the weariness of Jesus to comfort this woman at the well. Even today, God uses the comfort we receive in the midst of our weariness to extend His comfort out to others.
Jesus experienced the pains and weaknesses of this world, even suffering a painful death on the cross, all for the glory of God and so that we could draw near to him in the midst of our sins, pains, and weaknesses.
Are you in a time of need? You can confidently bring your weariness to Jesus, he knows how that feels. Jesus is not a far-off high priest. He is a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Tell him how weary you are, how you long to be refreshed. When you bring your weariness to Jesus in your time of need, he is faithful to give you mercy and grace.