He said, “Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it” (Jeremiah 5:22).
Hope in times of suffering, pain and loss
While a young mother was changing her two-year-old daughter’s clothes, she heard Bella’s tiny voice. Pointing to herself, Bella asked, “I cansoo?” Leslie, Bella’s mother, was used to interpreting her daughter’s attempts at communication, but this word was new. “Say it again,” Leslie said. She needed to hear it again in order to make a good translation. “I cansoo?” Bella tried the question once more, but still the word was not clear. Then Bella pointed to the scar on her tiny body that was left when her chemotherapy port had been removed, and said “Port. Out. I cansoo?”
Leslie was overcome with the stark reality of the whole situation, but she was able to maintain her composure for the moment. Leslie said to her little girl, “Bella, are you saying cancer?” Bella’s eyes widened and she responded, “Yeah! I cansoo?” With a lump in her throat, Leslie said, “Yes baby, you have cancer.”
Bella is still enduring the effects of this terrible disease, but every human to one degree or another experiences suffering, sickness, emotional distress, and general discomfort. In fact, the grim reality of mortal life is that it eventually ends in death. However, people have ways of coping with this reality, and life seems to go on – at least for some. What are we to do with our sense of helpless weakness? Should we deny the inevitable by thinking that sickness and death are oddities? Should we eat, drink and be merry… for tomorrow we die? Is there any place that we may turn for truth, stability and strength?
Yes, as a matter of fact, there is stability and strength to be found in truth. Yet, the basis for hope may not be what one might expect. The reason that humans may have hope, especially in times of great distress, is that there is one who has died before us. But, how can death provide hope for those plagued by death? It is not only the death of another that provides hope, but it is the subsequent display of divine authority and power.
Jesus Christ, the eternal God, was no ordinary man (John 1:14). His life was lived in perfect obedience to God’s law (Hebrews 4:15), yet He died as one condemned – cursed by God (Romans 3:25). While Jesus was perfectly good and righteous, He endured the full wrath of God as a sinner of the worst kind (Isaiah 53:4-6). At His moment of death, Jesus spoke out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). This was to claim that the punishment for sin was thorough, and God’s wrath against all sinners who trust in Christ was exhausted.
Following this atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ conquered death – not for just a little while, but never to die again! This is where hope may be found in times of painful distress. This mortal life, under the curse of sin and power of death, is not all there is! Read the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (v3-4).
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (v20-22).
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (v54-58).
In the life, death and resurrection of Christ we who trust in Him are assured and comforted. In Christ we are able to see our sin for the ugly offense that it is and God’s gracious grace on beautiful display. In Christ we are able to see death, the final and ultimate foe of all mankind, subdued and overcome by the power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.
Therefore, the hope… the stability… the strength… the inclination to endure is not that we will be spared from pain, sickness, disease and death… No, but even in these things we are victorious because of Christ (Romans 8:37-39)! Oh, Christian, look not only to your temporal merriment, but fix your eyes upon the hope of glory! Behold the King of splendor! Lift up your gaze to the eternal, true and living God, who is the Savior of your soul – the steadfast promise keeper.
This life may be marred by difficulty, pain and sin, but our glorious future is more wonderful, more beautiful, more stimulating than anything we have ever known.
Contentment in Christ
Contentment is Serenity, Gladness, Satisfaction, Pleasure, Happiness; It is defined as the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.
The essence or heart of all the commands of God is summed up by Jesus in the single greatest command to love God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). In other words, look to God alone for the true satisfaction, gladness, serenity and contentment of your heart, your soul and your mind.
All sinful expression may be boiled down to some pursuit of contentment – either of the heart, the soul or the mind – in some thing or place other than the God of the universe. Look to the times when you and I sin… this is where we may find our desire to find our contentment in people, stuff, reputation or life experience – rather than in God.
The painful reality is that you and I are adulterous, thieving, lying and covetous people.
For now (and always), let us both rejoice in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is not adulterous, thieving, lying or covetous. He is faithful, diligent, honest, and perfectly contented.
This is great news, not simply because of His example, but because He is our representative – the substitute for all those who trust in Him! God the Father looked to Christ the Son and judged Him, the righteous and obedient servant, evil so that those of us who actually are evil would be given Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
What a beautiful scandal of grace! Oh, that my heart and yours would behold this wonderful Gospel more clearly today…
My hope and yours is not that we might become faithful enough, diligent enough, or honest enough that we are acceptable before God. Certainly we strive for a life of holiness, but… Our hope is that God has declared us perfectly faithful, diligent and honest – not because we practically are such, but because Christ has covered our rebellion and given us His righteous obedience!
Today, let us be content to behold (drink in with your mind’s eye) the King of Glory as we remember that He is our Redeemer (the one who bought us back from bondage at great personal cost) and not our Judge (the one who rightly condemns us for being the sinful rebels we are)!