Bring the rain -- and pain

"Oh, that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that He would let loose His hand and cut me off! This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One."
(Job 6:8-10, ESV)

You know, one of the aspects of my Christian life that I'm pretty good at is faith.

Sure, it sounds simplistic. After all, you can't really follow Christ unless you have faith in who He is.

That's not specifically the kind of faith I'm talking about. The point I'm making is that I'm always consciously aware that God, in His benevolence, mercy and grace, is taking care of me. It's the Bobby McFerrin approach to Christianity: Don't worry, be happy.

There's a simple reason behind it, too: I'm a simple guy. I'm not a deep thinker, much as I'd like to be. I recently listened to a lecture entitled "Hermeneutical and Exegetical Integrity." Don't ask me what it was about. Heck, I'm not even sure I spelled that right.

The point I'm making is that I govern my life by common sense. I am Pavlov's dog; that is, I'm conditioned to understand that God has always -- always -- taken care of me. The Guy is batting 1.000 here. He never misses.

Now, I don't want to fall back on the ol' Romans 8:28 standby if for no other reason that it could very well be the most mis-interpreted passage of scripture that most people -- non-Christians too, ironically enough; they clearly aren't reading it properly -- like to recite each time they stub their toe. This is a whole post of its own, and I don't want to get off on a tangent here, but it's important to realize that there are a number of components that come into play when referring to "all things work together for good," namely, that not everything in every circumstance is all hunky dory. Sometimes things go terribly, terribly wrong, and if you're hoping for Romans to bail you out, you might be in for a rude awakening.

The point is, I've always had a strong sense of personal faith in the collective -- ALL things work TOGETHER for good -- plan of omniscient God, and can look past individual painful circumstances to realize there's a Big Picture.

Problem is, lately I've realized that's not enough, mainly because of this song. (You can listen to a portion of it here.) I can't rest on those laurels. It's all too easy to say I have full faith that God will work things out. Indeed, I take a certain amount of Pharisaical pride in being a Big Picture guy.

So the question I have is this: how can one go from a mindset of knowing, understanding and accepting that trouble is a fact of life and that it all works out in the end, to actively pursuing trial and tribulation for the express purpose of God's glory.

Now, don't misunderstand here. God doesn't want us to hurt. He doesn't seek our pain, nor does He, with a flick of His divine finger, play a cosmic game of Eenie-Meanie-Miney-Moe, seeking to pick out those He would hurt just for some sense of morbid fascination. He doesn't play games with our lives. That's not the God I know, although that god is often taught in some theological circles. Mark Driscoll calls it "Cruel Calvinism," or a belief system in which God is sovereign, but not good. It's important to understand that He is both. God doesn't cause bad things to happen, but we live in a world governed by free will. Where there is free will, there is sin. And where there is sin, there is pain. But the beautiful part of pain is this: "... though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the test genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6b, 7 ... make sure you read it in full context here.)

So, do we need to actively pursue and seek trial and tribulation? That's not rhetorical; I don't really know. What I do know is that Peter understood that the ebbs and flows of life are there for a reason, that the pain we feel now, from time to time, is an essential part of the process of sanctification that began with our new birth and won't be completed until our death.

That means, for me, I have to move beyond resting on a faith that relies on common sense. The faith that takes its place should be one that maybe doesn't relish or seek out pain but embraces it as an opportunity to see God's divine plan at work both in good times and bad.

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