Free to be Grateful!

I’ve often heard – and I believe that scripture REPEATEDLY backs it up – that one of the many things Jesus did during his earthly ministry was give us a glimpse of who God is.  In Jesus’ compassion for the lost, we saw the heart of God.  In the frustration Jesus’ displayed with the money changers in the temple, we saw God’s justice.  You get the idea!

At the heart of trust – as I am continuing to learn!  – is the acceptance of that revelation of Jesus that lets me see at least a glimpse of the character of God.  As Brennan Manning states “Uncontaminated trust in the revelation of Jesus allows us to breath more freely, to dance more joyfully, and to sing more gratefully about the gift of salvation.”

“Uncontaminated trust” – that’s an interesting description, don’t you think?!  One might say that trust is, as it’s very core, free of contamination.  But let’s be honest.  Circumstances can serve to contaminate our trust can’t they?  A job lay-off, a serious illness, a broken heart – all of these can make us turn to God with an attitude of “Are you paying attention?!  Seriously?!”  I would say that when life throws those curveballs at us, our trust will, for at least a moment get “contaminated”.

Have you been there?  Or are you, like me, living right now in a set of circumstances that is trying VERY HARD to contaminate your trust?  Then let’s try something together, okay?  Close your eyes for a moment.  Take a few slow breaths.  Just concentrate on the rise and fall of your breathing.  Calmed down yet?  Good.  Now I want you to think about all of the things that Scripture says about Jesus – what he said and did – and what those things tell us about the character of our Abba.

Jesus was called a drunkard and glutton by the religious leaders because he hung out with the “undesirables.”  Guess that means that nobody is “beneath” God.  When a group of angry, pious Jews brought a woman to Jesus because she had committed a crime that was punishable by stoning, he told those who had never done wrong to throw the first stone.  When everyone else walked away, Jesus told her to “go and sin no more.”  Guess that says volumes about Abba’s willingness to offer forgiveness and a second (third, fourth . . . )chance.    Jesus scolded his disciples when they tried to keep some kids away from Jesus.  No such thing as “the wrong age” for God.  Jesus had both men and women involved in his ministry and ministered to both Jews and Gentiles so gender and race don’t matter.

But what about people and their suffering?  Jesus wept at the death of a friend.  He felt even the smallest touch on his garment when it was motivated by suffering laced with a touch of hope.  He noticed people.  All kinds of people. And when he knew the end was near, he stood on a hill overlooking Jerusalem and wept for those who were too blind and deaf to understand what he was about to do and why.

I can’t tell you why bad things happen.  I cannot even begin to guess what the purpose of suffering is.  But I can tell you this – when you weep in frustration, Abba is there to throw his arms around and simply let you weep for a moment.  When you ask why, he doesn’t get angry.  He may not give you the answer but he will give you the energy and the courage to take one more step.

Then it happens.  In the midst of the difficulty, with no clear answers yet in sight, it will happen.  You will find a moment of calm.  And then a moment of peace.  Not peace with difficult circumstances but peace with the one who will give you the endurance needed to take one more step.  Friend, do not let anyone tell you that you must be happy in the midst of painful circumstances.  And don’t let them fool you that you will someday know why you had to suffer a particular pain.  God doesn’t owe us an explanation and there are times he won’t “tell us” why certain things happened.  But I am his, he loves me, and his kingdom will be expanded through my “dark times” and that alone is reason to trust.  From there, it’s a simply matter of drawing close to him so he can undo the damage that my circumstances have done to the trust I have in him.  Once my trust has been officially “uncontaminated” again, then I can once again “sing more gratefully about the gift of salvation.”

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