It’s a perverse principle in life that pressing into pain produces fruitfulness that won’t come from hugging comfort and lagging life. Our annual Christians Against Poverty (CAP) service yesterday inspired us with stories of people who got beyond denial of difficulty to call for help. Alas, easily pride prevents us asking for the available help we need to dig ourselves out of difficulty or debt. Indeed, since CAP started in 1996, 20,000+ debtors have been helped out of dire debt, many of which have also found transforming faith, hope & love in Christ.
Basic to Jesus & St Paul’s teaching is the belief that, it’s when we know how desperately we need wisdom, guidance, support, and spiritual strength that it is right there for us. One of the simplest, primal, and vital cries in our prayer book is “HELP!’ – Matthew 5:3-5 / MSG:
Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…”
Romans 5:3-5 / MSG: “There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling short-changed. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
Be sure I’m not advocating some good old Scottish masochism that suggests it’s not till you’re truly miserable that you can be fulfilled as a faithful follower of Jesus. Rev I M Jolly & Private Frazer caricatured this terrible trait, “What sort of a day have you had?… I’ve had a hell of a day!” / “We’re doomed Ah tell ye, we’re doomed!”What I mean is, that we’re not to dodge danger and difficulty to protect the false dream and illusion that life should always be cushty and comfortable. The majority of Bible situations Jesus met and helped people in were people in pain: Mary Magdalene demented & disturbed, Bartimaeus blind, the bleeding women at her wits end, Matthew estranged & isolated from society, etc.
St Paul spoke of a personal ailment that he asked God to remove but concluded that God didn’t heal & deliver him from disability to teach him humility and greater dependency upon God, “…When I’m weak then I’m strong in God’s strength…” The 2 friends in my knees ‘Arthur’ & ‘Titus’ and numerous bugle-calls to pee in the night are such ‘thorns in my flesh’, which remind me to pray, trust, and seek God’s help. Then there are times to go without so that others in greater need can ‘go with’, our sacrificial giving blesses others. It’s the Way of Jesus’ Cross: service & sacrifice. Again, pressing into such pain produces fruit for others and grows muscle in our character.
As weather gets wilder, mornings grow darker, and nights fair draw in, it becomes harder to get up for a swim and out for a cycle, but once I’m into such stretches I get energised and feel the benefits. ’No Rainbow without Rain’ / ‘No gain without pain’ may sound trite, but it’s strangely right.