How often is it that we focus on the positive aspects of our situation rather than the negative? It’s safe to venture that those instances are slim to none if not non-existent. It’s so easy to surrender to our humanity and question God as to why our lives aren’t being played out in the way we’ve anticipated even though we’ve been promised a good outcome through the ups and downs of life (Romans 8:28). We’re encouraged to find joy in suffering because it develops and perfects our faith (James 1:2-8). The negativity of our present situation isn’t worth dwelling on because, through it, glory will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
There once was a girl whose favorite snack was raw red potatoes. On one occasion she had an overwhelming craving for this treat and proceeded to the kitchen in search of her favorite delicacy. She grabs a knife, the raw red potatoes, and a container of salt (which she painstakingly searched out for quite some time) with which to sprinkle on the lovely little root vegetable. As she’s sitting there she cuts the potato, gives it a good dusting of salt and pops it into her mouth. She turns to her friend who is very skeptical about eating potatoes in such a manner and says, “You’ll probably like this delectable delight because it’s sweet; red potatoes are a lot sweeter than I remember them being.” Her friend reluctantly takes a bite and finds that it actually is sweet and nothing like he expected. As they are noshing on their snack the friend picks up the container of salt and comes to an amusing realization: He turns to the girl and says, “It’s no wonder these potatoes are sweet, you’re eating them with pure cane sugar!”
At times, we can think we’re doing ourselves a favor by complaining and questioning the painful circumstances in our lives. All we’re doing is sprinkling sugar when what we really need is salt.
The Bible is filled with an abundance of stories about suffering, complaining, questioning God, finally embracing the situation and trusting God, then finally being granted divine deliverance. We find inspiration from these stories because we know the outcome, we know there’s a happy ending. However, the people who actually lived these stories didn’t have the privilege of knowing how the tale would end.
Pain, suffering, trials and the resistance of temptation are all necessary for the realization of our purpose in the will of God.
The problem with these things is that they’re uncomfortable, inconvenient, and not at all included in the script we write for our lives.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he himself questioned God as to whether or not the journey to his ultimate destination was necessary (Matthew 26:39,42). In that moment, he didn’t necessarily want to make the painful pit stops required of himself by God. He prayed to God three different times for a “get out of jail free” card but he eventually accepted his fate because he knew it would be necessary for the redemption of our souls.
It is very human to question God’s purpose for allowing the ugly things in life even the opportunity to make their presence known; it’s very easy to feel abandoned by God during those times. Even Jesus, being completely human and completely God felt abandoned by his heavenly Father in his greatest time of need (Matthew 27:46). When we feel like God has hung us out to dry we must follow the example of his very own Son, his only Son; the Son he sacrificed for our freedom from sin, fear and death. It’s imperative to our well being that we have a white-knuckle grasp on the promise that he will resurrect us from our tombs of suffering. The key is that we crucify our fleshly desires in our trials by disallowing those things to be reinstated when he brings you back to life as a new creation.
Jesus knew he had to die for the ones he loves; that’s all of us, whether we acknowledge him or not. Isn’t that an astonishingly amazing love?
We all have the blood of Jesus on our hands. We all arrested him, persecuted him, mocked him, and crucified him. He loves us so much that he went through with it anyway even though he knew we would take it for granted and in some cases, not even accept his sacrificial love as truth.
When you’re in your own personal Gethsemane, don’t be alarmed when those who claim to love and care for you desert you (Matthew 26:56). Upon Jesus’ arrest, his disciples cowardly ran away, leaving him at the mercy of his accusers. But don’t worry; relationships can be restored in spite of betrayal and abandonment.
Pilate’s assumption that the crowd would sympathize with Jesus over Barabbas backfired. More often than not we would rather accept our inner Barabbas than acknowledge Jesus and chase after his will for our lives, when our purpose should be to crucify our Barabbas selves and cultivate the Jesus within each of us (Matthew 27:15-26). Every time we choose our flesh over our spirit we are offering a vinegar soaked sponge to a thirsty Jesus whose only desire above everything else is to love us unconditionally (Matthew 27:48).
We can be one of three people: We can be a Pharisee and place more importance on tradition and law than the revolutionary teachings of Jesus (Matthew 23) or we can betray Jesus to satisfy our own selfish desires like Judas (Matthew 26:14-16). We can be a Peter and vehemently deny to Jesus’ face that we would ever disown him (Matthew 26:31-35) yet do it anyway or we can be like the woman who expressed her love and admiration for Jesus by accepting who he was and is and is to be by giving him our most valuable assets; our praise, our worship, our trust, and our lives. The last person is the most difficult to be. She showed her appreciation to Jesus in an unconventional way and was criticized for it by her peers, but Jesus applauded her for doing such a wonderful thing for him (Matthew 26:6-13).
The false accusations, torture, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus were all necessary and more than worth it to him to rescue the ones he so greatly loves. We should all follow the example of Jesus and try to imagine the big picture. It’s more beautiful and colorful than we could ever imagine.