It is ironic how, at the beginning of winter, snow makes me feel good. I remember all the fun things from my childhood: sledding, snow forts, catching the first flakes on my tongue. The stark, bare trees and the forlorn drifts of lifeless autumnal leaves are covered over by a pristine layer of pure white. Everything seems fresh and clean. However, by the end of winter, especially this year when here in the mid-Atlantic we have had the third snowiest winter since they began keeping records, am I thinking fun? Not so much!
By now I have begun to dread the reality of black ice, power cuts, huge snow piles at the end of the driveway, potholes and boots. When the first flakes begin to fall I hear myself groan, “Not again!” Never mind that all around the world are people with REAL problems. I, seeing myself as the center of the universe, am being inconvenienced. How dreadful!
Yet even in my self-absorbed world, God is at work. Today I glimpsed daffodil shoots several inches tall pushing up through last week’s snow. Thank You, my Creator, for Your lovely ways to remind us of Your faithfulness in keeping the earth turning, the sun coming up each morning, the faithfulness of the seasons in their cycles. You are the One certainty in which I can trust. When I look at the world around me, or look at myself, all I feel is discouragement. Yet, when I look at Your eternal Plan which has, by great sacrifice, reconciled me to You, my heart warms and I have hope again. Even my greatest problems can be kept in perspective; never mind my casual irritations!
Last Sunday one of the hymns reminded me of what is truly important:
‘Gazing on the Lord in glory while our hearts in worship bow;
There we read the wondrous story of the cross, its shame and woe.
Every mark of dark dishonor heaped upon the thorn-crowned brow
All the depths of Thy heart’s sorrow told in answering glory now.
On that cross, forlorn, forsaken, where no pitying eye was found
Now, to God’s right hand exalted, with Thy praise the heaven’s resound.
Did Thy God e’en then forsake Thee; hide His face from Thy deep need?
In Thy face, once marred and smitten, all His glory now we read.
Gazing on it we adore Thee; blessed, precious, holy Lord!
Thou, the Lamb, alone art worthy ~ this be earth’s and heaven’s accord.
Rise our souls, and bless the Father, ceaseless song e’en here began.
Endless praise and adoration to the Father and the Son!”
(J.C. Bitthauer; Miss C. Thompson – 1842)
The God of glory, the eternal I AM, the One Who is outside time loved me so much that He stripped Himself of His glory and came to earth as a servant-God, and endured the cross, despising the shame, and all for love. By His sacrifice, He has reconciled me to Himself, and insured that I will live eternity in His Presence. Christ is all!
If He came today, I am afraid the result would be the same as it was 2,000 years ago. All around us people despise Him and mock Him. They use His name as a curse word. People cannot stand genuine goodness; it only reminds them of the dark places in their own hearts and they try to bring goodness down to a place where they can destroy it. The hopeful thing is: God knows the heart of man to its depths, and even so, He has chosen to call a people to Himself and change their hearts so that fellowship with Him is possible. We should be so grateful; we should be so diligent in spreading this Good News! “To as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name; who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 NKJV)
The Apostle John starts his narrative of the Gospel like this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
(John 1: 1-5 NKJV)
It tells us of the glory that Christ laid down in order to become a man. He had all power, and yet chose to become a servant. He laid aside His glory and took on Himself the restrictions of being human. He knew ahead of time that He would be subjected to every humiliation that man could invent. He was despised and rejected. He moved among us without the comforts of family or place. From the beginning there were those who tried to kill Him (from Herod to the Pharisees). Even His chosen disciples didn’t completely understand Him so He had little real comfort from those around Him. Even the amazing things He did like healing the sick and raising the dead only invoked hatred from those who were infuriated by His claims to be one with God.
When we become overly obsessed with our problems, when we feel we are being misunderstood and unappreciated, when we allow ourselves to be stressed out in our busyness, even in the things of the Lord, we need to stop, take a deep breath and think about the Lord. In our self-oriented world we tend to relate everything to how it affects us: how He brings me peace, how He gives me comfort, how He brings grace to my life. However, it really isn’t about me; it is all about Him. If I love Him, it seems to me I need to change focus. In a true love affair, we are more likely to be more focused on the qualities of our beloved than on what we get out of it! I need to appreciate Him for all that He is, the incredible depth of His love and the spotless purity of His character.
He is truly Amazing Grace in all that He is now and in everything He did then. While He was here He did all that was expected of Him, but never sinned. He was always obedient to the will of the Father. He was patient and kind and never turned away anyone who came to Him for help or wisdom, even when He recognized that they might have an agenda. He was prepared to die for us simply because He loved us (and it is sometimes hard to understand why). He gave up the glory of heaven to become obedient, even to the death of the cross. He modeled the Father to us; declaring the glory of God through His life.
Sometimes today I think we have become so accustomed to assuming that we are entitled that we forget the fact that we are all sinners deserving of spiritual death. We are not entitled to heaven. We are not entitled to be loved by God. We are not, in ourselves, entitled to any of the grace we receive each and every day from the hand of God. Instead, we should have, in justice, been banished from the presence of God eternally. But God…! God Himself chose to become a man; to come to earth and bear our sins in His own body on the cross. God Himself loved us so much that He chose the way of suffering and aloneness and pain so that we might be spared.
When I become discouraged by the inconveniences of life … or even big things like loss or illness or even death ~ I need to re-focus on what really matters. God is, and He loves me. The eternal Lord of Glory, the Creator of life, the One Who explains Himself by calling Himself “ I AM”: that God calls me His child and tells me to call Him Abba.
Be grateful, my soul. Be thankful and humble. Be careful to keep my wants and needs in perspective in the eternal scheme of things. When I find myself stewing about how life is unfair and I need and I want and he/she doesn’t understand me, and I want to take my marbles and go home: remember.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3: 1,2 NKJV)