Justin’s sermon on Sunday was about finishing; work that is already finished, a people that is finishing, and our God who is the finisher. In Daniel’s vision, the journey for God’s people is long and painful, and begs the question; will God’s people finish? Will his purposes prevail? How long must we endure before we feel the relief of redemption?
We’re all asking this question as Christians to some extent, framed differently from one life to the next—how long? Justin mentioned that we don’t want to persevere in pain… we want relief from our pain! I’ve noticed this to be true in my own life. As we’ve gone through Daniel and taken a deeper look at our liturgies and spiritual practices, I’ve been convicted about the content of my prayers. Although it can be a fulfilling and fruitful spiritual practice to turn to the Lord in prayer, what I’m praying matters, and often times what I’m praying for is just relief! Provide for this, bless that, keep me from this, protect them from that, heal this, basically fix it. All of my prayers come down to a very simple plea, but my expectations in how I approach God with them makes all the difference. When I am asking God to fix it right here, right now, two good things are happening. First, I’m noticing an absence that is the result of living in a fallen world, and then I’m turning to God with it. Unfortunately, my prayers reflect my foolishness in that I am asking for God to provide relief in ways he never promises to provide this side of heaven. Larry Crabb puts it this way,
“We learn to pretend that we feel now what we cannot feel until heaven…yet there is no escape from an aching soul, only denial of it. The promise of one day being with Jesus in a perfect world is the Christian’s only hope for complete relief. Until then, we either groan or pretend we don’t.”
This became very apparent when our friends lost their baby girl, Isabella. Fix it, Lord. This isn’t right. This is not the way it is supposed to be. My heart just aches, all of the time. I didn’t even know what to pray at this point, what circumstances could change to make any of this more bearable? This is groaning. How long, Lord?
Our world is broken, and that manifests in many different stories of heartache and loss. The reality is that although God does grant us the gift of enjoying many good, earthly blessings during our life time, these good gifts are only shadows of the eternal goodness we long for in our Father. They were never meant to provide ultimate relief. God does not promise that our lives on earth will be free from pain, but as Justin reminded us on Sunday, He does promise to finish what He started. So as Christians, we are to cry, and mourn, and sit in and acknowledge pain. And as God calls us to walk through pain and suffering, he promises to be enough, to be a faithful presence, to be our comfort, and our one true hope (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). As our souls ache, he comforts us, and we comfort each other until the day that all things are made new (Revelation 21:4). I pray that as we continue to bring our pleas before the Lord, asking him to fix it, to make things right, that ultimately this promise alone would be the source of our hope.
~ Emily Leslie