Monday, February 22, 2010

The Answer to Pain and Disappointment

Life drips pain and disappointment (2 Cor. 5:2). Understandably, we attempt to take refuge in God’s affirming embrace to experience His love. However, when we also pursue the “quick fix,” we become vulnerable to unbiblical techniques and mystical teachings like, “It’s far better to know God than to know more about God!” This saying suggests that we can find intimacy and comfort with God apart from what is Biblically prescribed – meditating on His Word day and night (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Deut. 6:6-8).

Pain tends to narrow our focus, and we forget about the great blessedness promised through the knowledge of our Lord:

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD (Jeremiah 9:23-24; also 2 Peter 1:2-4; Romans 12:2).

How the knowledge of God translates into blessings can be demonstrated in a thousand ways. For instance, Martin Luther had regarded himself as an alien from the mercies of God. Consequently, he sacrificed all to become an Augustinian monk and priest. However, even afterwards, it was painfully obvious to him that he still had the same sinful struggles. He therefore regarded himself rejected by God until he became enlightened to the fact that these painful struggles accompany us throughout our Christian life (Gal. 5:17). This understanding comforted Him.

What comfort can we derive from trusting in mystical techniques to produce emotional experiences and intimacy? This pursuit is counter-productive. It places our experiences before His truth, unbiblical practice above Biblical prescription, and places our attention and hope upon our experiences and feelings above the glory of beholding our awesome God, according to His revealed truth (2 Cor. 3:18-4:6).

When we behold ourselves and experiences, we can find no basis for hope and edification. Yes, we are to examine ourselves to recognize our sins, but then to quickly offer up our dirt in confession to our Lord (1 John 1:8-9). I can think of nothing more depressing that meditating upon myself and my inner states. To see myself clearly is painful discouragement and self-absorption; to behold the God who loves me and has died for me is great joy. (If you don’t feel this way now, just persevere a little longer!)

God demands that we worship Him for who He in truth is (Romans 1:21), in spirit and truth (John 4:24). This is not only a joy; it’s also a necessity for any intimacy. If you are loved by your spouse because you remind him/her of a former lover, such a relationship is rotten at the core and will not stand. It is no wonder that God wants us to know Him as He truly is. No wonder He wants to be sought with an open and teachable mind.

Moses had been very discouraged in his ministry to rebellious Israel, but he knew what would make a difference – he needed to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:18). Instead of teaching Moses a new technique, He revealed the truth about Himself to Moses:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7).

Moses could only worship!

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