The apostle Paul once wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).
The troubles we face don’t seem light or momentary. They feel heavy and often permanent. Especially when one struggles with troubles like mental illness, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes, physical disabilities, and cancer. Surely Paul was mistaken when he described our troubles as light and momentary. Perhaps his life was a different experience?
No, Paul knew what he was talking about; he knew about all about troubles.
He was flogged and beaten, threatened with stoning, and thrown in jail multiple times for proclaiming Christ. He was shipwrecked not once, not twice, but three times. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us how Paul died, other historical documents suggest that he was beheaded.
Once he chose to follow Christ and proclaim His name, Paul’s life was anything but easy, his troubles anything but light and momentary. And yet, compared to the eternal glory his passion for Christ was earning for him, he could truthfully call them light and momentary.
Our burdens become light when we give them to Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV). He will carry the load if only we are willing to give it up. Sometimes he brings fellow believers alongside to help with this.
Our troubles become momentary when we see them from an eternal perspective. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV). In our earthly bodies we are bound by time and can be easily fooled by it.
In God’s kingdom, time becomes somewhat irrelevant.
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘condemning another’ is His exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor.
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together.
And yet out of our ‘hot mess,’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, is it not strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, need to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
God in some profound way, accommodates Himself to your ‘sickness.’ He will turn away from you.
We find that He has this beautiful quality about Him–He becomes quite tender and gentle around any spiritual disease. He gravitates to the broken ones. His love for sinners is a well-established fact we must consider frequently.
In his book Mortal Lessons (Touchstone Books, 1987) physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman’s face:
“I stand by the bed where the young woman lies. . . her face, postoperative . . . her mouth twisted in palsy . . . clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight . . . isolated from me . . private.”
“Who are they? I ask myself . . .
“He and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.” All at once, I know who he is.”
“I understand, and I lower my gaze.”
“One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers. . . to show her that their kiss still works.”
This is who Jesus has always been to you!
And if you think you are getting to be a great kisser or are looking desirable, I feel sorry for you. For it’s He who wraps himself around our hurts, our brokenness, and our ugly, our ever-present sin.
Those of you who want to draw big, dark lines between my humanity and my sin, go right ahead, but I’m not joining you. And I don’t really understand.
I need Jesus so much to love me like I really am: brokenness, memories, wounds, sins, addictions, lies, death, fear….all of it. (Take all it, Lord Jesus.) If I don’t present this broken, messed-up person to Jesus, my faith is dishonest, and my understanding of it will become a way of continuing the ruse and pretense of being “good.”
God truly loves the unlovely.
He is wildly passionate about those who have been disfigured by sin. Those who turn with pretense find a sort of ‘spiritual Botox’ that can only hide their blemishes. But by coming to him with all we can muster we’ll find healing and acceptance.
You see, you’re the young woman in this story. The kisses of your Savior are yours. Unconditionally. And forever.
For some reason, He delights in kissing crooked lips.
Stuck in the wonders of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. Let’s start by saying two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives. We must step into Genesis 29 to see more.
Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he’s in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who.
Laban’s deception really does create a crisis.
But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when we see a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad).
Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel.
But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,
“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.”
I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she is very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.
I think I may understand Leah.
She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She is a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.
Leah is the champion for the challenged.
I so love Leah and I do understand her.Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She is a fellow struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.
I’ve no idea what her issue was. But I do know that she must’ve been challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through these things way too much. It doesn’t seem fair.
For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero. For those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce– Leah speaks to us. She is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our setbacks and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.
We may have Leah’s eyes, but we also have His grace.
“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”