Friday, July 24, 2009

The Seemingly Paradoxical Christian Life

I gain life through death.

I am healed through being broken.

I expose my faults to gain victory.

So much of the Christian life seems to be a paradox. One of these has become more evident to me in the past few weeks as I have been pondering contentment. "All of us desperately need contentment, a state of inner peace separate from our circumstances. Ultimately, contentment is more a shift in attitude than a change in circumstances" (Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow, p. 31). We are to be CONTENT in Christ. Our situations should not dominate our attitudes, our beliefs and our moods. Paul writes that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (I Tim 6:6) and states that he has "learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Phil 4:12). The Old Testament shows many examples where the Israelites were discontent (i.e. complaining and grumbling) and the heart-wrenching and painful consequences of doubting God's goodness. Contentment is not easy to learn and yet it is essential to godliness.

There are, however, certain times in life when we are to be DISSATISFIED. Reading Ecclesiates reminds us that we are not made for this life. Yes, God is in control and He does work good out of all things, but this was not the way that He intended life to be. Death and illness always seem to cause people to question God's goodness, but we should remember that God planned a life for humans that didn't include those things. It was because of our choices that we have evil in our world. Being content doesn't mean never admitting that things are wrong. Life is gravely wrong.

We are to be content in all circumstances resting in Jesus and relying upon His promises, yet when I hear of some dearly beloved saint dying I am reminded that we were not made for this life and that everything that seems so incredibly and unexplainably wrong is simply giving me a deep longing and thirsting for Heaven, where all will be right.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

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