Surrendered Scars: Finding Unshakable Hope on the Darkest Night

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Do you have any of "those memories" in your life? Things you've been through that you certainly know God will use for good, yet you also still feel the pain. There's a scar in your heart; it doesn't take any convincing for you to believe this is a fallen world. You chronically see it, take it in and experience the ramifications of brokenness in your own life.

In my life, I've been wrestling with a question. What should I do with the scars...?

Those hard things you reflect on and cannot yet see redemption in, but expectantly await His glorious transformation. Right there. Healing in the full capacity. Getting to understand His eternal purpose in our sufferings; seeing how His name was lifted high in our darkest nights, even when hopes were dashed, hearts were broken, and life seemed to fall apart.

The Truth remains true in the bad things of life that we experience.

Though we walk through seasons that feel like a wilderness, He is alive.

One of the names of God is El Chay: the Living God (Joshua 3:10, Ps. 42:2). From Hebrew, Chay can be translated as: alive, fresh, strong, life, living, springing. Its meaning goes yet further: to sustain life, revive from sickness, revive from discouragement, revive from death, vigorous, fresh [water], running [water].

One commentary has this to say:

"The OT places a high value on life and views it as being good. It came from God [Gen. 2:7], but death ensued because of sin. Man was no longer allowed to partake of the tree of life [Gen. 3:22]. God is the source of life [Ps. 36:9] and the Lord of life and death [Job 12:10]...Chay is a set of experiences, not an abstract principle of vitality which is separate from the body. The Hebrews viewed man holistically, i.e. body, mind and spirit were a unified whole. Life was associated with health, prosperity, vitality, etc., while death was the very opposite" (In the Bible Commentary).

We live in a world affected by death.

God is so loving. He placed His creation--in the beginning--in a beautiful garden. This simply was a taste of heaven. We cannot fathom what this world was like in the beginning, exactly as God intended it; a place where there was no such thing as brokenness, pain, sorrow, trauma, or sin. Adam and Eve walked closely with God and enjoyed His creation.

But even in literal perfection, Eve chose to heed the words of the serpent rather than to obey the One who had given them life. For a moment's pleasure of tasting the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve traded closeness and intimacy with their Maker and a life with no scar or stain of sin for what the enemy promised would be better. He cunningly spoke: "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4b-5).

Perhaps as Eve examined the fruit, she pondered the words of the serpent. What would it be like to have this fruit? Maybe God was being cruel in telling them not to partake of it? How could her perspective of the world and of life at large be different if she was "like God" as the serpent proposed?

The serpent's idea did not lead to her liberation, power, and exaltation. Instead, for the very first time in their existence, Adam and Eve hid from God [Gen. 3:8]. God had given His prized creations the choice to obey or disobey, and when they had chosen the latter, there were consequence that would not only affect them, but every person to come.

God told the serpent that he was cursed above all livestock and beasts of the field, and that he would traverse the fallen earth on his belly, eating dust for all the days of his existence. In the next verse comes the first prophecy of a Savior who would bring redemption to fallen, broken human beings, and the ruin of the enemy.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal" (Gen. 3:15). 

God here proclaims His supremacy and sovereignty, exalting that He is greater than the enemy's attempt to overpower Him. Satan's effort to ruin His creation would not be the end of the story. God would yet be exalted in all the earth and bring glory to His name and no other. "I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols" (Isaiah 42:8).

Adam and Eve rebelled against God even when He had given them everything they could need. Yet, in His mercy, He would use the their line to eventually bring a Savior to lift His sinful creations from the miry clay into the redemption and wholeness that can only be found in Christ.

Here we are, several thousands of years later, and we know the story and name of this Savior.

In order to rescue His creations, Jesus willingly came and died. Isn't it amazing to think that the Creator of the universe would suffer for us and die an excruciating death, bearing our sin, experiencing the death we deserved, and ascending into hell where we were supposed to go, and rising again in triumph that any person who put their faith in Him could be set free?

If you walk in this reality, as His child, hallelujah. By His grace we proclaim to this fallen earth that the fall, suffering, death and sin are not stronger than our mighty God. Yes, we feel pain, experience suffering, and have anything but simple lives, but your relationship with God never promised you an easy existence.

When preaching to great crowds, Jesus spoke these words: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? [...] So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14: 27-28, 33).

Following Jesus is not a program to make all your dreams come true, send all your problems fleeing away, deposit tons of money into your bank account, or to please you every second of your existence. To pursue Christ means death to self, refining sanctification, and the exaltation of our God. It is difficult, and He calls for a counting of the cost. Are you willing to lay everything down for His glory?

We'd like to think that surely God would be most glorified in our comfort, peaceful circumstances, perfect health at all times, and a sense of worldly security, but this is often not the lot of those who have chosen Christ.

Paul was so purposefully pursued by Jesus, as a shining light blinded him and he heard Jesus speak directly to him (Acts 9); after giving His life to Christ, Paul became a great leader in the early church. If it was the will of God to spoil His redeemed in every happiness of earth, surely the one whom God pursued in such a way would experience such ease. Rather, in one of his letters, Paul shares some of the many sufferings he endured for the name of Jesus:

"...far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:23b-28).

 Even having experienced each of these things, Paul had not lost heart. His hope did not hinge on outward circumstances, but on His eternal God.

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart [...] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:1, 5-11, emphasis added).

As a Christian, you will go through hard things, there is no doubt. Yet, even in our darkest night, we have a Defender and Savior who ever lives and intercedes for us (He. 7:25). You are never abandoned, forgotten, let go, unseen, or cast aside amid your suffering; He intends for the strongest storms to cast us upon Himself more fully. How would you know your need for a Savior if you felt self-sufficient? Praise the Lord for challenges that make beautiful displays of His nearness to broken souls.

If you're in a similar place to where I am--not yet seeing every way personal hardships work our for my good and His glory--rest your soul afresh in the truth that your all-knowing God is not silent in your heartbreak. When we walk through immense difficulties, it is then that we discover the sufficiency of His grace to sustain us amid our human weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-11).

"Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life" (Psalm 54:4).
If your heart is broken, your body is failing you, or your circumstances threaten to unravel entirely, I'm certain you've already sensed the emptiness of the solutions this world offers. A focus solely on the here and now seems nearly unbearable for those of us walking through deep waters. Praise the Lord for this reality; when we sense the fleetingness of this life, we are beginning to grasp that God intends much more for us than a comfortable worldly experience. As C.S. Lewis has said:

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world" [1]. 
Rest for weary souls is not ultimately found in what this world has to offer. We are in desperate need for our Savior who is Himself the epitome of Hope, Rest and Salvation. "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all [...] The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (Psalm 34:15-19, 22).

Your circumstances may continue be difficult through the twists and turns of life, but no matter the ferocity of the storm, our God will be stronger and He will lead us in triumph, displaying His sufficiency in a broken world with hurts, tears, and pains. In Christ, you will not get everything you want, but you will have everything you need (2 Peter 1:3). He has gone before you and knows your frame; you do not serve a cruel God who wants to harm you, but a gracious Father who knows how to strip His children of self and more fully display the life of Christ in us. This may be painful, but it can also be immensely joyful, because we may always find hope in Jesus, our Rescuer and He is always with us through every tempest.

"Do not let yourself be thrown down or give in to despair. Stand evenly at the will of God....For after winter comes summer. After night comes the dawn. And after every storm, there comes clear, open skies" (Samuel Rutherford, as quoted by Amy Carmichael) [2].

1. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Collins, 1977.
2. Carmichael, Amy and David Hazard. I Come Quietly to Meet You: an Intimate Journey in God's Presence. Bethany House Publishers, 2005, p.146.

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