By Lydia Jentzen Will
My oldest is 11 this year, the same age I was when I entered confirmation class for the first time. Pastor Koch headed up our Confirmation class back then, and he was quite insistent on scripture memorization. Mom found us a few bible memory tapes (this was the 90s, so yes they were cassette tapes) and we listened to them in the car. Romans 8:1-2 was one of the first I remember memorizing – and still hear the song playing when I read it, words and music both branded into my memory.
I’m not sure I understood the verse all that well when I was eleven. I’m not sure I understand it completely now, almost 20 years later. But that’s the nice thing about memorization. It’s almost like a bookmark in your brain to come back to later, a place to add in understanding gradually over time. This week, I heard it differently.
My thoughts over the past few weeks have been with the persecuted Christians in Mosul. Trying to explain these hardships to my own children while trying to make sense of them myself is more challenging than I had expected. Sometimes I still feel like that eleven year old girl – just in a grown up body. I don’t understand it all, I don’t know why bad things happen and I don’t have answers. It’s then that I have to look up and remember there’s a reason it’s called faith. I can trust that there is no pain, no terror, no anguish too intense for Him to hold.
I can trust that there is no pain, no terror, no anguish too intense for Him to hold.
When our hearts are ripped and bleeding and we do battle with our own nature day in and day out, He doesn’t gloss it over. He comes in close and offers to carry it for us – yes, even those hardships that we, in all our ignorance and sinfulness, heap upon ourselves.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean the suffering and pain of this life ends. It doesn’t mean we stop messing up, stop hurting ourselves and others, stop willfully doing the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.
It means that the one who is all goodness and light and justice and mercy transfers all of those things to us, guarding our hearts and minds as he slips on our humanity. He hides himself in our hearts and holds in his hands the pulse of our brokenness made whole in Him.
Held together, suffering and sanctification, God enters into our humanity, filling us with Him. It’s how we limp across the finish line of a life offered up and how He gathers us up into an eternity with Him. Not because hurt and hardship isn’t a big deal. Not because a life lived in faith means a life free of pain.
Jesus rules over our lives of hills and valleys, triumphs and failures as the purest form of love. Never once leaving us, never once letting go, never once backing down, but continually offering the consolation of joining in the journey with us. In His victory, He does not negate suffering – but in love wipes every tear.
In His victory, He does not negate suffering – but in love wipes every tear.
It’s the reason for hope. The only reason for peace. The only answer to a world gone mad and the only solution to the pain of life apart from Christ. In Him, we are made whole. Because of His love, we can have faith in the triumph of our futures with Him. The fulfillment of our struggles and fears made complete by His abundant and sufficient love for us.
To see images from Sunday’s sermon check out God, in Love ,Ruling over Ruins: Images for worship.