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It wasn’t unusual for my sister and I to find ourselves driving together, en route somewhere. We often went places together, having only two years between us and many of the same friends. One particular Saturday, years ago, we found ourselves headed to a friend’s graduation party a few towns over. The car windows were down and the humid summer warmth brought a certain calmness. Kristen’s legs were up on the dashboard. It was the kind of day that was so nice, you hardly felt like talking. We were intrigued by our surroundings, catching glimpses of the shops in Hackettstown, and watching passer-bys on the sidewalks. Kristen seemed a little tired that day. She rubbed her hand over her stubbled legs, took a quick glance in the mirror at her eyebrows in disarray, and looked out the window again.

“Sometimes I think maybe I should try to be more girly,” she said, still glancing out the window, “then, I think… maybe instead, I should be more concerned with my character, and whether I’m a person that’s patient and kind.”

I remember looking over at her, appalled, surprised, and proud, as she continued her gaze out the window. Her words caught me so off guard, and had me thinking so intensely, I believe I only mustered a, “yeah, I think you’re right.” And, we continued down the road.

That moment was a formidable moment for my sister and for me, as well, witnessing her utter candidness. I’ve told her the story several times. “I said that?” she asks me. “Yes, Kristen, you said that.”

The reason I believe I remember this day, and the reason I’m sitting here writing about it, is because it says something about what is important; it speaks about what should have value and significance and priority in our lives. I think that’s the question we ask a lot or, at least, need to be asking. How should I spend my time and energy?

C.S. Lewis put it as clearly as I think I’ll ever understand it in his Principle of First and Second things. He explains that things have different values—some greater than others. And, whenever we reverse the hierarchy, treating a second thing as a first thing, we not only lose the first thing, but the second thing, as well. “Values are related to each other like a chain of rings,” explains Peter Kreeft, “…the attempt to put second things first can never work.”

“If you look for truth,” said Lewis, “you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

Jesus said something similar, in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To reverse it can never work. There is an established order, and value, just as 1 is greater than 0. If we make the second things our pursuit, we won’t find those things; and, what’s worse, we won’t find His kingdom or His righteousness. God needs to be our first thing, not money or relationships or a safe neighborhood to live in. God. All else comes from Him.

In the case of my sister, she understood character had greater value than appearance, and as such, needed more attention. It’s a conclusion that’s easy to state once or twice—another thing to live. Yet, the reality of our lives is that we’re constantly making decisions regarding value, whether we realize it or not. Which, is why it’s better to realize it, lest we put a second thing first. We need to make a habit of asking, and adjusting… How do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? What do I think about? What do I care about? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

17 reasons v2

Reason #1: Jeremy Camp. BAM! Done. (here is his song “Overcome”: link)

Reason # 2: Speaker lineup –  Pastor Eugene Cho, Dr. David Ireland, Rebekah Lyons, Pastor Tim Lucas, Naomi Zacharias, Brad Lomenick and many other speakers. (here are all the speakers)

Reason # 3: The Leadership Track “Leadership Essentials: Becoming a Better Leader”. If leadership, vision, skills and clarity is your thing, this track will inspire you. Our speakers: Brad Lomenick, Will Mancini, Jenni Catron and William Vanderbloemen (see graphic) (you’ll be taking notes on this one!)

Reason #4: Our theme “OVERCOME” based on John 16:33. Here’s a snippet  – “God uses hardships to build character, challenges to create dependence, obstacles to ignite faith and suffering to establish identity.  Read our theme @ www.collydesummit.com

Reason #5: Two of our favorite worship leaders – Aaron Keyes (link) and Jason Yost (link) – leading worship throughout the Summit on both days.

Reason #6:  The Creative Arts Track: “Creative Arts, Media and Social Media”. Our speakers: Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Rich Birch, Stephen Brewster & Justin Wise (see graphic)

Reason #7: Our hosts:  will inspire your hearts – Kristen HamiltonRyan FaisonGian Paul GonzalezChristine Shuey.

Reason # 8: Over 42 Great Organizations under one roof.  A few examples: World Vision, Compassion, Blood:Water, Pillar College, Biblica, Lifesong, Young Christian Leaders and many others (see all our participating organizations here)

Reason #9: FREE Coffee!  One of our favorites!  Land of 1000 Hills Coffee will be served throughout the Collyde Summit. (straight from the farmers of Rwanda to you! –read their amazing story)

Reason #10: Introspection and Encouragement. You’ll realize you are not alone.  Meet and make friends with others just like you.

Reason # 11: The Justice Track  “Justice, Culture, and Redemption”. If the topic of justice moves your heart, then this track is for you. Our speakers: Naomi Zacharias, Andy Lehman, Naomi Overton & Jena Nardella (see graphic).  You don’t want to miss this one!

Reason # 12: Time to rejuvenate your mind AND soul.  

Reason # 13: Worship Track. Calling all Worship Leaders! The track is titled “Worship Experience: Planning, Doing, Becoming”. Our speakers: Jason Yost, Sheri Gould, Matt McCoy(see graphic).  If you are a worship leader or love to sing/write songs, this track is specifically for you.  (You’ll want to take notes!)

Reason # 14: Food-trucks!  Oh yeah! We have some amazing lunch options for you. Come Hungry – Spiritually and Physically!

Reason # 15: This is happening in New Jersey!  When is the last time you went to an event like this in New Jersey?  Register @ www.collydesummit.com while tickets are still available.

Reason # 16: Meet These Guys!  Our Track leaders – Amanda BoleynRich BirchJason Yost Amy Vincent. They are not only amazing individuals but are also experts in areas they are leading. Read more about them at www.collydesummit.com (Follow them on Twitter)

Reason # 17: Last but not the Least: The Holy Spirit. We have been praying for the last 12 months for the Holy Spirit to speak to each one of you. With so much prayer, we expect great things. Our small team works hard to create a great event, but we trust and know that God shows up in unexpected ways and meets each attendee in specific ways. We love hearing stories of life changes, moments of clarity, great conversations and encounters, powerful times of renewal, your walk with Jesus becoming stronger and more than we could ever plan.  As you encounter Him through the words of many speakers, during times of heartfelt worship and whispers of His Spirit, we know He will meet you right where you are.

Welcome to Collyde Summit 2014.

Have you registered yet? don’t wait: Sign-up today.

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I read a blog post a few months back, written by a guy I have great respect for. The post was about learning to listen to God’s voice. “God is always talking,” I remember his words so clearly; words that opened my eyes to the ways God speaks to me in my life. In His word. In silence. In circumstances. In the sunset following a terrible storm.

Metaphors and story seemed to be Jesus’ chief way of communicating to people throughout the New Testament. When I think about it, I’m struck by how far heavenly knowledge needs to stoop to make sense in our minds. Yet, Jesus met us here, using language we could understand. He talked about growing seeds, parent/child relationships, and money—parallels that help us understand what God, and life in the Kingdom, is like.

For the past two years, I’ve been studying Marriage and Family therapy. I’ve heard countless lectures, read book after book, and even observed my professors providing therapy. Though, nothing teaches you quite so much as working as a therapist, which I quickly realized back in May when I started seeing clients. We were taught early on in school, that we all have blind spots in our lives and that pain has a way of blurring our vision. That’s why counseling, by a professional or mentor, is important—it’s enormously valuable to have an outside perspective on situations to increase understanding. Many times in life we find ourselves needing to trust the judgement of a parent or good friend when we fail to see harmful circumstances and decisions clearly.

It occurred to me, knee deep in therapy, that there are times when I need to stop trusting the things clients say. It’s in their best interest that I do. There are times when client’s words don’t match their behaviors, and I need to recognize when they’re not okay—even when they say they are.

He speaks, always.

I saw myself. I heard my words to Jesus, as He prepared to suffer on my behalf, telling Him I was fine; utterly convinced of it. Yet, my life hinged, at that desperate hour, upon Jesus being able to know I was not. He knew the parts of my heart that disdained Him, the parts that would rather live life my way, and He knew what would happened if He listened. That’s what kept Him on the cross. “God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.

If Jesus knew then what was good for me, it means He knows it now. It means I can offer up carefully crafted lip service, but He won’t fall for it. He sees the inner workings of my mind and heart and knows what I really need. At my deepest level, I can rest in that. Moment by moment, I need to be grateful for that. I really, really don’t understand most of it. But, thinking of all He did to rescue me then, when I didn’t want it, reminds me He will do the same now.

He is faithful.

 

field

Poetry used to really confuse me. Not that it doesn’t still confuse me at times—I think I’ve just grown in my appreciation for it, and in my tolerance to not understand. I used to be so quick in reading it and even quicker in saying I didn’t get it. One such poem was about a field where nothing happened. I remember studying it in college and wondering why both William Stafford and our class wasted time on it. Nothing happened.

This poem, startlingly so, came back to me recently, and I felt I understood a little more. Mind you, 4 years after the fact. The poem was about ordinariness. It spoke about a field where no blood was shed, no monuments were built, and nothing heroic happened. It was just an unmarked field, with grass and birds. I can’t say with certainty what brought the poem back to mind, but I speculate it happened sometime amid folding laundry, and the questions I ask about who I want to be.

The end of last month, I spent time exploring Boston with some friends. We walked the Freedom Trail, which highlighted milestones along the way, including the cemetery where Paul Revere, John Hancock and the five victims of the Boston Massacre were buried. The divide between what was above ground and what was below felt so real to me at that moment. I felt very aware that I was alive, that I still had breath in my lungs. They were once walking around up here, like us, I kept thinking. We knew a few names on the graves, those who made it into the history books, but most were unknown, with even their name fading from the stone. They lived their lives, worked jobs, paid bills, made decisions—good and bad—and hopefully loved well along the way. Many didn’t go down in the history books as great, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t.

C.S. Lewis spoke a bit on ordinariness:

 “What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction… This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.”

I think of this, when I think about those faded graves, when I think about myself. So often we seek out moments of excitement and recognition—some moment of having “made it”. Something that tells us we’re worthwhile. Yet, Lewis reminds us there’s a different kind of thrill that will settle upon us when we give up our adrenaline-pumping concept of thrill, which paradoxically, is more fulfilling than any thrill we imagine. We frequently walk around with skewed perceptions of what our lives should look like, what greatness really is—and as a result, find ourselves terribly unsatisfied with the present, plagued by nostalgia for the past and yearnings for the future. The dishes need to be done and taxes need to be filed and the bathroom scrubbed. It’s not very exciting sometimes, at all. But, I think Lewis speaks of something enormously important, in dying to our concept of thrills. For as long as we keep seeking the thrills, the spotlight, the next-thing, we’ll be dissatisfied with the present. And, the present is important because that’s where we find God.

Jesus speaks about the value of small, everyday moments in Luke 16:10, when he told His disciples: “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” In fact, His whole life and ministry redefined what it means to be great. He said: “whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). Which means, for all I know, those faded graves marked unwaveringly obedient people. It means that they could have lived lives of gentleness, kindness, love and joy. They could have been neighbors that brought dinner when a family was sick, or people who offered up their smiles to passers-by. They could have fed the hungry and cared for the widows. They could have been unassuming, but beautiful, just like that field.

(Untitled)
William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.
Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hollowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

relationship

In the last year, God has been answering YES to some of my deepest, far-fetched, soul-wrenching prayers. My mother has been titled “Cancer Free” for the next six months. I obtained a so-called impossible internship. As in, go find a different calling because there isn’t enough room for you! God led my husband to a new job that I know He will use his gifts more in the church walls and out.

And I’m going to be really honest with you.

I’m still wanting more.

Have you found yourself in this place? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

How do we become content? How do we rejoice in the day that is made before us? Can we remain thankful for the good, undeserved gifts from our Heavenly Father without wanting more?

God speaks about this in 2 Samuel.

The guy we want to learn from in this story is Mephibosheth. In chapter 9, we learn that he is Grandson of King Saul, crippled and has a son of his own. However, King David is now in reign and it was common for the King to kill anyone from the former royal family because they were potential rivals to the throne. Does King David do this? No! With compassion, he invites Mephibosheth to his table to eat and gives him land that belonged to his grandfather.

Then, a lot goes down in Jersualem.

I’m not going to go into detail but King David’s life is in danger and he ends up exiled. In comes Ziba, the manager of Mephibosheth’s household. In chapter 16, he lies to King David and slanders Mephibosheth in regards to his whereabouts. King David believes him and in his anger, ends up declaring all of Mephibosheth’s possesions are now in Ziba’s hands. When he confronts Mephibosheth about this, Mephibosheth explains the truth. King David then decides to split the land equally among the two men.

Mephibosheth’s response?

Give him all of it. I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!” [2 Samuel 19:30 NLT]

He lets the very man who betrayed him have what is rightfully his. Why? Because he recognizes that his contentment is anchored in his relationship with the King. And all he needs, he already has.

Discontentment comes when we feel deprived. For myself, when I see what I truly deserve for my sin [Romans 6:23] and compare it to what I have received in Christ [Colossians 2:9-15], all those wants become nothing in comparison to the eternal life awaiting and the love of the Savior I have yet to fully know [1 Cor. 13:12]

 

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. [Psalm 73:25-26]

Leaders Listen, Collyde, LeadershipLast month I started a series about My Top 7 Leadership Mistakes. I covered the second mistake – speaking at the wrong time for the wrong reasons – in my last post and in this post I want to give a glimpse into what I’ve been learning as God has helped me correct this habitual mistake, so I can be more effective in leading and therefore honoring Him.

Leadership  Lesson #2

It sounds like communication 101, but my first realization was that I would have to do a much better job of active listening. Engaging all of my senses to observe and focus on the other person, the environment, and my own communication signals. Listening, and not interrupting, has sometimes meant that when it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t remember that “great point” that first came to mind. Frustrating, right? Yes, but as I’ve processed it’s really come down to two things:

1. I’m relearning this critical part of communicating, so I need to cut myself some slack and keep the real “win” in mind.

The more I intentionally choose the active listening approach, the better I’m getting at both storing key thoughts to recall and staying focused on the other person. In fact, sometimes, when it’s a planned conversation, I try to have a notebook handy to jot down a couple of key points if it’s appropriate to the situation. I’ve found that it’s both a help to me and communicates to the other person that I truly care enough about what they are saying to want to write it down. And if I don’t recall everything I’d wanted to say, it’s okay. The win isn’t about me. That’s the stuff of real leadership – the stuff I want to be about.

2. I don’t need to say everything that comes to my mind. Even when I think it’s “awesome” ! 🙂

Ever heard that phrase, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” Yea, I’m pretty sure that’s the jist of what my parents were trying to tell me throughout my childhood! 🙂  The thing is that I tend to process really fast, and my pattern has been to let those thoughts come out of my mouth as quickly as they come into my brain. Active listening is forcing me to slow down. I have to discern not only what needs to be said in response, but how and when it should be said. This has been hard and imperfect and really, really good. Because  How many times have I thought, “oh, if only I could take it back!” Not because it was the wrong thing. But it was the wrong time. And, if I’d waited, I would’ve said something different, and the other person probably would’ve been more ready to hear it, leading to a healthier outcome for all.

In our fast paced culture, it’s so easy to frenetically race through relationships the same way we rush through our projects, to-do lists, meetings and errands. I’ve decided that if I’m going to be effective, this is an area in which I’ve got to operate counter culturally. I have more to learn, but I’m grateful for God’s grace in showing me how to slow down so I can be a leader marked by the maturity of listening, and speaking, well.

What about you? Are there leadership lessons you’ve learned? What encouragement would you offer to those of us trying to learn to listen well? Leave a comment – we love to hear from you!

Quesion

There is a huge difference between the leadership style of Jesus and styles that we see displayed in today’s world. If you look at the top selling christian or leadership books, you can easily see this trend. The books generally have titles that are answers to life’s problems – like 7 steps to do something or 10 steps to solving an issue. Truth be told, these books are only quick fixes that rarely address the heart of the issue. If you read the Gospels, you will find the Leadership style of Jesus is uniquely different. Most of the time, he never gave answers but rather asked a question that went to the heart of the issue. For example, he asked the blind man in Mark 10, “What do you want Me to do for you?”, he asked the disciples in Matthew 16, “Who do you say I am?” and in Matthew 15 he asked, “How many loaves do you have?

Some of these questions seem to be really bad questions to ask. You’re asking a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”. Here is the thing about questions – it allows us to separate solutions that are humanly possible vs. solutions that would require faith and divine intervention. Questions reveal to us, our heart of unbelief. They sometimes reveal to us our sins that we need to repent of.

Can I ask you today? Take a moment to look at that circumstance that looks helpless to you and that relationship that seems impossible to mend, and ask yourself, what would Jesus ask you if He were standing next to you? Go ahead, take out a piece of paper and write down your thoughts….

A leadership thought: Great leaders don’t give answers, they ask questions.

man

The word “suffering” makes me flinch sometimes. It startles me, as if realizing for the first time how real it is. I don’t always like to think about it, or talk about it, because, honestly, sometimes it causes me to doubt God’s goodness. Suffice to say: I sat down to write this a few times, only to get up and do something else, feeling unwilling to go here. Here, to the places that really hurt. To the questions that surface from time to time.

With all that said, I know, and find great comfort, that our suffering is not void of meaning. And, I know we need to hear that over and over again.

The concept of suffering is all throughout the Bible. Often, hidden with a lot of other words that do not make me flinch:

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

I’ve often wondered, when reading these verses, how/if a person could actually react that way to affliction. Glory in your sufferings? View troubles as an opportunity for great joy? It seems absurd to our minds.

But, I think that is where we find the problem—our minds. We look at our lives and circumstances through a darkened, scratched lens of depravity, and sometimes our perspective is limited to our pain. We become like David, who in his distress called out “God cannot see me!” (Psalm 31:22). That was David’s perception. The reality, however, is that God is bigger than our minds can conceive and His ways are not our own. While we offer up suggestions for a better way to do things and question His timeline, He has not wavered in knowing more than we do. Nor, in His ability to work beyond what we can see. David continues in Psalm 31, charting God’s faithfulness: “But you heard my prayer when I cried out to you for help.”

David’s cry is not blasphemy, or spiteful; it is honest to the human condition. I’m thankful I find it in the Psalms. I feel that too, sometimes. Our pain and our struggles do make it harder to see, as they blur our thinking, yet God’s faithfulness and goodness does not change. He hears our prayers when we cry out to Him for help. And, He may be doing things we don’t understand just yet. I realized: those other words mentioned in the above verses—perseverance, character, hope, and endurance—are much harder to observe than a quick change in circumstances. They are long and laborious and painful to have developed in you, but they are the things we should be after.

I know all suffering is different, and sometimes it’s hard telling the difference between struggles I’ve created on my own, ones that are a result of this fallen world, or even God-given, but I do know, whatever the situation: He promises to work everything for our good, and His glory. There is immense hope in that.  

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 

I can’t remember how many times I’ve read and heard that verse over the years. But it wasn’t until recently when I better understood God’s work in making things new, that this verse began to be more life giving, than guilt-tripping.

How many times did my words, thoughts, actions and decisions reflect an old man? The flesh. Wasn’t I supposed to be a new creature? Why did I keep failing? Why couldn’t I just be all new, all done?  

God has graciously brought friends into my life to help me better understand the meaning of “new” in regards the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. He’s allowed me to see that we are continually being renewed. God is making us new all the time. Like a gardener, He is pruning, tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering. He is always at work breathing new life in us and through us. Getting rid of what’s dead, making room for another new branch or blossom. As we sit in the belly of winter, blanketed by another blizzard in the northeast today, we look forward to spring when everything feels new again. Old plants giving birth to new buds – new life. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Embracing renewal means embracing a process – one that is often way more inefficient than we are comfortable with in our efficiency focused American culture. It means allowing the Spirit to work the soil of my heart to make new life.  And as I consider what’s behind and what’s before, this has become very clear for me in one area:

Peaceful perseverance cultivates the soil of Christ-like patience.

You see, I find myself in a season of perseverance. Needing to diligently honor the trust placed in me and be faithful to a commitment, even though I’d prefer it to be over sooner than later. Many would say that God is trying to “teach me patience.” But I’ve realized how misleading that can be. Patience is not a one time achievement that I then possess, nor a lesson to be learned and marked off as accomplished. Instead, I believe it’s like everything else that God is renewing and working in me. It’s a journey, a life cycle of learning.

collyde, new life, renewalThis portion of new life can grow in soil that is rooted in the peace of Christ. That kind of soil allows the work of the Spirit to cultivate patience that reflects Christ.

Facing a hard assignment? Tension filled workplace? Strife filled church left you wondering how much longer you can hold on? And, do you want to hold on to “the church” at all? Strained marriage testing you to your core? Maybe it’s a difficult child making you want to throw in the towel on parenting the way God calls us to.

Been there.

Let us not grow weary in doing good. For in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal. 6:9

The harvest isn’t a promise of some great reward and earthly treasure. Just like the verse “God works all things together for the good of those that love Him” the “good” – the harvest – is that we are made like Christ. That is our ULTIMATE good. The Spirit enables us to live by this promise, persevering through even the most trying situations with the peace of Christ, which renewed life characterized more by the patience of Christ than it was before. It’s a process.

What’s your place of perseverance?

Collyde, perseverance,

Their perseverance has been for but a few hours. Anticipating the joy to come. They’ve waited, wanting so badly for the waiting to end. Thankfully, today, they chose the path of peacefully persevering their time indoors together.

But other loved ones? Their time of perseverance has stretched from weeks to months to years. Years of walking in the peace of Christ while they wait for the ache and longing of their hearts for a child to be fulfilled…

And that friend over there? The one who has peacefully persevered to faithfully love her husband unconditionally while yearning for that love to be returned. Her wait continues…

Then there’s the precious ones giving their lives for Jesus in the hardest of places. Persevering to see even one soul follow Him. Months, sometimes years, go by…

The weary pastor, the disheartened leader, or the wounded youth…

Wherever you are. Whatever you’re enduring. Whatever you’re anticipating. Whomever you’re waiting for.

Peaceful perseverance cultivates the soil of Christ-like patience. God is at work. God is doing a new thing. When the circumstances have gotten really “old”, He is still making new.

When you journey with someone who is persevering with the peace of Christ, you get the privilege of witnessing the renewal of Christ happen right in front of your eyes. You see the Father working the soil as we peacefully persevere. These loved ones…they’ve been changed. There is more Jesus. More Christ. New life. When the child finally comes, they won’t check the box for “patience”…when the project is finally complete, the commitment seen through, the trust honored, I’m not going to receive a certificate of achievement for patience. But we’ll all be different because we’ll have all been changed by the renewing work of the Spirit to make us more like Christ.

That is the harvest. That is the reward. That is the good He is working. That is the hope that gives me peace to persevere.

cross

(the words from pastor bob coy’s devotional)

He was despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. Isaiah 53:3 (NLT)

When the proverbial storms of life strike, there’s a natural instinct inside us that shakes a clenched fist at heaven and cries out, “God, how could you ever allow this? You have no idea how much this hurts!” We assume that since God is in heaven, He has no concept of suffering, and we begrudge the fact that He would allow us to experience something that He knows nothing about.

In truth, if there’s anyone who knows anything about suffering, it is Jesus. His short life was so scarred by suffering that the prophet Isaiah identified Him as “a man of sorrows.” That Hebrew word for sorrows can be alternately translated as anguish, affliction, pain, grief. These weren’t just things that Jesus experienced on occasion. They were a way of life for Him.

We tend to exclusively think of Christ’s suffering in terms of His crucifixion. But when we read through the gospels carefully, we see Him brokenhearted on several occasions leading up to Calvary’s cross. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus and lamented over Israel’s rejection. He mourned the death of John the Baptist and was moved by the mother who was on her way to bury her only son. In a manner of speaking, God came down and exposed His nerves to us.

Jesus didn’t sanitize Himself from suffering. He plunged right onto it and experienced it to a greater degree than any of us will or can ever know. Whenever we suffer, its significance isn’t lost on God. He’s been there, He understands how hard it is, and He knows how to comfort us in our time of trial. Knowing this has a way of turning our clenched fists into hands held high in praise.