In the midst of suffering, we wrestle not only with our pain but with a deeper turmoil. It is a battle of our spirits, our intellects, our hearts, our beliefs, and our will. It is the battle between hope and hopelessness. Whether we are talking about social issues, a broken marriage, a wayward child, or failing health, we wonder, in the midst of suffering, can God really help me? Will He make things better?
It was into centuries of such turmoil that Jesus came to the earth. The Jewish people had reached high points in their history, industry, artistry, international relations, and religion - Solomon had built the grandest temple and had the greatest influence on others. And it all came crashing down due to centuries of apostasy. When the hammer of judgment came down, Israel and then Judah were exiled by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively. How long would they suffer? The period between the end of the Old Testament and the Good News of Jesus' birth was over 400 years.
Think about that: many people were born and died in that intertestimental time. Does that mean their lives were devoid of any light from the Lord? No. God had given His promises. By faith alone were people saved, even people in the Old Testament as they were looking forward to the gracious provision of God to come. But still, their entire lives were spent waiting for something, someone...who never showed up!
We cry foul at the thought! What right does God have to not provide relief for me in my lifetime here on earth! Isn't God supposed to make my life on earth good?
There are Christians being martyred on this earth even today. Maybe here in America, we have gotten so caught up in our American dream and sense of entitlement that the idea of suffering for the entirety of our lives seems antithetical to what we believe are our inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But God never promised us happiness in this life. He did promises us His presence. He promised us joy in knowing that He is with us, that He has secured our place in eternity with Him, and that we are saved because of what Jesus did.
And isn't Jesus' life the pattern for ours? "Follow me," said Jesus. To the cross and through it to the other side. What's there you ask. The life that He has for us.
It is the life we've always hoped for. But it's different from the life we often find ourselves chasing. Are you hoping for happiness? Or are you hoping to be with Jesus? If we devote ourselves to Jesus, He will provide for us all that we could ever hope for.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
I'm ready to let go of false promises of happiness. The older I get, the more I do not find meaning in that. I'm ready for something more lasting. I want more of Jesus. I place my hope in Him.