I simply had to write this blog after falling flat on my face from slipping on the ice. I crashed face first into the road and there was an instant flow of blood spurting out from a large cut on the end of my nose and from an abrasion above it that broke my glasses. Eleven stitches later and a face like Frankenstein, all plans had to be put on hold.
It reminded me of the Christian couple who finally got the chance to go somewhere a little exotic for their holiday, but one of them ended up sick the whole two weeks. Or the Christian couple that finally decided to try investing their savings, but lost over half their money in a Ponzi scheme.
But that’s life on this side of death. It would be nice to know if the sufferings we go through, therefore, have some kind of purpose. It’s not as if we’re being persecuted or suffering because of our Christian beliefs. Instead, our suffering can often lead to being less effective as Christians, because an injury or an accident or a loss of income mean we’re out of action for a while and we’re unable to serve. So why on earth would God allow that to happen?
Is it, or was it, to punish us or make us pay for bad choices in the past, or to point out something we’re lacking? But I remember one lady who opened up her house every week for a home church study and a table full of goodies to eat, and we ended up with twenty-five people in attendance, including a baby placed in the centre of the table we were studying at. It was like a grand family get together and it was growing, but then she became very sick, bedridden and she could only communicate by pointing to letters of the alphabet on a card. But amazingly, she was totally at peace, and even with splitting headaches too.
I simply had to know from her how she could be at peace in such a disappointing and excruciatingly painful situation, not only physically but also in the shattering of her dream to provide a happy place for fellow Christians to learn and grow together. So one day I sat beside her bed and asked her. I held the alphabet card while she pointed to the letters, J,e,s,u,s., and that was it.
I was in no condition at the time to know what she meant by that, until I was working my way through Hebrews a long time later and up popped four words in Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus” – just like she did.
In what way do we see him, though? Well, in him living the same kind of life and disappointment that we go through (verse 14). He preached his heart out, spreading hope and the good news that he’d been sent to prepare us humans for eternal life – and giving us a chance to taste it during our lifetimes now too. But who listened? A few people did, but most rejected him and believed lies about him spread by the leading religious folk. And it wasn’t just his face that was injured, it was his entire body.
So why did God allow that to happen? Because it was the perfect training for him as a high priest, the primary part of that training being trusting God no matter what happened to him (Hebrews 5:7). It was the toughest thing to do, because surely there had to be a better way than what looked like unnecessary suffering, or suffering with no obvious purpose to it. But that’s how God had set things up (Hebrews 2:10, 5:8-10).
And that’s how God set things up for us too, in our training as priests to work alongside Jesus. We too learn to be gentle with others like he was (Hebrews 5:2), by facing situations we cannot see the purpose of, but trusting God that it somehow fits in with our training too, the proof of which is receiving from him a “peace that transcends all understanding,” that also “guards our hearts and minds” from the temptation to just give up, Philippians 4:7. Jesus as a human received that help from God (Hebrews 5:7), so do we.
Can I be at peace with a smashed up face, then – and when life isn’t working out the way I hoped or wanted? Scripture says, “Yes,” and it explains how and why too.