Time is relative…sometimes even fickle it would seem
Time Flies: it goes by so quickly when you’re having fun, watching your children grow or enjoying an insanely pleasurable vacation.
Time Stands Still: when you are in pain, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled or enduring an intensely boring speech.
The way we describe the passage of time during different situations belies our understanding that time doesn’t just “go by”.
Pain freezes time in its tracks. When you are hurting–whether physically or psychically–time seems to almost move in reverse. It is as if it is bent on exacerbating and exaggerating suffering by extending it.
It is easy to believe in seasons of suffering that you are the pain.
Crohn’s Disease nearly killed me 26 years ago. During the five years I endured it before losing my colon in major surgery, I had my identity stolen on the installment plan. I was constantly battling the feeling that I was the sickness, the pain and the weakness that it caused. I became my disease.
Pain becomes the filter through which every action and reaction in life passes. And if you are a God-lover like I am, you can even begin to believe that your pain is God’s opinion of you.
Mercifully I discovered it was not.
Jesus’ friend, Peter, knew pain. From the agony of his betrayal to the torture of his martyrdom, Peter knew what it was to suffer. He saw many of his friends—his fellow disciples—killed just because they loved and followed Jesus. He endured the harsh realities of prison and the hurtful vacuum of loss.
But he understood through having watched Jesus’ hand-to-hand combat with and victory over the agony of living as a God-reflection in a darkened world, that it was only a matter of time before God came out on top.
Out of his own pain, Peter wrote these words:
“…keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good.” (1 Peter 5:10, MSG)
The texture of hope and beauty of grace is woven through these words like a stand of gold in a masterful tapestry. What he says about God and what that says about me changes my whole perspective on times when I hurt.
He calls God “the God of all grace”. Literally, every type and instance of grace—the sum total—is found in the character of our God. This grace—the good generosity of God which brings pleasure and joy to His heart by making us thrive in His Son—is just an outworking of His heart toward us. No matter what we are going through at any time, that pain is not a reflection of God’s heart.
Grace alone shows us how God feels about us.
That Good God has finally and forever invited you by name to share his “eternal glory”. Please don’t miss this: Peter is not talking about Heaven.
God’s glory is the expression of who He really is in the reality of where we really live. It is His reputation; worth and dignity. It is from eternity—it comes from a realm outside the limitations and liabilities of time as we know it.
Peter is talking about who God is when He can be Himself; what He is like when He is free from the misconceptions and misrepresentations of our broken minds and wounded hearts.
God has invited each of us by name to participate in this expression of His extraordinary, eternal nature fully lived in the “now”. Through our ordinary daily lives He reflects Himself as He is outside time.
And this amazing invitation is offered and accomplished “in His Son”.
Jesus is God’s opinion of us!
This foundational, unconditional reality—that we are specifically called and specifically created to be Jesus in our world—changes our perspective on the moments of madness that we call pain.
“After you have suffered…” Peter doesn’t pull any punches. There is pain when you live as it should be in the world as it is. The word translated suffer literally means to be affected; to feel. When you live in the “eternal glory” of life as it was meant to be, you are going to experience visceral pain as you show what God is really like to people who have forgotten who He is and who they are. Jesus did.
Even creation “groans and travails” because of the brokenness imposed on it when man decided to create his own temporal glory instead of living in the beauty of God’s eternal glory. Our bodies and hearts can now be broken because this world no longer works like He planned when He made it “good”.
But in spite of the realities of this shattered world, Peter reminds us that our felt pain is only for “a while”. It won’t be long before this Generous God…puts you back together again. Suffering may seem interminable, but it is seasonal.
The Enemy of our souls who infects our lives and world with the pain he hopes will break God’s heart, has only a short time to play. God—in just the right moment—enters into our pain and does such beautiful things with it that the Enemy writhes in the agony of utter defeat impaled on his own sword.
You see, God loves to restore. Peter says he will “make you” whole. The word is so rich. It means to fit out; equip; and complete. The idea at its root is to build a special aptitude from above. God takes the pain of life and weaves it together into a masterpiece that reflects the reality and totality of who He is before the eyes of a watching world.
He puts us back together—filling in the missing pieces with grace. It is the exchange Isaiah once called “beauty for ashes”.
Peter says this restoration process at the hands of God will make us:
- Strong—the idea of the word is “capable”. The very thing the Enemy employs to distort and disfigure us God uses it to sculpt and beautify. The very pain which was once used to define our sense of identity becomes the tool by which He refines the family resemblance.
- Secure—this rich word indicates the removal of anything that makes us shaky or insecure. When pain attempts to make us bankrupt, God moves in to make us brave. The instability and uncertainty produced by seasons of despair are replaced with the freedom and safety of one who lived to tell about it.
- Steadfast—Peter says ultimately this restoration grounds us. We are settled and stable because we have held on through the storm and come out on the other side. The lasting, tempered faith that is forged in the fires of living is unflappable, unyielding, uncompromising and unshakable.
That’s why Peter could urge us to fight. “Resist” this roaring lion who is constantly on the prowl determined to make you less and other than God’s design and delight. Don’t give in to the lies that identify you with your failure, shame, struggle or pain.
Fight for your life! God is.
It won’t be long…you’ll see.