Suffering. That word just makes my skin crawl. Afflictions. Oh, how I hate them! I want my life to be rosy and bump-less. I want to fly through each day soaring on heights of euphoria upon euphoria. Instead, today’s reality suffers like a persistent toothache – all-encompassing enough to ruin my focus and drive me batty. Today’s afflictions uncomfortably weigh me down, like a soggy blanket in a cold wind when I’m already freezing to death.
They have stirred my flight reflex. My whole being is primed and longing to run away – I don’t care where as long as it is away from what’s staring me down today. I’m a mess. My instinct is to try and fix my mess. I feel circumstances tightening like a vice, strangling hope and clarity. I grasp at whatever I can to change it. I flail against the daily distress of life in a broken world, fighting to outrun it.
The world puts us into pigeon holes. It quantifies us by our salary and means and judges us by what we do and the status derived from it. I constantly turn to my accomplishments and talents to make sense of my existence and save me, even after they constantly disappoint.
In Colossians, Paul stops my fixation of the chaos around and inside me with his prompts of who God is, what He has done for me through Christ, and who I am in Christ. Suffering creates a closeness and intimacy with Christ that nothing else can. It reminds me that this world is not my home. I cannot find my worth in the shifting shadows and vapors of today. I cannot look to created things to authenticate me.
He goes on to purpose that the word of God fully known – the Gospel – shapes and molds us into maturity. Maturity that speaks of perfection and completion, lacking in nothing. Maturity that transcends my current circumstances. Maturity that I won’t see on this side of eternity. Maturity that comes not from my striving and trying, but from the Promise of God, fully complete in Christ’s death and resurrection, while I’m still here slogging through the not yet.
When I focus on my list of anxieties I forget who God is, what he has done for me, and who I am in Christ. I must consciously turn and, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps 136:1) Because of his great love for us, God has made us alive in Christ. God, being rich in mercy, has reconciled us with himself. God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13).
The work of justification is already done. The most humbling, astonishing, and thrilling of miracles has already transpired. The most immense and impossible debt has already been cleared and paid in blood and written off. God orchestrates and loves and composes and arranges outside of time. Now and not yet.
No one seeks after God on their own. God sows those desires in our hearts. Everything that I do and have comes from who I am in Him. He speaks His name and identity over me so truly and completely and perfectly even though I am not yet finished. Oh, for the faith to rest in that and rejoice in that without ceasing!
The mystery of the ages is Christ within and among us, the hope of glory. Within us and among us. Now and not yet.
In response to Colossians 1:23-2:5
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