The Weekly Epistle 6/28/23

Hi Living Hope Family,

I woke up in a bad mood on Monday. My mind, of course, went to Peanuts. 

Lucy was complaining about her lousy day. Charlie Brown is trying to cheer her up with the words, “Into each life some rain must fall.” That didn’t seem to help at all. He tried another saying, “Just remember, life has its mountains and valleys; its ups and its downs.” To which Lucy replied, “All I want is ups and ups and ups!” 

Wouldn’t that be nice? A life of just ups and ups and ups. Dream on. What kind of person would I be if I never experienced valleys? What happens in me in the “downs” of life that wouldn’t be true if life was only one “up” experience after another? 

What kid wants to hear, “But this is to build character”? I never liked hearing that when I was growing up, and at times even now, that thought makes me cringe. “Is character building all that it is cracked up to be?” I wonder. Romans 5 calls us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (see Romans 5:3-5). 

Suffering will always change you. For some, trying times lead to anger, rebellion, and at worse walking away from the faith. For others, suffering increases faith in God. Why the different responses? 

There are many reasons for this. I want to camp on just one. It really depends on what my faith and hope are tied to. Is it dependent on a certain outcome? Is that outcome something I believe I am entitled to? If I judge God’s faithful love based on what I can see or whether He answers my prayers the way I want, I may walk away before I get to see the end. I won’t be able to rejoice in it and my difficulty will seem pointless. 

However, if suffering is going to produce character, then my faith and hope is in knowing God loves me and will shape me through the trials. The ups and ups and ups of life are opportunities for thanksgiving to the Lord for His blessings, but they don’t produce in me a deeper faith. The ups in life don’t really force me to look at what I value, what is important, or what kind of person I am or becoming. Left to myself, I would choose the easier way. 

I read about an artist who claimed that sculpting was very easy. He would say, “If you want to create a sculpture, say of a horse, you get a piece of marble and chip away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.” Might he have over-simplified that a bit? Perhaps. But isn’t that what God does in our lives? If we are to become like Jesus, we give ourselves to the Lord, then He chips away everything that doesn’t look like him. (Check out skit guy’s YouTube video: God’s chisel). Click Here

Oh! My bad mood? Let’s just say, God is still chipping away that unloving, irritable, impatient, and selfish person that doesn’t look like Jesus. 

A work in progress, Pastor Brian