We all share a gift. The gift that seems to be universal in this world is that of over-complicating our problems. We are masters at seeing the things that go wrong in our lives as multi-faceted, intricate conspiracies that have been nipping at our heels for years and finally overtook us. Our misfortune is “different” than other people’s because we have “x” going on, and we just got finished with “x”, and God knows that we are staring “x” right in the face while our world seems to be crumbling around us. Our profession, our finances, our grief, our family, our mind, our addictions, our habits, etc… Our problems have to be much deeper than people understand.
I humbly disagree.
I read a short book yesterday by Frank Viola and one of the standout quotes was this:
For Paul, Jesus Christ is the solution to all problems. And any problem that a believer or a church has can be juiced down to one common denominator: They have lost sight of Christ.
– Frank Viola
Scattered through the Gospel of John are myriad examples of this “gift” and this solution. Nicodemus had outside pressures that surely Jesus couldn’t understand. The woman at the well carried a social stigma and broken past that this Jewish Rabbi couldn’t have known about. Mary & Martha believed in Jesus but had completely resigned themselves to a dead brother. Pilate seems to want to believe Jesus, he reaches a tipping point, but what did this so-called King expect? Could he really stand in the face of Rome and Caesar?
There have always been, and will always be, contingencies that help us justify our doubts and find an ironic rest in our problems. We see our lives as a spider’s web of intrigue that has been orchestrated to bring about these difficulties, so what is the point in really even trying?
The reality is much simpler than we want to believe, and much more glorious. I cannot explain every problem, death, depression, or hardship. And really I don’t believe that a life lived in Christ will circumvent all of those things. What I grip tightly with my spirit is that an over-arching and long-abiding relationship with Jesus Christ brings the problems that we face into a profound sense of irrelevance. Simply put, the struggles still struggle, but they just aren’t that important anymore. There is no conspiracy. The master plan isn’t all that mastering. The great web of deceit that seems to have converged on us just loses its ability to impress, intimidate, and overwhelm when we land our affections and attention on the glorious presence of the world-redeeming Savior. Do I still hurt? Sure, sometimes. Do I still weep? Of course. Is life stressful and disappointing? More than I’d like it to be. But Paul offers me this glorious reality:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:6, 8-10, 16-18
It is the light of Jesus that illuminates the powerlessness of problems, depression, hardship, and even death. So it is critical that as we encounter these things we understand that we will deconstruct their complexity only as we encounter Jesus. My friends, may I suggest that there actually is a conspiracy here, one that was set in motion before the foundations of the world. But that conspiracy is not to harm you, but it is the devious and brilliant plan by the Father, Son, and Spirit to bless you, to give you hope, and to bring you into nearness with the very source of life.