Suffering Your Inheritance

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Suffering Your Inheritance

Exodus 1:1–7

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Romans 2:1–11

The Righteous Judgment of God

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

God’s grace goes before us, creating paths that meet our needs.Tweet: God's grace goes before us, creating paths that meet our needs.

It doesn’t always work out the way we want, nor does it often work out in a way that is fair, but we cannot deny that God works and moves in our world.

Everyone has mixed baggage from their childhood and from the ancestors that came before them. The choices that our great-great grandparents made have huge effects on our own lives. Often they, not we, determined where we would be born, what kind of home we would live in, what kind of job opportunities we would have early in life, who we would be able to connect with socially, etc. For instance, I was born in rural Illinois because my great grandfather decided to leave his own rural home in Kentucky and move up to work in the fields in Illinois as a teenager. Instead of finishing school and learning to read, he went for a place with abundant work and food, during a time when our nation had little of either. That limited his ability to afford schooling for his children, which carried on to my own parents as well. Two generations struggled to make it through high school with one decision.

In terms of hurdles, that is nothing compared to what many other people face. It just shows that life requires effort. We cannot expect everything to be handed to us without giving up strength, maturity, and wisdom. Mind you, it is not just the trials of life that shape us, it is the mundane, day-to-day routines every bit as much. Our “normal” life teaches us what “normal” looks like and encourages us to create more of it around us.Tweet: Our

So whatever we build, we build on the foundation that our predecessors laid for us. It is our context. The context of Moses was that he came from a people who were immigrants in a nation that had welcomed them in with mercy. Within several generations though, the Hebrew people vastly outnumbered the Egyptians who had let them in. The Egyptian Welfare eventually dried up and things became tense between the landowners and the visiting Hebrews, who were probably working those lands before they were officially made slaves along with all the other immigrants of Egypt. Moses was born into a mess.

Paul tells us in Romans, that we are all born into some kind of mess or another. We all start off in the wrong context, thanks to all those who went before us. But God’s grace even then, creates a path for us to the right place, the right context. The trouble is, just because a way is made, does not mean we have to take it. God can make the way. We have to walk it.

Where has God made a way for you in the past?

What foundations in your life do you need to move away from?

Where is God’s grace leading you today?

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Falling and Recovery

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Falling and Recovery

Genesis 25:19-34

The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob1

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples born of you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Esau Sells His Birthright2

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Matthew 13:1-9

The Parable of the Sower3

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

No family goes and grows with a 100% success rate, by any standards. Within any particular group you will find a leader, a facilitator, and an agitator… and in groups bigger than three people, there will be more than one of each. The leaders take responsibility. The facilitator’s negotiate to keep things going smoothly. The agitators make sure everyone keeps moving and growing. It takes all types.

What do you do as the parents of twins that are fighting with each other from the day of their birth? When you can’t please everyone because everyone can’t seem to agree on what they want, what do you do? Isaac and Rebekah picked their favorite child and ran with it. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they didn’t didn’t pick the same child, so instead of one person being left out, the split resonated up through their own relationship. Having a “black sheep” of the family is hard enough to deal with, but what happens the family cannot agree on how to handle them. Disciplining the children is one of the big causes of divorce in families and the story of Isaac s family shows us why.

Jesus taught that not every heart we share God’s love with will be ready and able to receive it. But that fact didn’t stop Him and it shouldn’t stop us. God loves us out of an eternal abundance. He will never run out of love for us. If we love like Jesus, with the love of Jesus, we won’t run out either because we can always go back for more.

So, how do we deal with our family members that just don’t quite fit the mold, and some days seem like they never will? We show them the full measure of what grace is at home. We speak the truth in love winning them over with gentleness, not harshness. Even in cases where there is abuse in relationships, I find it helpful to think of the needs of the other person. Allowing them to mistreat you or others in the family is not only unacceptable to the victims, it creates an environment that accepts the abuser, not as the child of God they are, with potential for good, but simply becomes tolerance for them with an often unspoken belief that they will never change. In fact, it becomes tempting for the victims of that abuse to begin comparing themselves to their abuser – that they are so much better than them, or in some of the worst cases, that they somehow deserve it, because they are worse than their abusers. In either case, the Christian home is not a place for comparing ourselves to each other.

In some of the most healthy families, we are not only able to give those struggling members a safe and healthy home in which to find grace in the midst of their struggle, but we are able to learn from them as well. Without challenge, without those agitator personalities, we get stagnant and stop growing ourselves. They also broaden our perspectives. It is often these agitator folks who develop a passion for taking God’s grace outside the home and sharing it with people and families that do not have it, because they can identify with the struggles themselves. Remember, Jesus Himself was seen as a black sheep in His own family!

Where have you felt that you did not quite fit in?

Who are the those in your family that need extra grace?

How can you ask for and share that grace that you have received?


  1. (Rom 9:10–12)
  2. (Heb 12:16)
  3. (Mk 4:1–9, 13–20; Lk 8:4–8, 11–15)

Time and Place

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Time and Place

Isaiah 2:1-4

The Future House of God1

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.

John 12:44-50

Summary of Jesus’ Teaching

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is an appropriate time, and an appropriate place for everything. The trick is figuring out when and where that time and place is. Unfortunately we cannot read the Bible like an instruction manual for life. It’s frustrating, especially when we have significant decisions to make. Sometimes it even makes us envious of the pagans with their fortune reading rituals and we wonder why we cannot come up with a Christian version of that. In truth, the Jews of the Old Testament used to draw lots to determine God’s will and this tradition even carried on to the beginning of the Christian movement, though to be fair, this was before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when the Church was given more direct access to the wisdom and will of God.

One of the places we struggle the most is knowing when and where to judge others in our homes. There are two extremes that get polarized i these debates. Either we want to err on the side of grace and claim that a home is no place for judgment at all (and maybe it there is no place for us to be judging others at all), or else we put up strict boundaries in the name of protecting our family and family values from outside influences.

Regarding these relationships, Jesus told His followers to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, specifically regarding the way we act when we go into places of persecution, but for most of us, this is not what our home is. Our home is the place where we feel strongest, most in control, most comfortable. Hopefully it is not a place of persecution for your guests, where they feel that they need to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves there.

Home, as Jesus teaches above, is a place of refuge for the lost and a sanctuary for the hopeless, and not just for ourselves. A true Christian home is so filled with grace that it reaches out and draws in others who are missing God’s love in their lives. It is a place of peace for those who cannot find peace in their lives. If home is the place we are strongest, than it is from home that we are called to first love even our enemies. In showing true Christian hospitality and love in our homes, we reinforce who we are as a family, demonstrating our values, not just with words, but with actions. Grace and law meet together when we serve others from our place of strength because there, even though we hold power over our guests, we show the proper use of that strength is in loving others into the kingdom rather than judging them. Home is not a place for judgment. It is one of God’s doorways into His family for all His lost children.

Where do you face the most judgment in your life?

Where do you find it easiest to welcome others into God’s love?


  1. (Mic 4:1–5)

Inheritance

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Inheritance

Deuteronomy 32:1-10

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;

let the earth hear the words of my mouth.

May my teaching drop like the rain,

my speech condense like the dew;

like gentle rain on grass,

like showers on new growth.

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;

ascribe greatness to our God!

The Rock, his work is perfect,

and all his ways are just.

A faithful God, without deceit,

just and upright is he;

yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him,

a perverse and crooked generation.

Do you thus repay the Lord,

O foolish and senseless people?

Is not he your father, who created you,

who made you and established you?

Remember the days of old,

consider the years long past;

ask your father, and he will inform you;

your elders, and they will tell you.

When the Most High apportioned the nations,

when he divided humankind,

he fixed the boundaries of the peoples

according to the number of the gods;

the Lord’s own portion was his people,

Jacob his allotted share.

He sustained him in a desert land,

in a howling wilderness waste;

he shielded him, cared for him,

guarded him as the apple of his eye.

Romans 15:14-21

Paul’s Reason for Writing So Boldly

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him shall see,

and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”

Everyone wants to get their share. The whole concept of economy is based upon possessions passing from the haves to the have-nots. When things do not flow smoothly we have some of our ugliest conflicts. Whether it is Aunt Polly’s quilt collection or Corporation shares, fights often break out when someone with wealth dies and there is no clear understanding of who is to receive their leftover wealth and why.

Inheritance, by its very nature is biased and prejudiced to the poor and against the wealthy. It is certainly possible for wealthy people to gain inheritance from those poorer than themselves, but the majority of the time it is received by those with less or similar resources. We usually have no problem with this, even when those on the receiving end appear less deserving than the ones they received it from. For one, those who leave this life are generally believed to be in less need of physical possessions than those left among the living. But even when inheritances are delivered early there is something that appeals to our sense of nobility when the poor are blessed by the rich.

As Christians, we are called to move beyond our penchants for possessions. In Deuteronomy, Moses points out that God also is looking to get his share… but what could God possibly want that He does not have or cannot simply create for Himself. Moses tells us that, when God was allotting out portions of land to the people, what He wanted for Himself was the people. In this particular case, it wasn’t just any people, but the Hebrew people that God had chosen and rescued from slavery in Egypt.

Paul had a similar experience to Moses with the Gentiles as he helped bring them into the kingdom. The Apostle to the Gentiles could have been the wealthiest of the Christian leaders. With his connections he could have been the safest of them all. But he only had one desire. He wanted every person, Jew or Gentile, to know the love of God. That was what he wanted as his inheritance.

What is the inheritance you desire most?

What does it mean for you to be the thing God desires most?

Steps

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Steps

Exodus 3:1-6

Moses at the Burning Bush1

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. “

Romans 2:12-16

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

No one plans on becoming a step-child. It is a role that happens to you. I became an adult step-child almost three years ago and it is an odd feeling at times. I had friends who were step-children much earlier in their lives and the two experiences cannot compare. To be related to someone is not the same thing as being raised by them. I think the general outcome of it though is a feeling of being a stranger in your own home. It is not just the children either. The whole process of remarriage redraws some of the most sacred boundary lines that we know, and it is never the same.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Moses was adopted into family of Pharaoh, and that may be the only thing that saved his life as a baby. Curiously, for Moses, one of the most important characters in Jewish history, we know little of his father. We have his mother and sister who play important roles, and even a father-in-law later in life, but no naming of an earthly father at all. All we know is that he was from the house of Levi (as was his mother). Did Moses ever meet his father? We don’t know.

Moses lived almost the entirety of his life as a stranger in a strange land. The only one who truly treated him as His own was God, and here, in this first encounter, Moses was terrified. He only knew how to feel out of place. This invitation to relationship was outside of his experience and he did not know what to do, what to think, or how to feel. Most of us have been there. Whether you are part of the growing number of people who have step-families, or if you have just found yourself thrust out of your element, you’ve found yourself a stranger, searching for the familiar. To complicate matters further, the attempts of others to adopt us into fellowship often fall flat due to misguided intentions and our own anxieties causing us to be over-defensive. Or maybe it’s just me.

Whether we are on the inside or the outside looking in at this moment, there is a curious phenomenon that occurs in our relationships. We start to bend the rules and blur the boundaries that we normally hold dear, in order to help bring in those step-children or to help join that fellowship ourselves. We see this all over the New Testament, both in the Gospels and especially in Paul’s letters to the Gentile churches. They, and we, struggle with the question: How far can we flex for the sake of welcoming someone in?

Paul brings an important thought to this conversation. How much of what is right and wrong do they already know and do? Some Christians were ready to throw out every standard they had, in the name of grace… but for Paul, this was actually thinking too little of these new Gentile believers, and of the God who made us all. He believed that there was at least some degree of instinctual morality that is put into us by our Creator, and while we may not know the ritual law, much of what is right and wrong we can learn through observing and experiencing life. I must admit that this reasoning does not always work out perfectly, but there are times, perhaps more often than not, when it rings true.

So what does that mean for us? Don’t be so quick to compromise your sacred values that define who you are and who your community is without at least having an open conversation about them. It does not need to occur in the form of an ultimatum, and sometimes we are put into new communities against our own will, but that does not mean that we cannot reach an understanding, even if we cannot reach agreement. For children especially, it makes a huge difference when they can tell someone thinks more of them than they often do themselves. However, the temptation for those of us on the inside to welcome them into responsibility before welcoming them into the privileges of the family – giving them the chores without the attention, but that is not a true welcome. It is just another form of tolerance while trying to profit from their presence. Instead, we should take our cues from God’s model of family, where there are no second-class citizens.

Where do you feel like a stranger the most?

What strangers in your life can you welcome in with wisdom and holy love?


  1. (Ex 6:2–7:7; 11:1–4; 12:35–36)

The Unloved

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The Unloved

Genesis 29:31-35

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “Because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing.

John 13:1-17

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them”

The Bible is full of stories about the patriarchs of the faith and often, tangentially, the women in their lives. This is typical for the genre of spiritual literature, particularly from the ancient world. Women are not the main players in most of those stories, and women in secondary roles usually remain nameless. The role of women is one of the places that the Bible breaks away from the cultural norms of the time. Women are named and their stories are told as well. God notices not only Abraham, but Sarah as well. Even more, God notices Hagar, the servant woman, and blesses her and her illegitimate child as well.

It is not surprising to us then, that God has a special blessing for Leah, the first wife who was relegated to secondary status because she was used to keep Jacob as a servant for her father when she was switched out for her younger sister Rachel, the bride he intended to marry. She was not neglected and cast out the way Hagar was. But she was locked into a shadow life playing handmaid to her sister and husband. God blessed her with children to fill her life.

That blessing carried with it the temptation to flaunt her ability to bear children over her sister’s infertility, the way Hagar did to Sarah. However, God does not bless his children so they can tease, taunt, and retaliate upon each other. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught his disciples that blessings are given to be shared. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then charged them to do the same for each other. Instead of fighting over who got the best blessing, Jesus called them to share all that they had been given with one another. “Freely you have received, freely give.”

How has God met you when others would or could not?

How have you shared that blessing with others?

A Spoonful of Sugar

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A Spoonful of Sugar

Genesis 29:1-14

Jacob Meets Rachel

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.

Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,” they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”

While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father.

When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.

Romans 3:1-8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words,

and prevail in your judging.”

But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

God has a cure for the sin that so readily ails and breaks us. Forgiveness gives us a chance to start anew, but the corruption of sin still stands at our door. Life itself will teach us the folly of our self-centered ways if we live long enough to experience the consequences. Names go down in history for both the good and the bad, and if we were truly wise, we might learn how to live just by observing life itself.

My favorite example of this is the testimony of Brother Lawrence, a wounded French soldier in the 1600’s who had a moment of conversion seeing a barren tree in the dead of winter. He knew that spring would bring new life to that tree, and he dedicated his life to serving the God that brings new life to us all. He served out the remainder of his days working in the kitchen of a Carmelite priory in Paris. If only I had been wise enough to turn my life over to God that easily! Unfortunately, I am a much slower learner.

Just like Jacob, our own misdeeds come back to haunt us, but we are not left fending for ourselves. God’s love does not usually remove those consequences altogether, but He always carries us through them. Indeed, there is a special kind of redemption in the suffering – a bit of sugar that helps the medicine go down, if you will. As all acts are contagious to the perception of those around us, evil deeds, particularly ones that go unpunished, teach us all that we can get away with wrongdoing and that wrongdoing is essential to getting ahead in life. The bad attitudes and acts spread like a sickness. However, the act of suffering ourselves and leaning on God as our strength shows the opposite witness, especially when such suffering is not the direct consequence of our own action (although that has a particularly good kind of witness as well). The best kind of witness is when we simply suffer living in a messed up world, whose mess we have contributed to ourselves from time to time, and when we can show others how we seek God as our comfort in those times.

That suffering changes us. It brings our true priorities into focus and exposes any faults there may be in them. As God allows us to suffer in the brokenness, He gives us the opportunity to experience it for what it really is: creation separated from its loving creator, children separated from their loving father. We can know the destruction of sin with our mind, but it is a completely different thing to experience it in our lives, and in doing so it helps us to identify with Jesus and to see other people the way that He did.

The medicine we take to rid our lives of sin and rebellion against God can be difficult, even painful at times. The spoonful of sugar that God gives us is the grace of His presence with us through the trial, testing us not so God can find out what we are made of, but so we can find out what God has created us to be.

Where do you wish you were feeling God’s presence more in your life?