The other day a dear friend was sharing how happy he feels since becoming engaged to a wonderful woman.  But he admitted to a bit of anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.  It seems that he lives with a fair amount of cognitive dissonance that comes from maintaining a public persona.  As a PK (pastor’s kid) he perfected his public performance as a charming, considerate and gracious son, in contrast (per his mom’s repeated messages) to his ‘normal’ behavior at home.  What does his not uncommon childhood have to do with his current happiness?

In his mind, I think, he has made his current blessing from God conditional on his maintaining his ‘good’ self. After all, we are trained to work for rewards.   Deep down inside he feels unworthy and he knows he is not the good person he projects.  What if he can’t keep up his performance?  Will the rewards be taken away?   Besides this fundamental unworthiness, there is also fear; fear that if people REALLY knew him, they would reject him.  So fear of losing what makes him happy and fear of possible shame create a small lurking cloud of potential suffering.

Jesus says that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. (Romans 8:32) To my friend and all of us who feel guilty, hear the good news:  We ARE guilty…we ARE bad….far worse than we admit.  This suspicion that we are truly bad is based on truth. And God doesn’t worry about our self-image.  He tells us straight up. He glances at all the good stuff we do and says through Isaiah (64:6) that our best deeds are like filthy rags to him.  How’s THAT for not mincing words!!!

But God (2 great words) loves us anyway.  He is willing to cover us (remember Adam & Eve when they felt ashamed because of their sin?).  And in order to protect our dignity as image-bearers, He is willing to shed another’s blood (an animal in the Garden; his son on a hill).

How is that truth freeing to us?  Because we no longer have to pretend to ourselves that we are good.  And since EVERY other human on this planet is just as guilty and evil as we are, why pretend with OTHERS?   Think of the energy freed up by not having to maintain two Selves?

Now what about the blessings?  Fear of losing someone we love is natural.  One becomes vulnerable when one loves.  Just get a pet or have a baby; you know what I mean!  So suffering is inevitable.  We can’t prevent it.  But we CAN know that it is not random.  All suffering is filtered through God’s hands.  And He promises to be with us in the midst of suffering.

I’ll leave you with a thought about how to view suffering.  Tim Keller quoted a Jonathan Edwards sermon on contentment.  Summarizing Edwards, Keller wrote that contentment or peace depend on knowing deep down inside three things:

  1. All the bad stuff in our life God uses and brings good out of it for us
  2. All the truly good stuff in our life, we can never lose, such as…

a)   The fact our names are written in God’s book of life

b)   The fact that we’re justified and have been adopted by Him and have a huge inheritance that we  can draw on even now

c)    The fact of Christ’s intercession for us at God’s right hand

3. The best is yet to come!

So dear friend and to all of us…fear not!