Look, the grief I experienced was for my benefit.
You delivered me from the pit of oblivion.
For you removed all my sins from your sight. Isa. 38:17 (NET)
Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Lk 14:27
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
The three things that will last forever are brutal and merciless in their requirements. If there is one absolute fact about the Christian life, it is that it is not possible to live it and also escape injury. To embrace Love, Hope, and Faith means that one must let up one’s own guard and be vulnerable at the risk and almost certainty of incurring personal harm.
Yet this is exactly the winding narrow road that must be taken. To love even those who cause you harm, to allow oneself to have peace and hope in the midst of uncertainty at the risk of enduring pain if such hopes are unfounded, and to be patient and endure terrible tragedies in the belief that God has known this day before we were born and somehow even this works out for our good.
It is the nature of how God works within us to save us from ourselves. If the Kingdom of God only sprouted out of a stump (Isa. 11), it is because destruction had to pave the way for peace. And considering that there is no greater injury than when God himself ordains it, this is where Faith, Hope, and Love receive their ultimate test. For if Jesus himself could not escape this injury when he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”, then we must also endure it.
But how can our evil hearts possibly know to be obedient in these things if we have not know the contrasts between the fruit of love if we have never seen the destruction of hate, and how can we know hope if we have never been paralyzed by fear, and how can we know faith if we have not felt the true and utter despair of the deepest loneliness of feeling isolation and rejection from others or from our very Creator?
It is only through this brutal method that we can be enriched to purity. As Bernard of Clairvaux pondered in On Loving God, the purest love is not out of natural self-preservation or thankfulness for being provided for, but that our own love and identity comes solely from the the love of God- that it comes purely, untainted from the life-giving vine, that bottomless well of living water. It is what allows us to react as Job did initially and refuse to curse God even though we may perceive that in that moment it is our every right- to be able to pray that though he may curse us, will we endure it (“Should we accept good, but not illness from God?”).
There is no alternative, for Love, Hope, and Faith are the only things which we will have left when this world passes away- which is our greatest hope. For the day is coming when the clouds will be rolled back, and our King will come to bring peace. Only then will we be able to have Love, Hope, and Faith without injury, but unless we bear it now, we will never see it. It is the greatest irony that all of our injury is gain, and those who avoid it at all costs will never escape it.
When a scorner is punished, the naive becomes wise. Prov 21:11