I recently had some deep dental cleaning done. The dentist warned me to eat a good meal before the appointment because I wouldn’t be able to afterward and he said to take aspirin every 4 hours after the appointment to stave off the inevitable pain. I took pain reliever beforehand but that was it. In the days that followed I had absolutely zero pain, no swelling, and no discomfort whatsoever.
I give God all the credit for that. He is the God who heals me. On the other hand, my friend spent 9 months in a pit of despair, anxiety, severe panic attacks and depression that no amount of prayer could lift. Does God somehow love me more than her? Is He only big enough to fix tooth pain, but finds mental distress more than He can handle?
Of course not. God does not change, nor is His hand too short to reach into every area of life and move as He wills. Is the difference me? Have I grown in my faith to the point where when I call, God jumps and does whatever I need? Again, no. Did God decide my friend should suffer unrelenting panic for days on end because He felt like punishing her? God forbid.
When we are suffering through trials of any sort, we usually take one of two approaches:
1. Decide it is our lot in life to suffer, believing that for whatever reason, God has ordained that we should bear this cross and we need to deal with it as best we can. Or,
2. We believe God will heal everyone and everything just so long as our faith is strong enough to believe for that healing.
Some very popular TV preachers tell us that God must heal us if we stand on His word and believe it with all our hearts. It is all up to us to have big enough faith. If we do our part well, God will be obligated to move because He “obeys” His promises. This is the familiar hyper-grace message. On the flip side is legalism, taught by equally famous preachers who tell us God is completely sovereign. He does as He wills, has mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy and we have to learn to put up with our afflictions.
Both sides can support their position scripturally. Both will tell you the other side is either practicing heresy or are legalistic hypocrites. How do we know who to believe? Do we just follow our hearts and believe what makes sense to us? Does that mean there is no absolute truth? It certainly is popular to teach there is no one truth, but everyone can believe what is right for you as if there is more than one true gospel and each person gets to choose what feels best for them.
It’s also easy to look at the opposing position and discount them as biblically unsound. Yet, if we are willing to be completely honest and take a fair look at the other position instead of blindly discounting what we don’t like, we will see their view is supported by scripture.
So what’s the answer? Who is right? IS there any real, right answer? There is. There must be. There is only one Truth and that Truth, with a capital T, is Christ. He is all Truth, just as He is all love, all mercy, all grace, and all righteousness. There is only one Christ, one begotten son of the Father, so there can only be one Truth.
Both of those positions, hyper-grace and legalism are opposite sides of the same road. My pastor called them the ditches on either side of the Christian walk.
If those are the ditches, what is the path in between? The answer, quite simply, is Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. It is the third option, where the question is not, does God give us what we want or not, but are we living for Christ instead of for what He can give us? Is our focus on our situation, or on Him?
Our solution for the challenges of life that we deal with is to let our heart be transformed so we desire only Christ – even more than we desire healing or righteous living. Both of those are things Christ can give us, and wanting them is not a bad thing, but God’s desire is that we would want HIM more than we want what He can give us. The ditches on either side of the Christian walk are when we are living in a pursuit of what Christ gives. The Way down the middle is the pursuit of Christ alone. It is a heart that desires Christ above all things.
On that path, our circumstances don’t matter. We are willing to suffer trials or receive blessings only as a means to show God’s glory. Our greatest desire is that He would be glorified, in our trials or in our triumphs. The stuff in the ditches no longer matter, it is all about Him. All of our worldly burdens fall away. They don’t always go away, but they become easier to bear because Jesus carries the load.
When our only desire is for a closer relationship with Jesus, we become focused on eternal life, the bigger picture of what God is doing on earth as part of His plan for eternity. Earthly struggles become less important, less of an immovable mountain, and more like an ant hill. Stepping on an ant hill may leave you with the annoying itch of ant bites but it won’t stop you from enjoying a life with Christ.