God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
Last post, published the morning before Easter, we saw how Jesus’ resurrected body was badly scarred. (If you’re interested, you can check out our previous post here: The Scars of Easter.)
Today we’ll look at how the life of a Jesus follower is scarred even as Jesus was scarred — whether we want it that way or not.
So the first piece of reality we have to come to grips with is one of the reasons God gives us a life to live. The world we live in today, even during the pandemic, is amazingly comfortable, especially if you’re reading this in a first world country. We have climate control, and grocery stores, and we even have most of the information in the world at our fingertips because of the internet. If we become uncomfortable we act to change our environment to remedy our discomfort. If we’re hungry we shop for food, or run to a restaurant for take-out, or we can even have our favorite food delivered by Grubhub or DoorDash. If we’re cold we turn up the thermostat. If we’re hot we turn on the air conditioning. If we want to buy something, Amazon will deliver it to our door. If we’re bored we turn to the screens on our phones, or computers, or TVs.
We’re very much in this mode of adapting our environment to accommodate our comfort. We’re conditioned to do so. As a result, many of us have developed an aversion to discomfort.
It’s no wonder the tradition of fasting and prayer has declined in frequency among believers. We’re programmed to react to discomfort with modern solutions. That’s the goal of advertising. “You have a pain point, and we have a solution,” the man or woman on our screen tells us.
Over time, we can begin to fall into a mindset where we expect our lives to be like a hotel, or even a cruise ship or a resort. But that’s not at all what God has in mind for us. When you study his favorite people in the Bible, invariably they experienced great hardship. Turns out He didn’t send us to a hotel. Turns out God didn’t put us on a cruise ship or in a resort.
Turns out He sent us to the gym.
I think a lot of us experience disappointment, heartache, anxiety, and depression because our expectations are violated. We walked into the gym expecting to be pain free. We walked into the gym expecting smooth waters and when the storms come we’re taken by surprise.
Before you say, “Hang on a minute Kurt. That may apply to some people, but I’m not like that,” you might want to ask yourself if you’ve ever responded to a difficulty with these words: “Why me?”
“Why is this happening to me?”
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“I can’t believe that just happened!”
We say these things sometimes, even though Jesus told us ahead of time: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33)
And Peter told us: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
Yes, we do. Especially us first worlders. Something hard happens and we react as though it were something strange.
Jesus experienced tribulation. As you already know he was beaten and mocked and derided and whipped and pierced with thorns and pierced with nails and pierced with a spear. He was wounded, brutally wounded, for our transgressions.
The truth is, like Jesus, for every one of us, it’s not a matter of if but it’s just a matter of when. Every one of us will be brutally wounded. Every one of us will be brutally wounded even as Jesus was brutally wounded. And that’s true whether you’re a Jesus follower or not. Every human being will have to walk through dark times.
And also like Jesus, every one of us will bear scars as a result.
So it turns out your story is like Jesus’ story, whether you like it or not. Life on this planet is cyclical. You endure tribulation and then you experience resurrection. Time passes. More tribulation comes. More time passes. The tribulation ends and resurrection comes again. Tribulation. Resurrection. Tribulation. Resurrection.
You lose someone you love. You grieve. You come out of your grief. You enjoy a time of resurrection. Then you lose someone else you love. You grieve. You come out of your grief. You’re resurrected again.
You’re betrayed. You forgive and move past the betrayal. Until you’re betrayed again. Then you forgive again.
You become seriously ill. You recover your health. Until you’re ill again. Then you recover again.
Tribulation. Resurrection. Tribulation. Resurrection. It’s not strange. This is exactly what we can expect.
Toward the end of life there’s a difference between the Jesus follower and the unbeliever. When the final tribulation comes and life on this earth is finished, the Jesus follower experiences one final eternal resurrection. That’s important, that’s huge, but there’s another difference.
Suffering Like Jesus
I recently heard a young wife and mother tell her story and the story of her daughter. When this woman was a teenager she had grown lukewarm in her faith. Her parents and all their friends had Christ at the center of their lives, so she was surrounded so to speak, whenever she was home. One clear night, when she was seventeen years old, her dad was on the roof praying and he asked her if she would pray with him. She wasn’t interested.
Her dad said, “Sometimes, if you want to know God’s love for you, you can ask Him for a sign.”
The woman telling her story said, “I was really just anxious to leave. So I said, ‘If God really loves me, He can show me a shooting star right now.”
And He did.
She told her dad it was just a coincidence on a clear starry night.
Then she said this: “With a sarcastic and petulant request, I blurted out: ‘If God really loved me, He would show me a shooting star from one end of the horizon to the other end of the horizon slowly.'”
It happened immediately. Just as she described, a beautiful “star” moved slowly from one end of the horizon to the other.
She’s never seen anything like it before or since.
She says she doesn’t recommend testing God this way. But God moved her that night.
She prayed with her dad.
It wasn’t long after, she gave herself to God completely.
She went to college. She married a guy named Brian who was serving in the Navy. They had seven children. This young woman begins the next part of her story with “One evening when life seemed especially easy and happy…”
A few weeks after that evening, her eight year old daughter Bridget had to be rushed to the hospital. Ultimately Bridget was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
Bridget and her family entered into their own cycle of tribulation and resurrection. Bridget was hospitalized. But, three times she miraculously rallied when her doctors were expecting her days to be short. During these times of resurrection, if you will, Bridget had her confirmation, she went to Disneyworld, she went to camp.
While enduring her treatments and during her time in the hospital, this eight year old Bridget, she was courageous, she was free from anxiety, she was amazing. Her family and friends started calling her Bridget the Brave. People were attracted to Bridget’s spirit. She was always ready with a smile. She was a model of faith, courage, and friendship. She was kind. She could talk to anyone of any age.
But eventually the cancer overwhelmed her. Bridget couldn’t breathe without a ventilator. Ultimately, she died in her mother’s arms. But her spirit, Bridget’s spirit. The doctor who shared Bridget’s death with her family said, with tears streaming down her face, “Bridget has changed lives here.”
The Power of Suffering
So here’s the thing:
The unbeliever and the Jesus follower will both experience suffering, yes. But the Jesus follower has opportunity in his or her suffering. For the Christ follower suffering is an opportunity to attract people to Jesus.
When we love well while we suffer, the way Jesus did, and the way Bridget did, we communicate Jesus maybe in the most powerful way possible. When we feel sorry for ourselves, when we complain, we let go of that power.
Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just saying it’s worth it.
I don’t know about you but knowing that suffering is coming, I want to suffer like Bridget the Brave. I want God to change people’s lives as a result of my suffering.
When I suffer, I want to respond the way Jesus did.
Knowing that suffering is coming, I want my scars to speak of Christ’s love the way Jesus’ scars do.
I hope you do too.
“Father, please help me and help the dear person reading this post to be filled with Jesus’ Spirit when we suffer. Bless us with the countenance of Christ when we’re experiencing pain and pressure. Help us to love especially well during the times of tribulation that we’re experiencing now and the times of tribulation we can be sure will come. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Father.
“In Jesus’ name.”
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.