“Never pray for an easier life–pray to be a stronger person! Never pray for tasks equal to your power–pray for power to be equal to your tasks. Then doing your work will be no miracle–you will be the miracle.”
~ Phillips Brooks
It was cold and damp in Waco last night, but that did not deter our grandson from insisting that he launch a few fireworks to welcome the new year. Being the wise and gracious grandfather that I am, I volunteered to remain indoors and work the switch for the porch light while grandson and a friend did the honors out-of-doors. The rest of us were ready for bed, but he faced into the future with wide-eyed wonder and abandon. I’m not so old that I can’t remember exuding the same unbridled enthusiasm for each new year. Meticulous resolution planning and euphoria over putting the past behind (again) characterized many New Year’s Eves in my younger adult years. More often than not these days, I make the per annum transition in bed. Instead of resolutions, my great need is recognition. Experience has taught that new years do not always bring good things, so I never pray for trials, but rather for wise endurance when they arrive.
The role of suffering in the Christian life remains a mystery, yet holds enormous potential for molding a healthy response to human agony in the world, as well as our own upward climb. Sadly, many gravitate toward one of two opposing poles: asceticism that glorifies suffering as something good in itself, or the numbing approach to living that would eliminate suffering at all costs. Help is available to gain a grip on this slippery slope by revisiting a familiar and oft quoted Scripture passage in the New Testament Book of Romans, the eighth chapter and twenty eighth verse: “All things work together for the good of them who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Frequently invoked as a sort of Christian talisman, the interpretation follows that belonging to God insures me against extended suffering and disaster of any sort. That kind of thinking calls into question God’s character and my own faith every time I fail or fall or stub my toe. I remember hearing Henry Blackaby say that God’s primary concern for us is not our position, retirement benefits, or our comfort; instead, his ultimate goal for us is Christlikeness and will allow whatever is necessary into our lives so that we become like Jesus.
If not insurance against hardship, what does Romans 8:28 promise us? Regardless of how difficult and demanding our circumstances, by relying on God and responding toward rather than away from him, God will see to it that we emerge on the other side of our situation more like Christ. When we decide that Christlikeness is more important than momentary ease and comfort, we become the miracle rather than another casualty.