We finally watched "The Soloist" this week. I seriously thought Jamie Foxx's character would be an amazing cellist, down on his luck, homeless, and then "discovered" and playing professionally in no time. Happy ending, right? I was so frustrated at the end of this movie! I wanted a happy ending for him--for all of us. But as Rob pointed out to me a couple of days later, "happy endings" aren't necessarily what we should be seeking in life.
We have had several hard events in our church in the last couple of weeks--and the last couple of years. But this last week we have been praying for a few friends who are in the hospital--some with dire circumstances. For one of them, a good friend of ours, I told Rob to read Psalm 40 when he goes to visit, "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him." Really encouraging, right?
Rob responded saying he was thinking about Jeremiah 31, when Jeremiah prophesies about the New Covenant, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people...I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Now, Rob doesn't recommend this scripture to be shared with everyone suffering, but felt strongly about the context of this passage for this particular individual and where he is in his walk. But I, sitting there perplexed by what he just shared, listened as Rob explained that we need to be reminded of God’s greater promises. He voiced his concerns that, without the context of a greater purpose, we often are giving false hope to those who are suffering. We want to give comfort for the moment so we share verses that seem to ensure recovery. The truth is God's greater work includes us but does not end with our wellness on fallen earth. "For it is GOD who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure," Phil. 2:13.
Not everyone recovers. Some have long sicknesses, some die, some lives are altered forever. Why are we entitled to recovery? Why are we entitled to life itself? We poo-poo theologies that preach claims of what we are entitled to have in Jesus' name. Yet we preach other, more "spiritual," entitlements. Then the sufferer holds onto a hope of what he wants to happen and when it doesn't happen as it "should" he suffers a greater trial--disappointment with God. I am not advocating a pessimistic, disbelieving, cynical attitude toward God, I am grappling with how to honestly surrender my life and not hold my dreams and prayers higher than God's purposes and plans.
Consider Christ. He didn’t hold His position as the second person of the Godhead – worshiped day and night by the angels, crying, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" – as something to cling to for His own advantage, "rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Phil. 2:5-8. If Christ didn’t claim entitlement to His rights as deity, how then am I entitled to my sinful, prideful, small state of being, which is less than a drop in a bucket in the span of time?
We should indeed cling to the promises of hope in God's word, pray for full recovery, and cry out to Him in our time of need. As our physical sickness is a reflection of our spiritual sickness while living in a fallen world. BUT GOD is at work in all of creation, in every nook and cranny, redeeming His people and His earth for His purposes and pleasure. Each of us is a part of His redemption plan, and we know not where we fit in, until all is revealed in glory.
Just as the end of "The Soloist" revealed a greater good for all involved; a higher purpose than a happy earthly ending for one person -- full recovery for all of God's children will come! Full recovery for our fallen state, physical and spiritual, will be revealed in glory, in which we, the bride of Christ, collectively will embody Christ's work of redemption! We are participants in God's sovereign will and pleasure for a happy ending for us, not as individuals, but as a people, "chosen by the Lord out of all the peoples on the face of this earth to be His treasured possession," Deuteronomy 14:2. Soli Deo Gloria!