St. Marks has long been one of my favorite coffee shops, with large rolling garage doors in the front and back, tall chairs fit for a queen, an upside-down rowboat hung up on the back deck, and blue bottles lining each window. As I sit next to the open garage door feeling the cooled wind and smelling the left-over fragrance of fresh rain, I am reminded of how silently powerful my Father is. I am reminded that He is like the wind; we can feel Him, we can watch Him move, we can sometimes hear Him, but we cannot see Him. He whispers and dances around us delicately, pulling us in His direction and gracefully guiding us towards the narrow path.
He does not always work in obvious ways, and He does not always do exactly what we want, but how comforting that is because He KNOWS. He knows the past, present, and future. He knows where we’ve been and where we’re going. He knows our passions, our fears, our sins, and our righteousness. He knows what’s best and what’s good. How much pressure that lifts off my shoulders to know everything and have everything figured out! How incredible it is to have someone else in charge whom I can fully, 100% trust with my life. Now that doesn’t mean I always do 100% trust Him, because I am human and I want control more often than not. But I am reminded that I can let go, that I can surrender, that I can breathe because He SET ME FREE.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
And the truth is that we have a Savior who sent His Son because He wants to have a relationship with us, because He nailed all of our sins to the cross along with Jesus (Colossians 2:13-14).
The truth is that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
But here’s the thing. Good does NOT mean comfortable, stable, wealthy, perfect relationships, and absence of suffering.
Good means joy. And joy is separate from happy. Unhappy circumstances should not be given the power to take away your joy. Saying yes to Jesus, accepting Christ, is the single most joyful decision one can ever make. In that decision, a joy is ignited that should never go out, because you just received the ultimate gift- eternal life in heaven with our Creator, our Lover, our Father, our King. Even when the worst of the worst happens (often humanity calls this death), that is a beautiful celebration because you are reunited forever with the One who called you Home.
So no, being a Christian is not a happy-go-lucky, easy life. It demands sacrifice, it demands suffering, it demands picking up your cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23). And believe me, Jesus does not go to the clean, prosperous, “safe” areas. He goes to the dirty, the marginalized, the sinners; He goes to areas most people deliberately don’t go.
But the most beautiful thing about that, is that there is still joy, always. We do not go looking for suffering, but when it comes, it is okay. Amongst the sacrifice, the suffering, the burdens, there is JOY. Joy in knowing that just as Jesus suffered on this earth for us, we get to suffer for Him (Acts 5:41). Joy in knowing that trials produce perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4). Joy in knowing that we are becoming more like Jesus when we suffer for His sake, because we experience the hope and faith in our Father like He did (Philippians 3:10-11).
Good means that we are being disciplined, trained, taught, loved, and pushed to be more like Christ and grow in His likeness. It means we get to experience this thing called joy in a way that only God can provide.
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8
And that is GOOD. The safest place that I could possibly be is right in the middle of God’s will. Because neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Stop and think about that for a minute, for an hour, for a day. Do you understand the implication of that? That means we are FREE. Freed from needing to measure up, freed from needing to be the best, the wealthiest, the most outwardly beautiful, freed from needing what society tells us we need in order to be happy, freed from the shame of this world, freed from needing worldly acceptance. Because nothing, NOTHING, will separate us from the love of God. He loves you, He loves me, He loves us already unconditionally and there is nothing that can happen to change that. What a beautiful truth.
And the truth shall set you free.