One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” (Luke 23:39)
One of the highlights of my week is meeting with pastors from other churches for coffee on Friday mornings. There is no plan or schedule to these meetings other than friendship, but we also gather knowing we have a unique position in our town and only other pastors will understand our victories and struggles.
A couple of weeks ago, one of the pastors referenced the thief on the cross who scoffed at Jesus, saying, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” After he quoted the thief I said, “And here we are today, still trying to tell God how to be God!”
As soon as I said this it struck me how often I have done the same thing as the thief. “If you were really THIS kind of God,” I would think, “then you would do THIS for me.” And, of course, this makes me a thief who is trying to steal the true character of God and replace it with a god of my making.
It’s a good thing our society no longer hangs thieves.
If anyone is wondering, I have plenty of suggestions on how God can make me comfortable and answer my prayers. But then, I think about Jesus. As He hung upon the cross, Jesus wasn’t concerned with His comfort. Instead, He was concerned with obeying God’s agenda for His life.
Furthermore, it’s easy for me to admit I’ve lived a comfortable life. I’ve never known the type of suffering that took place in Europe during World War II. I’ve never battled cancer or been kidnapped. I’ve never faced homelessness or starvation, never been in a car crash or lost a limb in an accident, and for those things I am grateful.
The worst pain I have ever experienced is the loss of my wife, Barbara, who died on September 12, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. I can find no words that adequately describe the pain of losing a soul mate, a best friend, the one God created to be my equal in life.
Still, I trust God will continue to work in my life as I go forward, the same way He worked in our life as I look back at the amazing twenty-six years I had with Barbara.
After years of wanting God to fulfill my will, I’ve finally come to accept that God’s agenda for my life is not to make me comfortable, but to help conform me into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Therefore, I cannot honestly say, “LORD, your will be done in me,” then complain when His will makes me uncomfortable.
Losing a spouse is devastating, but losing my perspective on God’s magnificent goodness and love would be worse. Therefore, I’ve decided keep these words of Habakkuk constantly on my mind: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength!” (Hab. 3:18-19).
Although I am still mourning, I mourn with hope, and “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). Instead, hope brings me the comfort only God can provide in a season of tremendous loss, for now I truly understand the Sovereign Lord is my strength.