Agony to Glory

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February 13, 2014 by lellielieb

(This is a post from my other blog, Everything Else Throw In.  It really came about as a result of my reading from the prayer book, so I thought I’d re-blog it here as well.)

This has been quite a week–and it’s only Thursday morning.  My Mondays consist of book discussions.  First, I do three hours with the freshmen in the morning.  Currently, we’re working through Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.  This week we read and discussed the second chapter, “How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?”  In one section of the chapter Keller discusses the death of Jesus.  He deals with a question that many people, even Christians, wonder about but few actually voice.  “Why was Jesus so much more overwhelmed by his death than other have been, even more than his own followers?”  He cites examples of martyrs who died horribly while praising God, even singing.  Why did Jesus seem to cower in the Garden?  Why did He scream, forsaken, on the cross?  In each class we discussed Keller’s answer–Jesus was bearing all of our sin, all of our sorrow, all of our grief, AND, unlike the martyrs, he was doing it while also bearing eternal separation from God.  We had quite a deep and somber discussion.

At the end of the chapter, Keller switches gears, moving from the death of Jesus to His resurrection. He explains the huge impact of Jesus’s victory over death.  The things we suffer on earth will be, because of the resurrection, not only undone, but changed, restored, and transformed into glories.  At the end of the chapter Keller quotes C.S. Lewis, “This is what mortals misunderstand.  They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

The amazing thing about this to me at the time, the seeming “coincidence,” was that this quote is from The Great Divorce, which was the very book I was discussing with my seniors on Monday afternoon.  I came to the end of Monday exhausted, but with heaven on my mind.  I was excited about sufferings being changed into glories.  Then came Tuesday.

Several of us meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for prayer before the school day begins.  Our principal came in to tell us that our school tennis coach–husband of one of our grammar school colleagues and father to two of our high school students–had been taken to the hospital and that his condition sounded serious.  We prayed and went to class.  A few minutes into first period the whole high school was called to the lunchroom.  There we were told that our friend had passed away.   Many tears were shed as we prayed together as a high school.  This was shocking news. Later in the morning, his girls came to school.  They wanted to be with their friends, to be surrounded by the community that loves and cares for them.  They went to choir and sang with their fellow students.  Then they all prayed some more, reading aloud favorite scriptures looked up on their smart phones in-between the prayers.  I stood in the doorway of the choir room for a while blessed and amazed by what I heard. These kids and this community are both pretty phenomenal.  I am blessed to be a part of it all.

Later, I was able to remind my freshman of our discussion from the day before.  I reminded them that all of the pain, all of the suffering they were feeling and witnessing, was part of what Jesus was bearing that day on the cross.  They understood.  The lesson was alive.

This morning my scripture reading included a passage from Jeremiah 31, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow.”  (verse 13) In the past I have taken this to mean that God would change our mourning into joy ON EARTH, and I have seen God do that in my own life at times.  Now I realize that it will only be done perfectly and permanently in heaven.  Some hurts go so deep that as long as we are here, they will always be sore, but someday God will take them and transform them into glory.  If we didn’t have the hurts here, we wouldn’t have the glory coming.  All will be well.  The very next verse of Jeremiah 31 assures us of this, “My people shall be satisfied with my goodness declares the Lord.” Satisfied!

I love it when the Lord weaves together lessons like this.  He’s the Master Teacher.  I sit at His feet in awe, and in the midst of grief I eagerly await the glory that is to come.

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