Gentle Light

Fluorescent lights are the worst. I used to not think this way, but after a year of dating my girlfriend Jamie who despises them, I’ve come to see things from her point of view. Just about every time we FaceTime, she is in her room with just the light from the window and a lamp. Again, it used to bug me, but after a while I came to discover they’re just obnoxious and overbearing. I’d much rather go from a dark room to the gentle light of a lamp, rather than having my eyes assaulted by the behemoth fluorescent lights on the ceiling. flourescent light

Now before you check out, this blog is not about lighting preferences. I wanted to illustrate that there is gentle light, and obnoxious light.

The reality is, there are men and women, children and youth, who are sitting in our churches in darkness. They are discouraged, depressed, weak, unsure, hopeless. The list goes on and on. There are real needs in these dark situations of grief and pain, suffering and trials. These brothers and sisters in Christ need light. They need to see the light of the gospel in the darkness of their days. 1 Thessalonians tells us in 5:14 that we are to comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

How then do we speak into their lives, how do we share the light of the gospel without being obnoxious or inconsiderate?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, I believe that we are given the direction we need in order to bring this light. We are called to be the light via compassion, instruction, exhortation, and intersession (this outline is not my own).

The church at Thessalonica was under heavy persecution, and the community of believers were reeling as a result. They were nervous, unsure of their hope, scared. They had bought the lie that the ‘day of the Lord’ had arrived, and that they were left behind to suffer alongside the wicked. False teachers had entered their midst, convincing them that they were in fact in the last days. In the darkness of persecution and hopelessness, Paul wrote to them a letter of encouragement. These were professing believers who had bought lies about God’s character, God’s nature, and God’s plan for their lives. There are many today who fall into believing lies as well (me included) and need to be reminded of the truth. So how does Paul do it? How does Paul strengthen and not shame these believers? How should we do it? How should we be interacting with those of our brothers and sisters who have lost hope? How do we strengthen them rather than shame them?

Compassion 

Paul tells them in this section of his letter that they are beloved by the Lord (2:13). There is no shaming here. Paul leads by compassionately and gently reminding them of their identity in Christ.

In the thick of this darkness, Paul doesn’t barge in, throw open the windows, pull back their sheets, and drag them outside. He lights a single candle of hope, a solitary but brilliant flame of compassion. – Charles Swindoll

We are to care for the discouraged and strengthen the weak among us. Our church communities would truly overflow with Christ-like love and amazing hope if we treated the discouraged and weak among us in this way. Not shaming them and making them feel bad for feeling bad, questioning the level of their faith, but rather compassionately speaking hope into their dark hearts. Paul definitely had his moments of aggressive exhortation and frustration, but here we see him model compassion that leads to life. However, he definitely wasn’t merely compassionate to the Thessalonians.

Instruction 

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 2:14

Paul encouraged the dark souls of the Thessalonian believers with instruction in gospel truth. Theology and doctrine can go a long way to mend not only the mind, but the heart of broken believers. When there are weak and discouraged members of our spiritual family among us, we should be consistently instructing them in the truths of the gospel. Again, not in a flourescently obnoxious manner, but by gentle reminders of what is true. Jamie does this for me better than anyone, constantly calling out lies in my mind for what they are, and reminding me of truth. We should speak into darkness with compassion and instruction.

Exhortation

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Here’s where Paul takes a stark turn that we should pay attention to. He’s compassionately shared truth of the gospel, but now he exhorts the believers in Thessalonica to stand firm. We are to encourage the depressed or discouraged among us to keep fighting, to be on the assault, on the attack. The fight for faith is just that, a fight. I have been so passive too many times in my life, not taking the fight to the enemy. Paul reminds the discouraged Thessalonian believers to hold firm to the truth.

In times of pain, anguish, mourning, depression, or doubt, nothing is more stabilizing than the truth of Scripture – nothing. – Charles Swindoll 

We should exhort the weak and discouraged among us to stand firm and hold to the truths of God in Scripture (remember this should be done compassionately).

Intercession 

Paul concludes this section with a prayer (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Pray, pray, pray. When you are aware of a brother or sister suffering in the darkness, pray for them. Prayer has power. Even the knowledge that others are praying for me can go a long way to bring a little bit more light into my life.

Paul in this passage doesn’t pray for the suffering of the Thessalonians to end, for their dark days to suddenly be complete. Rather, he prays that God would comfort them by reminding them of who they are and what they have in Christ. When we suffer, we want immediate rescue. Paul understood that suffering leads to greater faith.

If you have a member of your faith community whose hope is shrouded in darkness, reach out to them. Be compassionate, instruct them, exhort them, and don’t forget to intercede for them.

If you are in a dark season, remember Scripture, remember truth, and remember that the Lord is for you and not against you.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Grey-Colored Glasses

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘rose-colored glasses’. In our teenage days we all were likely infatuated with someone who really wasn’t all that great, but we had convinced ourselves that they were the epitome of spouse material as we viewed all they did with rose-colored glasses. Shortcomings and faults were disregarded, glaring character flaws were seen in an entirely different light. glasses

In a similar way, we can see all of our life through grey-colored glasses. This terminology certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue like its lingual ancestor, but I think it describes the effects of depression and hopelessness on a person. When in the throes of discouragement and depression, we can see all of life as dark and dim. We can view everything: our surroundings, our job, our circumstances, our family, our friends, our relationships, through the grey-colored glasses that depression and hopelessness put upon our eyes.

I want to offer some advice, and some hope, for those of us who fight this in different seasons and to different degrees. The advice is not my own, and come to think of it neither is the hope. Yet I do want to relay both to you today.

Here’s some advice for the discouraged among us:

1) Focus On The Facts, Not Your Feelings

I’m the champion of this. I’m prone to listen to what my feelings and emotions are telling me about any aspect of my life. To fight back against the seeds of depression and discouragement, proclaim the facts of any aspect of your life that you are seeing with grey-colored glasses. Let this be founded in truth from Scripture. Memorize the promises and heart of God in the Word of God, and use these Scriptures to fight back against what your emotions are telling you. Don’t allow the lies that our hearts believe take up root in your soul.

2) Get Some Sun

Depression and discouragement can make us want to lay in bed all day long, scrolling through social media or binge-watching some television. It takes discipline and commitment, it takes going on the offensive, but I strongly encourage you to fight this tendency. Go for a walk, go to the gym, play a little basketball. Get outside and soak in the sun. There’s something life-bringing about simply communing with God via nature. Also, being active tremendously helps the broken soul. When I work-out with a friend, I am relieved of a lot of the inner turmoil.

3) Tell Someone

I just alluded to it, but have brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging you and walking you through the darkness. We were not designed to be isolated. Satan would love nothing else than to have droves of Christians walking in the darkness of depression, bound to it because they aren’t bringing it into the light. We have made depression and discouragement taboo struggles for the follower of Christ. If you are goofy and extroverted like me, it may be extra difficult for you to admit that sometimes you’re not okay. There is freedom to be found in admitting your need for support. Have friends walking you through, able to call out your feelings and proclaim the truths of Scripture.

I hope these words of advice are as helpful for you as they were for me. I want to spend the latter half of this post giving you some hope. This is hope found in the Word of God. This is hope built upon the promises of God.

Recently I’ve been drawn to Ephesians. There’s something about the first fourteen verses that keeps drawing me back, deeper and deeper. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel, the good news that breaks through the grey-colored glasses and shines the beautiful light of Christ into every aspect of our lives. In the onset of this letter from prison, Paul shares a twelve verse sentence (1:3-14) of praise to God. There is so much in this eulogy that can’t be covered in just one blog post, but I do want to make known to you 3 simple truths that are abounding in hope.

YOU ARE CHOSEN BY GOD

If you are a follower of Christ, having surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus, then let me remind you that YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD.

For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. – Ephesians 1:4

You have been chosen by God. There’s something awesome, something joy-inducing, something that fills our hearts with happiness whenever we are chosen for something. Whether that be a sports team, a school, a relationship, or even the Mr. Bison Pageant. This should do exponentially more to remove the darkness when we meditate on the fact that the Lord of all has chosen us to be His!

You are chosen.

YOU ARE SAVED BY CHRIST 

You have been chosen by God, and this plays itself out via the redemption and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace – Ephesians 1:7

We have been redeemed. You and I have been forgiven of all of our trespasses, every single one, through the riches of God’s grace poured out onto us through Jesus.

Grace > __________

You could list any sin you’ve committed and the equation would still be correct. You have been fully forgiven and completely redeemed.

YOU HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

God gave us a helper, a companion, someone to walk through this life with. That is the Holy Spirit of God.

In him you also – when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you also believed – were sealed in him with the promised Holy Spirit. – Ephesians 1:13

We have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Honestly I see this as one of the biggest ways to combat the darkness of depression. Remember, meditate upon, and utilize the fact that we have the very Spirit of God residing in us to help us live for him in any season.l Rely on the Spirit and seek the Spirit’s guidance.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you struggle with depression, bring it into the light. Get outside. Tell your community of faith. Last, but certainly not least, claim and proclaim the promises of Scripture. Be filled with hope!

There will be days where you and I see all of life through grey-colored glasses.

When those days come, remember the wonder of the gospel.

You have been chosen, saved, and filled.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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I Am Nothing

“You’re not cool, Nathan! You’re not cool!” 403H

In college I played intramural basketball with some of my best friends. One of these guys would yell that at me every single time that I made a basket (which was rare). If there was even the teeny-tiniest hint of pride or arrogance on my face, he would scream from the sideline to remind me that I was in fact not very cool. At the time, this annoyed the snot out of me. It got to the point where I would dread seeing the ball go in the basket because I knew his scream would soon be filling the court.

While I did not enjoy that refrain ringing in my ears, there are some statements that I intend to tell myself daily:

“I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.”

In a world of self-help praise and positive thinking vibes, this proclamation does not sit well. I do want to clarify from the onset though that I am a wholehearted believer in reminding ourselves daily of our blessed identity in Jesus Christ, and I strive to teach myself the implications of the gospel onto my identity each day.

But for the purpose of this blog, I am focusing on the idea of contentment and how these phrases help us to reorient our hearts and minds on thankfulness and gratitude in light of our present circumstances.

We are called by God to deny ourselves. This is one of the main mandates of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Discontentment is a litmus test for how well we are walking after Christ in our day-to-day lives, how well we are practicing the spiritual discipline of self-denial.

But how do we deny ourselves daily? How do we remind ourselves that we are not the center of our world? In his book, Chasing Contentment, Erik Raymond offers up these three short proclamations as one of a myriad of means through which we can find true and lasting contentment in Jesus Christ through denying ourselves.

I Am Nothing

This is not to be in conflict with the biblical truth about the dignity of every human life.

Rather it is putting ourselves against the majesty of God and realizing how small and insignificant we all truly are. All throughout Scripture I see men and women of God who had an understanding of their nothingness so to speak in light of the wonderful majesty of God. One of the most stark and surprising instances of this comes from Genesis chapter eighteen. In this chapter, Abraham is conversing with God, making his requests known to God in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at verse twenty-seven with me.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, – Genesis 18:27

Let me remind us that this proclamation comes after Genesis 15, when God proclaims his covenant blessings to Abraham. So Abraham knows the good news of God’s covenant faithfulness, yet he still proclaims that he is but dust and ashes.

Erik Raymond encourages us to find joy in being able to say that we are nothing:

Isn’t this what makes God’s pursuit of us in the gospel so refreshing? He pursues and arrests us by his grace. Though it may seem severe to think you are nothing, in the gospel you have Christ to be your everything!

I Deserve Nothing

The gospel shines incredibly bright into our lives because without Christ what we deserve is death. This may be a well-worn verse but it is no more striking in its verdict:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

This couldn’t be any more clear. What we deserve for our sin against God is physical and spiritual and eternal death; eternal separation from God. The wonderful news of the gospel could not shine any brighter either in this passage, as we see that the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is available for us!

Contentment is found in denying ourselves. Denying ourselves comes from remembering not only that we are nothing apart from Christ, but that we also deserve nothing. Pastor and theologian Mark Dever is known to quip “Anything less than hell is dancing time for Christians!” How true this is. When we truly understand that what we deserve is hell, anything less than that in our lives is a time for rejoicing. Lecrae, in his song Boasting makes the statement:

If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight. 

This is truly the case. You and I deserve nothing.

I Can Do Nothing

This is a hard one for me to remember as I am striving to live for God in vocational ministry. Yet its implications are profound on every one of us who professes Christ. Apart from Jesus, you and I can do nothing. We don’t have the power to say no to temptation, we don’t have the power to say yes to the Spirit, we don’t have the power to save souls. In all things we are unable to do what is necessary for bringing God glory in our own strength or ability.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

This is the reality about me that I seek to cling to:

I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.

With this, I can strive to deny myself daily. With this, I can see the beautiful message of the gospel shining through as it is truly a gracious gift of God. With this, I can practice Biblical and gospel-centered contentment.

While I often despised the refrain of my lack of coolness coming from the sidelines during a basketball game, I am already growing to love this method of self-denial.

Remember that you are nothing.

You deserve nothing.

You can do nothing.

Meditate on this and you will find the joys of the gospel message.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Running For The Shadows

A few nights ago I went to my room and got ready to go to bed. Right as I turned on the light, I looked in the corner and saw a cockroach the size of South Carolina (rough estimate) scurrying for the nearest shadow. As soon as light flooded into the room, this tiny vermin sprinted for the darkness. It wanted nothing to do with the light that I had just brought cascading into the room. cockroach

In the Gospel of John, one of the recurring themes is that of light and darkness. In the opening to the book, we see a description of Jesus that brings this theme to the forefront.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5

Jesus is referred to here in this short passage as the light of men. Light does a myriad of things. It reveals, it warms, it guides, and it conveys/stimulates life.

Light reveals. When I turn on the light in my room, it reveals where my furniture is located, where I’ve left my dirty clothes on the floor, where I need to sweep or dust, and where to find the creepy crawlies that have wandered in from the desert.

In a more profound and unbelievable way, Jesus as the light comes onto the scene of my life, illuminating and revealing the dark and inner recesses of my heart and soul, revealing the sin that I cling to and the idolatry that is present in the depths of my being.

I, like the cockroach (ironic due to my last name), scurry for the shadows and the safety from the light that they promise. Having my heart revealed for what it is is not pleasant or fun.

If I’m being honest, there have been periods of my life where I avoid spiritual disciplines such as meditation or private prayer because I don’t want to have my sins or my darkness confronted with the light of the gospel of Jesus. It’s safer in the shadows, or at least that’s what I convince myself of.

In Richard Phillip’s commentary on John, he speaks about it like this:

This is why people are unnerved to face the light of Jesus as it shines in Scripture, and why they flee his light for the more comfortable darkness. His light shows our darkness for what it is. Will you turn away from that light, scurrying into spiritual shadows? Or will you worship the glory it reveals, humbly confess the darkness it exposes in you, and come into the light of Christ to receive life and salvation? – Richard Phillips 

People are unnerved to face the light of Christ. I am at times unnerved to face the light of Christ. Phillips is right. The darkness is more comfortable. At least at first. But as time goes by when we are still languishing in our sin, we realize that we aren’t truly living. We aren’t living in the fullness of life that Christ has to offer. We aren’t experiencing in our day to day lives the wonders of our salvation.

Coming to the light of Jesus through prayer, Bible reading, or meditation leads us to worship. Yes, oftentimes it hurts to be made aware of our darkness, but ultimately it leads us to glory in the light that is Jesus Christ. It takes humility to confess our darkness, but it is through this humble confession that we can receive life and fully walk in our salvation.

This immediately brings to my mind a well-known passage from the book of Psalms, in which David prays for God to do such an illuminating work in his heart.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Not only is this idea of asking for illumination Scriptural, it is also historical.

Just this very morning I was reading a devotion that included a prayer from a 9th century book of prayers and liturgies called ‘The Gelasian Sacramentary’. This prayer was as follows:

Incline, O Lord, thy merciful ears, and illuminate the darkness of our hearts by the light of thy visitation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The author of this book of ancient Christian prayers asks the Lord to illuminate the darkness of our hearts by the light of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Even though some of the language is old-school, I immediately wrote this prayer on the whiteboard in my room. Oh what a wonderful prayer that it is.

In mercy, God will illuminate the parts of our lives and hearts that need to be confronted with the gospel. He will do this through Jesus. Oh how wonderful and beautiful. Oh how painful but oh how necessary.

When confronted with the light of Jesus, will you run to the shadows like the cockroach? Or will you humbly run towards the light and receive fullness of life and experience your salvation?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog via the menu.

Happy’s Porch

This world is broken. It is fractured, cracked, overwhelmed by the ravaging effects of sin upon the cosmos.14344313_1039930519457958_7959540184168886373_n

Families are in shambles, divorce and pornography run rampant, violence and death, suffering and disease. Loved ones passing away after long battles with cancer, strife between friends, financial woes, prejudice, injustice, war, slavery. The list goes on and on.

Yet this is not the way the world has always been. There was a time before the effects of sin, a time when all of creation lived in perfect harmony. A time before suffering, death, disease, and pain.

Regardless of what you believe about the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, it is clear to see that this world used to be in perfect harmony. Reading Genesis 1 leaves me aching and yearning for that day when God will restore all things. There is such a fluid rhythm of God’s creative acts and the refrain that ‘it was good’. Trying to picture a time of perfect peace is hard to do sometimes.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31

Very good.

The world and everything in it was very good.

I like to imagine what perfect peace sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. Images of being on the porch at my granddad’s house immediately flood my mind. There I would sit on the porch swing, listening to the birds call to each other, with the babbling of a forest brook in the distance with a little rain shower sweeping across the mountain.

You see, my granddad, who we affectionately called ‘Happy’ passed away less than a year ago. While I can’t imagine the pain that his spouse, siblings, and children went through when he passed, I definitely struggled and definitely still wade through seasons of deep sorrow and I miss him tremendously.

I would play and read and spend time on his porch for hours. Some of my favorite conversations and memories of him came from his porch. When I think perfect peace, I think of that porch.

Yet what happens when the place that is representative of perfect peace becomes instead a reminder of the effects of sin? What happens when Happy’s porch no longer brings the sense of peace to my soul but instead brings a painful reminder that he is no longer with us?

This is one way that the effects of sin have reared their ugly head in my life. You see, the story of the cosmos takes a turn for the worst real early on. Right after the creation of all things in perfect harmony, God makes Adam and Eve and puts them to work in the garden of Eden. Soon after, Satan comes and introduces temptation to Adam and Eve who unfortunately fall real quick. The perfection of the cosmos is shattered, and the consequences of sin are immediately imposed upon Adam and Eve and all that followed in their lineage (that is, all of us).

Yet in this bleak and dreary chapter 3, there is a promise. A promise that shines bright with gospel grace. A promise that comes flying onto the scene when it seemed all hope was lost.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. – Genesis 3:15

The Lord is cursing Satan, and makes a promise that there will be a descendant of Eve that will crush the head of Satan. Fast-forward several millennia and Jesus stepped onto the scene. He lived the perfect life you and I could not live and died the death we deserved. Three days later, he conquered death itself, crushing Satan, and making it possible for those who believe in Him to one day be with Him in paradise, in a perfect cosmos yet again.

The answer to my above question is to remember that God’s creation in the beginning was very good. The answer is to remember that God uses death, disease, suffering, and pain to bring about His glory. The answer is to remember that God is going to restore the cosmos into perfect harmony yet again. The answer is to remember the great news of the gospel. No more will we cry, be in pain, suffer, or face death. No more. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we will be in perfect harmony with God, enjoying eternal satisfaction in Him.

I loved those moments on the porch with Happy. I loved those moments of near-perfect peace.

But they pale in comparison to the wonderful perfection that is waiting for us in glory. Oh how I yearn for that day.

Brothers and sisters, if you are wading through suffering or pain, remember that this is not our home. Remember that this is for your good and His glory. Remember that there will be a day where the cosmos are totally restored.

This is good news. This is the gospel.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

What Silver Lining?

We do not like the hardships of life. It’s not our natural inclination to see the difficulties and trials of our lives as opportunities to be molded into the image of Christ. Yet we see in the life of Paul, the preaching of church leaders throughout the ages, and our own experiences that we learn far more in the valleys than we do in the pain-free seasons of our lives.dark clouds

Look at what Paul says in the familiar passage of 2 Corinthians 12.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me (the ‘thorn in his flesh’). But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

This is without a doubt one of the most seemingly impossible things for me to imitate. Paul had so much to boast in when it came to ministry success: a personal experience with the physically present Jesus, and his theological training. Instead, Paul learned for the sake of Jesus to delight in his weaknesses, the insults sent his way, the hardships of his life, the persecutions he endured, and the difficulties he faced day to day. Paul had a grace-filled understanding that it was in these weaknesses and in these sufferings that he was molded into the image of Christ.

Consider also the words of Charles Spurgeon.

We learn, I hope, something in the bright fields of joy, but I am more persuaded that we don’t learn a tenth as much, there, as we do in the valley of Death-Shade. – Charles Spurgeon

We do learn of Christ in the joyful and blissful moments of our lives. Yet it was Spurgeon’s belief that we learn ten times as much from the valleys. Both of these will come. We will have blissful moments and moments of deep valleys where the joy seems to have been removed from our lives. This happened in the lives of Biblical characters as well. Just read the Psalms. Psalm 22 is David crying out to God, accusing God of utterly abandoning him and forsaking him. Psalm 23 is then David proclaiming that he lacks nothing when the Lord is his Shepherd.

To be honest, it pains me to admit that this holds true in my life. The dark days show me much more of the beauty of Christ and the need to be molded more into His image. Consider the path of shadows that I walked this Spring. These are snippets from my journal and I think they clearly show the way that God uses the valleys to reinvigorate our hearts and reawaken our love for Him.

04/28 – Pain is a necessary part of our spiritual life. I HATE this reality. As a child, I rarely saw pain as good, if ever. So growing this mindset in me will take time. 

05/02 – The world is unfair. The world is dark. In light of this Lord, I need to place my hope in You. There is joy to be found in the gospel of grace. 

05/04 – You know how to rescue the godly from trials. So if you’re choosing not to do so for me at this time, it’s for a reason. 

05/18 – God, I am fighting for the light in the midst of darkness. I don’t want to be anxious every day. 

05/30 – As a disciple of Jesus I should passionately be removing from my life all the things which lessen my love for Him, and intentionally do that which grows my love for Him. 

06/04 – When I don’t spend time in Your Word, or in prayer, or in transparent fellowship, I fall apart and fall off into fear and anxiety. 

The transition from OBU to the West coast was hard. This Spring I started to come face to face with the darkness that exists in our world, as well as the reality that pain and hardships were a necessary aspect of my walk with Christ. For months I clung to Jesus as best I could. There were moments where I was angry, moments where it took all of my effort to see the silver lining in some of the clouds I was facing. There were moments and days where it felt like it took all of my energy just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.

I despised this season.

That is until God began to open my eyes to that which I needed to learn from this season, as evidenced by the final two snippets I shared.

First, He reminded me that being a disciple of Jesus is an active thing, rather than a passive state of being. As a disciple, I should be passionately striving to remove from my life those things that lessen my love for Him, as well as intentionally practicing and doing those things which grow my love for Him.

I was also reminded that if I’m not in the Word daily, in prayer daily, and in transparent Christian community daily, I will backslide into sinful fear, worry, and despair.

Just today I came face to face with one of the most convicting components of this passage from 2 Corinthians 12. Paul did ask God to remove from him the thorn in his side, whatever that may have been. So asking God for rescue is by no means wrong of us. Yet, Paul eventually accepted that aspect of his life as part of his life for the glory of God, and chose to rejoice in it.

Wow.

I tend to ask for the removal of things that pain me three thousand times, not just three.

It is my prayer and hope that this blog post will encourage you to be open with your Christian community about the state of your heart on a regular basis. God uses the valleys of my life to teach me, but I still am learning. I will be learning till my last breath, and I hope we are all willing to admit the same. Not only that, I pray that this blog post will encourage you to engage in the difficult practice of rejoicing in your weaknesses and hardships for the glory of God.

His grace is sufficient for you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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