2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I was boiling with anger. I felt paralyzed, helpless against the ever-changing tide of circumstance and self. I tried to keep my body language open. The usual practice of hugging my arms tightly around the blessed pillow (which doubles as a barricade for my heart) too often suppressed the unruly tornado swirling inside me.
“Ok, I can’t believe I’m asking this, but . . . how do I lose my conscience?” I asked awkwardly. I laughed, and my therapist chuckled. “I know that’s terrible . . . I mean, who asks their counselor that?” I added, my tone shifting quickly into incredulous despair.
“No . . . no, its not terrible at all. It just shows me how much you’re in pain. I can hear it,” she responded gently.
Apparently God has graced me with a remarkably strong conscience and a resolve to pursue truth no matter what it costs me.
I get angry about that a lot.
I observe the cultural stream of self-actualization and self-fulfillment with wonder and longing. I see the happiness of my friends who value the enigmatic phrase “be yourself” above all. In contrast, I step into the truth over and over again, to be met with disappointment (let me be clear – I do “go my own way” a lot, but there’s a boundary that I just can’t seem to cross that some people seem to be able to do a little easier).
What’s the point? To hell with suffering for Christ… I want to live!
In my darkest moments, that is my anthem.
Still, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit’s unrelenting pursuit of my heart. Somehow, deep down I know that perseverance in pursuing what I know to be ultimately good and true is nurturing a maturity in me that will far supersede the temporary happiness of self-actualization. I have even been able to experience glimpses of this truth in my life now.
If it was just about maturity and growing into Christlikeness, I don’t think I would be able to resist rebelling. But its not just that. Through my suffering and my shaky trust in God’s goodness, I am being made complete.
What a gloriously attractive word! If I were to marry a word, “complete” would be the one for me.
There is so much that is incomplete in this world. Whatever perspective you look from, the 107 billion¹ puzzle pieces (and counting²) of humanity scatter the earth in chaos. God the great puzzler sees everything that has been, is now, will be, and could have been. Keeping all this in mind, he is in process of shaping each of us to contribute to the whole picture in the most beautiful way we can. Some of us are side pieces, bordering the edges of this fraying world. Others burst in with color and focus in the center.
Each one He has made and chosen are essential.
Imagine for a moment scrolling through Amazon and seeing an advertisement.
Intrigued, you click the ad, but all it reveals is a short description:
Box not included.
Such is the way of humanity.
We buy the puzzle and try to create meaning of a 700 billion piece puzzle with no box.
Only God has the picture on the box, but in His great mercy He allows us the freedom to choose… will we try to fit ourselves in our own way into a massive puzzle which we can only begin to imagine…or will we trust that the God who made us also created the box we came in and will fit us in such a way that we will be rendered eternally complete?
Perseverance must finish its work.
And what is that work?
It is the work of allowing God in His sovereignty to shape us into the puzzle pieces that will reveal us as the glorious, complex, integrated, communal, creative, complete human beings that we are.
It is the work of realizing that in the waiting for Him to finish the puzzle, God knows how we best fit better than we do.
And when that last piece is lovingly placed, we will experience that wondrous eternity where we will truly “lack no good thing.”
But for now, by the grace of a suffering Savior, I’ll try to continue on in the puzzling pursuit of perseverance.
¹the estimated number of people who have ever lived
²remember that show 19 (20? 21?) Kids and Counting? If you thought that was a nightmare, imagine having 107 billion kids! Its all about perspective, right?