XVI. Why would a Father allow bad things to happen-Part 2
Think of the misery that comes into our lives by our restless gnawing greed. We plunge ourselves into enormous debt and then take two and three jobs to stay afloat. We uproot our Families with unnecessary moves just so we can have a more prestigious house. We grasp and grab and never have enough. And most destructive of all our flashy cars and sports spectaculars and backyard pools have a way of crowding out much interest in the family, love of people, and those areas and virtues that make life worth living. How clearly the Apostle Paul saw this when he warned that our lust for wealth causes us to fall into Many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9).
But we do not need to be imprisoned to greed. We can be ushered into a life of peace and serenity.
We weary of competing commitments and exhausting schedules. We desire to be obedient to God in all things, and have a growing knowledge that this frantic scramble is not his will. We yearn to enter the deep silences that give unity and direction to our lives.
Desire, however, is not enough. If we expect to enter the inward peace for which we were created, we will need to order our lives in specific ways. The things we do will not give us peace, but they will put us in the training program where we can receive it.
It is wonderful – this resting in God, this stilling of frantic activity this seeking first His Kingdom.
We must have a time to still the churning, to quiet the restlessness, to meditate on the almighty God who dwells in our hearts.
The experience of pressure is an intrinsic aspect of all Christian living and it appears that this has always been so. You are invited to identify with one or more traits or experiences of biblical leaders under pressure, and seek to apply new learning in specific areas of your own life. There is a flow of experience and wisdom in the community of faith there is much that we can learn from the past. In particular, the varied dimensions of brokenness portrayed in the lives of biblical leaders, and the rich learning – and sometimes healings – which they experienced by the grace and love of God, may inform and give profound insight to servant – children in the modern church.
The varied dimensions of pressure:
1. Loss of meaning in a living situation.
Many servant – children admit to feelings of meaninglessness in their living. Such an expression of loss of meaning in the living to which they believe they have been called by God either initiates or helps sustain experiences of stress. Biblical figures such as Jeremiah and David illustrate such feelings of meaninglessness.
Jeremiah is unusual among the Hebrew prophets because of the extent to which the biblical record reveals his personal feelings. From the outset of his ministry, he experienced a real sense of desperation when confronted with the almost hopeless task of ministering to Judah in her apostasy. His pent-up mental anguish found expression in passionate outbursts against his lot in life (read Jeremiah 5:10; 20:8, 14, 18).
Repeatedly, Jeremiah is pictured as perceiving his own ministry to be at variance with that of the priests. He questions both the validity of their ministry, and the capacity of the people to respond appropriately to his own prophetic ministry. He believes in the validity of his own ministry passionately, but realizes that others do not concur with his estimate.
David reveals himself to be a person who believes that God had been richly present to his ancestors, but experiences an apparent absence of the blessing of God upon his own life. Elsewhere in Psalm 22, David exposes his feelings of pain and irrelevance as well as concluding that, in an ultimate sense, his ministry is not pointless. Feelings of inadequacy and irrelevance in living are hardly new; they unfold naturally as part of the biblical story.
2. Loneliness and burden-bearing.
Experiences of personal loneliness by Christians, and the weight of burdens they carry, are common. Similar experiences of isolation and the weight of suffering are attested by biblical figures.
The book of Jeremiah depicts the agony of Jeremiah as interlocked with the agony of Yahweh himself at Israel’s rejection of him. Yahweh calls the people his daughter, they provoke him to agony, yet Jeremiah feels the wound, and the sickness grabs hold of his own heart and fills him with anguish and even weeping for what he sees ahead.
Five great confessions of Jeremiah have been identified; take the time to read and reflect on these:
1.11:18-23 and 12:1-6;
All share a highly personal description of Jeremiah’s own sufferings and events of lively despair, mixed with a trust in God that reaches out in the dark for help. Jeremiah’s deep feelings well up from his spiritual anguish.
Perhaps the most significant contributing factor to Jeremiah’s agony was his intense identification with the people to whom he had to proclaim the judgment of God:
My heart, my heart! Let me writhe!
O walls of my heart!
My heart is in tumult within:
I cannot keep still,
For the sound of the horn do I hear,
The blast of battle!
Crash upon crash it comes –
For all the land is ravaged
Of a sudden my tent is ravaged
In an instant my curtains.
The poems of Jeremiah’s inner life do not depict prophetic truth as a bolt from the blue, but as something with a history in the prophet’s psyche. The revelation of God was appropriated by Jeremiah deep within his mind and his spirit, amid personal anguish. Moreover, this anguish was used repeatedly by God to shape and refine Jeremiah’s life.
The burden of his call drove Jeremiah relentlessly towards the fulfillment of his prophetic mission. He experienced the tension of belief in that call over against the personal agony associated with the response to that call. On one occasion, he went so far as to say that he would never again speak in the divine name.
Jeremiah might well have been tempted to shrink from the call of God when it summoned him to attack the religious and commercial vested interests of Jerusalem in his day. The outer circumstances of his life were the context in which Jeremiah’s inner, lonely suffering took place.
The New Testament letter of Paul illustrate the pressures of loneliness and burden-bearing. Nowhere are the dimensions of pressure experienced by Paul so clearly etched as in 2 Corinthians:
•In 1:3-11 he refers to his afflictions in Asia (v.8…for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself).
•In 2:1-4 and 7:5-13 Paul mentions the agony of offering disciplinary advice to the Christians in Corinth (v.4 ‘For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you’).
•In 2:12-13 the longing of Paul for the coming of his brother preacher (Titus) bringing news about the state of affairs in the church at Corinth not only causes him deep mental distress but prevents him from taking up opportunities for ministry that lay before him.
•In 4:7-18 and 6:3-13, the physical sufferings and inner turmoil of Paul and his companions in ministry are described in terms of costly suffering for the spiritual benefit of others.
•in 11:28, after cataloging the many external difficulties he faced in carrying out his ministry, Paul refers to the ‘daily pressure’ (burden, concern of his anxiety for ‘the churches.’ Pastoral oversight is a heavy load to carry.
Paul also is described as experiencing the grief of having to lose a close companion (Barnabas): and of needing to take tough decisions. Paul, if he was the author of 2 Timothy, was disappointed and grieved over the departure of Demas, and was apparently lonely because only Luke of all his close friends was with him at the time of writing his second letter to Timothy. In this context, Paul needed the fellowship of his younger brother in Christ (‘Do you best to come to me soon’).
In addition, Paul had to endure many false accusations, sometimes from those who were widely respected in the church.
3. Personal limitations
One of the paradoxes of being engaged in Christian living is that the person, may frequently experience severe personal limitations and weakness.
The biblical record contains evidence of the leaders of God’s people experiencing feelings of personal limitation. Moses, in the face of God’s call to lead the children of Israel into liberation from Egypt, felt utterly incapable of being the spokesman and representative of his People to pharaoh. Another example is that of Isaiah, who experienced a sense of deep unworthiness before the vision of a holy God. Also, Jeremiah believed, like Moses, that he was not gifted in such a way as he thought would be appropriate for the particular nature of God’s call for him.
Recent studies in Christology have placed heavy emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. While these studies, it may be argued, overlook the reality of the divinity of Jesus, they have heightened our contemporary awareness of the full humanness of Jesus which has tended to be at least partly obscured by traditional Christology with its one-sided emphasis on the divinity of Christ. Because of this emphasis on the divinity of Christ, the relevance of New Testament material attesting the human limitation and experience of Jesus to the ministry of his followers is more apparent.
In Matthew, chapters 8 and 9, Jesus was unable to cater to the needs of the crowds and escaped across the lake from them. He pointed out to a scribe that to follow him was to step out into insecurity and to share his fate.
Jesus perceived the needs of the crowds were so great that there would be a continuing need over the coming days, and years, for more disciples in order that the crowds might receive effective ministry. He felt the pressure of his limitations.
A somewhat similar experience of personal limitation is described by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians. The discovery of spiritual power coincidental with physical suffering is described as a humiliation, feelings of inadequacy, and all forms of suffering, as powerful instruments revealing the presence of God.
The credibility of Christian living is at stake if it is assumed that such leaders should be perfect and invulnerable creatures – persons “apart.” The validity of a theology operating upon such an assumption would be highly questionable. It is worth recalling that the gospel has been communicated iin spite of the frailty of human flesh. God is able to communicate through sensual, fragile and destructible flesh; ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.’
For the apostle Paul, power in ministry was experienced in terms of dependence upon the sovereign Lord. In Paul’s understanding, the attributes of his ministry had more to do with an ‘unprofessional’ understanding of ministry, as that word is usually understood. Paul considered that the effectiveness of his ministry could not be accounted for in terms of his personal skills, his eloquence, his confidence or any such factor; rather his own performance in ministry was seen by him to be a stumbling demonstration of his incapacity to minister effectively, when contrasted with the power of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Paul was very aware of his own weakness (the ‘thorn in the flesh’, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; his difficulty in writing, Galatians 6:11; his confrontations with difficulty in writing, Galatians 6:11; his confrontations withy opponents in the church, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 4: 11-13).
The amazing fact is that the gospel is communicated through that which is human finite, and despite sin and illness. The word of God has been powerfully communicated in spite of Davit’s sensual life (2 Samuel 12), Elijah’s weariness (1 Kings 19), Jeremiah’s sense of burden (Jeremiah 20:7-10), Ezekiel’s probable schizophrenia (Ezekiel 1:1), Timothy’s digestive problems (1 Timothy 5:23), as well as Francis of Assisi’s profligate youth, Luther’s self-doubts, and Kierkegaard’s and J. B. Phillips’ depressions. It may be that those who acknowledge their place in the midst of suffering humanity are even better equipped to live the gospel that those who compulsively – strive for perfection.
Thus there is no theological justification for an understanding of Christian living being undertaken by peculiar human beings who are beyond mental, spiritual or emotional conflict. On the other hand the realization that human limitation and weakness may be viewed as an ingredient of, rather than a barrier to effective living is a very liberating one.
4. Extreme Stress
While the designation ‘burnout’ is a modern one, the condition it describes is as old as events depicted in the Bible. For example,, in the Psalms, David describes himself as being totally worn out:
“O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in the wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am Languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
But, O Lord, how long?”
(Psalm 6:1-3. See also 25:19-21, 31:9, 10; 32:3, 4; 38:3, 4; 39:1-3, 7-11).
Jeremiah also appears to have experienced the dark depths of despair and feelings of helplessness and exhaustion implicit in ‘burnout’ (Jeremiah 4:19-21, 8:18; 9:1; 11:18, 19).
Jesus, especially in the spiritual and emotional battle at the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:42-44) and on Golgotha, is similarly tortured and pressured. The intensity of that struggle, represented physically by Luke in his reference to Jesus’ sweat being ‘like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground’ (verse 44), must be noted.
The cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), echoing the opening words of Psalm 22, underscores the extent of Jesus’ experience of bitter isolation as he approached death. Already feeling alienated from almost all human companionship, Jesus embraces the darkest desertion of all: alienation from the Father.
These biblical examples suggest that ‘burnout’ is an acute development of the individual’s reaction to other dimensions of pressure. Certainly, there are echoes of this condition in the forgoing discussion of biblical material.
Ways of Coping
Scripture not only depicts the problem of pressure experienced by God’s servant: it also highlights ways of coping with the problem. We have seen that the biblical record does not minimize the existence of pressure, or the value of it. Certainly, the suggestion is to be found there that it is possible to ‘solve’ the problem of pressure for Christians by adopting some kind of life-style that would be free of any such pressure. The Bible contains insights into various ways in which such pressure can be coped with, and even turned to profit.
1. Name the problem
Biblical characters, on occasion, are described as enduring extreme stress. For example, Elijah experienced sheer exhaustion after the Mount Carmel event (1 Kings 19). Also, Jeremiah’s outburst, claiming that at one point in his ministry he had enough and was near to breaking point (Jeremiah 20) illustrates the intensity of this experience: ‘Cursed be the day on which I was born. The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you…”‘.
In the New Testament record, Jesus is depicted as undergoing deep agony on the Mount of Olives prior to his arrest, and he begs his Father, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup (of suffering) pass from me…’ Also, Paul indicates by letter the sufferings he and his missionary companions had experienced in Asia:’… for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death…’
While there are examples of biblical figures who apparently had no hesitation about articulating to God, and to others, areas of stress, modern Christians are often reticent to do the same. yet basic to all endeavors to cope with stress is the willingness to ‘own’ the stress: to recognize it with or without the help of others, and to express it in some way. To be able to name the problem is a significant undergirding factor which predisposes to healthy coping behavior.
2. Balance between rest and activity.
for humans to engage in work is to experience pain. The fatigue of work is its pain. Only the lilies of the field neither “toil’ nor are in pain, because they have no anxiety. The Bible affirms that God, understanding the fatigue experienced by us, gives rest. Rest, theologically, is both needed by men and women in living, and has its source beyond them. Such rest is not merely a suspension of activity, but also signifies refreshment, and is to be seen as a corrective over and against the frenzied activism of much living. While in an ultimate sense ‘rest’ is an experience, relaxation and refreshment it is also part of God’s provision for all people. Such divine provision must be claimed by Christians making the choices necessary if they are to receive this portion of God’s gift of sustenance. Intentionality on the part of Christians is required.
Such biblical figures as Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul model for us the way a leader in a demanding ministry situation may still retain the initiative to call for ‘timeout’, and deliberately making opportunities for withdrawal from ministry with others to engage in prayer and adopt a quiet, contemplative disposition.
3. From weakness to power; from works to grace.
Whenever a Christian faces and accepts his or her inadequacies, limitations and frustrations, the way is open for a deep nourishment of spirit by the Spirit promised us. (‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’ – 2 Corinthians 12:10). Christians, as part of the community of the church, need to share with all their brothers and sisters in this life-sustaining dependency which in turn creates renewal and growth.
Rather than the fragility and humanity of the Christian being viewed in scripture in terms of negativity only (as obstacles to spiritual life and authentic living), they are depicted as aspects of God’s grace, as instruments of his action in and through the life of his servants. In this way, scripture encourages Christians to view the varied aspects of their personal vulnerability not as enemies that seek only to destroy effective living, but as allies which, if acknowledged and accepted, may be powerful agents of the Spirit of God, utterly alone and helplessness, which becomes the first step to the recovery of his confidence and hope.
in some cases, servant-children operate in daily life as though they do not stand under the gospel of the unconditional acceptance of them by God. It is often difficult for Christians to claim and live by grace.
4. Creative relationships.
Frequently, individuals who are described in scripture as exercising spiritual leadership, are portrayed as being supported in community. As well as others providing encouragement for them, they provide an accepting environment in which confession may be made.
The benefits of true fellowship with peers or with others are implied in scripture. Relationships require the expenditure of energy, but it is apparent in the biblical records that such energy is rewarded with the gift of additional energy in return.
The primitive church endeavored to sustain caring relationships that included supportive friendships between key leaders (for example, for some years, between Barnabas and Paul; the apostles in Jerusalem; and Paul and his companions). It appears that leaders in the primitive church did not operate in total isolation from other Christians and that they would not have desired such a ‘lone-ranger’ approach in their ministry. Rather, it was natural for them to consult, support and even dispute with each other for their own good, and the good of the church.
Paul provides an illuminating insight into his personal priority in his ministry of spending time with the elders of the church in Ephesus. In this, Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders, he reminds them of his practice, over three years when in Ephesus, of counseling and weeping with them and with others in the church at Ephesus, ‘day and night’. No demonstration of the value and significance of creative relationships for Christians could be more instructive.
Having considered in this Lesson some of the dimensions of pressure in which biblical servant-child experienced the love of God bathing their areas of brokenness, promoting endurance and healing:
1. Write down one or two dimensions of pressure referred to in this Chapter which you know to be true, either now or recently, in your own life:
2. From this section in this Lesson headed ‘Ways of Coping’, are there some issues which you believe the Holy Spirit is drawing to your attention?
•If so, jot them down:
•What are you now going to do, specifically, in order to cope better with pressure? (Your ‘action plans’ may range beyond the principles discussed in this Lesson).
•With whom can you now share these insights and plans (by e-mail, face to face, phone call, etc.)?
3. At this point in this course, it will be beneficial to take a evaluation. The following questions will help you perform some further evaluation:
•Thinking about yourself at present. What gave your life meaning? What makes life worth living for you?
•At present what relationship seems most important for your life?
•Have you experienced losses, crises or suffering that have changed your life in special ways?
•have you had moments of joy, ecstasy, peak experience or breakthrough that have shaped or changed your life? (e.g., in nature, in sexual experience or in the presence of inspiring beauty or communication)?
•What experiences have affirmed your sense of meaning in life?
•What experiences have shaken or disturbed your sense of meaning?
•Can you describe the beliefs and values or attitudes that are most important in guiding your own life?
•What is the purpose of human life?
•What relationships or groups are most important as support for your values and beliefs?
•How important are your values and beliefs? In what ways do these beliefs and values find expression in your life?
•is there a “plan” for human lives? Are we affected in our lives by power beyond human control?
•When life seems most discouraging and hopeless, what holds you up or renews your hope?
•When you think about the future, what makes you feel most anxious or uneasy (for yourself and those you love, for society or institutions, for the world)?
•What does death mean to you? What becomes of us when we die?
•Why do some persons and groups suffer more than others?
•Some people believe that we will always have poor people among us, and that in general life rewards people according to their efforts. What are your feelings about this?
•Do you have or have you had important religious experiences?
•What feelings do you have when you think of God?
•Do you consider yourself a religious person?
•If you pray, what do you feel is going on when you pray?
•Some people believe that without religion, morality breaks down? What do you feel about this?
•Where do you feel that you are changing, growing, struggling or wrestling with doubt in your life at the present time? Where is your growing edge?
•What is your image (or idea) of mature faith?
4. At this point you should discuss with your trainer any problem areas that you may still have in your spiritual growth and in preparing and implementing God’s plan for you in your life.
While Harry Truman was in the White House, the kitchen staff baked him a birthday cake. After the meal, Truman excused himself from the table and went to the kitchen to thank the cook. This was the first time any of the staff could remember a president entering the kitchen for any reason, let alone to say thank you. On a much larger scale, Truman knew that Europe would need to be reconstructed after World War II. Truman’s secretary of state, George Marshall, presented a seventeen-billion-dollar European Recovery Program plan that would help to rebuild Europe and would hurtle the United States into world prominence. Truman’s advisors encouraged him to dub it the “Truman Plan,” named after the president who authorized it. Truman deferred, insisting that it be called the “Marshall Plan” after the man who had helped develop it. Truman would often be quoted as saying, “It is remarkable how much could be accomplished when you don’t mind who receives the credit.” Such self-effacing leadership endeared Truman to people.
Father, please help me to walk in the way of the humble and meek. Keep me from straying into pride and envy. Help me to see the blessings I have been given, rather than long for the thins I must do without. Amen.
The Plan Ahead
The fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the children of God. (Thomas kelly)
“T. S. Eliot speaks of Christianity as “‘A condition of complete simplicity / Costing not less than everything).’ Holy obedience is stamped with that enormous price tag. Holy obedience is the insatiable God-hunger that will make a person dissatisfied with anything less than the pearl of great price. Holy obedience is the joyful abandon of the person who will sell absolutely everything to buy the field. It is the obedience of an Abraham willing to plunge the knife into his own dear son at the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord. It is three Hebrew children who refused to bow the knee to the golden image. It is a Daniel who would die before he would stop praying to the one true God.”
“Holy obedience is the single eye that bathes the entire personality in light. It is the purity of heart that can desire only one thing – the good. It is a God – intoxicated life that can embrace wealth or poverty, hunger or plenty, crucifixion or acclaim with equal ease at the word of Christ” (Freedom of Simplicity-Richard J. Foster).
Meister Eckhard wrote, “There are plenty to follow our Lord Half-way, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends, and honors, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves.” As we cross over the line and venture into this area, we find ourselves in the land of holy obedience. To qladly disown control over your life, to live in joyful servanthood or childhood, is the other half from which we so often draw back. Jesus declared, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
What we have failed to see is this amazing paradox: true self fulfillment comes only through self-denial. There is no other way. The most certain way to miss self-fulfillment is to pursue it. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).
No one has written with greater vigor or more perception on the connection between selflessness and childhood than the seventeenth-century Archbishop of Cambrai, Francois Fenelon. In his sensitive little book Christian Perfection, Fenelon identifies three stages through which we travel on our way into the servanthood of self-blindness. The first stage involves freeing ourselves from an “intoxication” to material or outward things and becoming sensitive to the things of the spirit, especially our own inward condition. We are no longer dazzled by the outward, the superficial. Impressive buildings, bulging budgets, flashy programs simply fail to move us. We give up on all the outward human systems to accomplish the work of God. Our attention is drawn to the more internal work of the Spirit. We become absorbed with the work of God upon the soul. It is a good and healthy step, but deeply self centered and far from genuine childhood.
In the second stage we move away from total absorption in ourselves and our eternal destiny to be centered in the fear and love of God. It is a step forward but it is, as Fenelon said, “a weak commencement of true wisdom,” since we are “still wrapped up in self.” In this stage it is not enough for us to fear God, we must be sure that we fear and love him. We have a kind of spiritual rigor that is determined to obey God. We are constantly returning to our own behavior to see if we can find a kind of spiritual rigor that is determined to obey God. We are constantly returning to our own behavior to see if we can find any dregs of pride or self control. There is a great longing for humility, and we work with all our might to attain it.
As we move along, God will lead us into the third stage, in which our attention becomes more and more drawn to being His child and servant. “It begins to consider God more often than it considers self, and insensibly it tends to forget self in order to become more concerned with God, with a love devoid of self-interest.”
The third stage is a marvelous virtue, and something sublime. It is the natural charm and unpretentious exuberance of childhood. We admire children who walk in this way, and enjoy their company. Gone is the forced behavior and sticky righteousness.
Do you know the wonderful new freedom this childhood brings? No longer is there the stifling preoccupation with ourselves. Now there are new liberating graces to care deeply for the needs of the Family of God. And most wonderful of all, we can lay down the crushing burden of the opinions of others. Fenelon witnessed, “With this purity of heart, we are no longer troubled by what others think of us, except that in charity we avoid scandalizing them.” We do not have to be liked. We do not have to succeed. We can enjoy obscurity as easily as fame.
In all of this we can sometimes get the mistaken impression of uninterrupted progress forward. Even the use of the term “stages” can unwittingly convey the idea of leaving one level for a higher one never to return again. I have not found it to be so. My experience has been much more fluid and changing. One day I may be experiencing an intimate attention to Christ’s presence that is well nigh amazing, and the next day I am in the feeling of depression. I can alternate between being meekly submissive and stubbornly rebellious with surprising speed. And I find many of the devotional masters record similar experiences. The stages are not hard and fast. There is a lot of movement back and forth, up and down.
But it is not a spiritual roller coaster either, because through all the motion there is a sense of progress and growth. The feeling of intermittent communion begins to give way to more sustained fellowship.
Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be lighthearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, merry. utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration. And so I urge you to enjoy this training of self-surrender. Don’t push too hard. Hold this training lightly, joyfully.
The saints throughout the ages have witnessed to this reality. Think of St. Francis, the poor little monk of Assisi, inebriated with the love of God and filled with ecstasy. Those early Franciscans walked in holy obedience with the most incredible exuberance and merry abandon. Jubilant, they lived rapt in God by the overflow of divine grace that descended upon them. Juliana of Norwich in her beautiful Revelations of Divine Love said that she was filled with “delight and security so blessedly and so powerfully that there was no fear, nor sorrow, no pain physical or spiritual, that one could suffer which might have disturbed me.”
Thomas Kelly wrote, “Humility rests upon a Holy blindness, like the blindness of him who looks steadily into the sun. The God-blinded soul sees naught of personal degradation or of person”
We have seen the humility of others and ached to know its ease and freedom. How deeply we have desired to obey the word of Scripture to take on the mind of Christ, who through God the Son did not grasp for equality, but rather “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant… And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).
How wonderful now to see the connection between humility and obedience. Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient.” There is a way into humility and it is through Holy obedience. The God-possessed soul knows only one purpose, one goal, one desire. God is not some figure in our field of vision, sometimes blurred, sometimes focused; he IS our vision. Our eye is a single, our whole body is committed to be His Child.