It’s not often I read the same book twice in a year’s time, but it happened this year. Partly because it is an excellent book. And partly because I am quick to forget what I “learn”. (Have we really learned something if we forget it?)
If you’ve read this blog before, you can probably guess the book is Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts. I may not know you, but I know you need to read this book. Which says more about the book and human nature than it does about my arrogance.
The summation of the book is this: Life goes so much better when we remember we are not entitled to ANYTHING; all is grace, all is gift.
I forgot this for a few days around Christmas. And in crept a spirit of sadness, emptiness – a sense of just how broken this world is and how it won’t be fixed until Christ returns. I dwelt on that too long, developing a discontent rooted in the idea that I deserve perfection now.
I went down this rabbit trail: I feel pain because I lack something. The lack is bad because it causes pain. Fix the lack, fix the pain. There is no fixing the lack permanently in this broken world. Hopelessness.
Do you see the entitlement in this thinking?
I’m not entitled to not feel pain this side of Heaven.
Nowhere in the Bible is this mentioned. In fact, the opposite is harped on quite a bit. There will be pain, there will be trials, there will be suffering. A pain-free existence is incongruent with how the world works. It’s a logical impossibility. Therefore, feeling entitled to such bliss is absurd.
That’s a kick to the gut.
We cannot have a continuously pain-free life, no matter what we do, what god we worship, or how well we serve Him.
It’s almost enough to make you want to give up on the whole thing… religion… God… life.
And that’s what Satan would have us do. He would have us zoom in on our present lives and dwell on the hopelessness of now.
But God zooms us back out so we can consider the eternal value of our present perseverance.
The author of Hebrews puts it like this:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:35-39)
There is an eternal reward for those who continue to serve and obey the Lord in the middle of the hopeless feelings of our painful lives. Salvation – eternity in a pain-free Heaven – awaits those who believe and press on.
We are not entitled to anything, least of all a pain-free now. Count all as grace – as gift – and it will help you press on through the pain and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.
This is such a hard lesson to learn, but so necessary. And it is not as if we never need to learn it again (like reading the book again). Our enemy and our own flesh will continually seek to persuade us that we are indeed entitled to pain free living. Of course, neither one of those sources can provide that. God can provide that but chooses not to until the kingdom comes. Even Jesus was not entitled to a pain free life while he was here. Why should we be?