Quite a lot of my posts are about suffering and pain, and for a good reason. Life is full of suffering, it is inescapable, and we all need to be continuously reminded that suffering is one of the primary ways in which God uses to grow you and transform you into something genuinely human – Jesus Christ. However, I can get bogged down in the tragedy of life a bit too much. It’s easy to be overcome by it and to always be suffering in unnecessary ways. Some of the pain and suffering we experience can be brought upon ourselves. To combat the unnecessary suffering we can create, I think we need to learn to love and appreciate the beautiful parts of life God has given us. Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philip 4:8).
Paul experienced a lot of suffering (2 Cor 11:25), yet remarkably it seems to me that he didn’t lose perspective of the bigger picture. Remember, Paul was a first-century Pharisee that loved Jesus. He knew his Bible very well. So he would’ve known that the world was created for humanity to flourish in, rule over, and enjoy (Gen 1-2). Paul was fully aware that God’s good world was given to humanity as a gift to responsibly indulge in as opposed to being taken advantage of for a profit and gain. Paul knows that man and woman were made for each other, to enjoy one another, to love and to multiply rather than to abuse and use. Every bird and beast, every tree and shrub, every stream and beachside, every fig and pear (except apples), every person was made good for us to partake of, enjoy and love. Paul knew that despite our fallen and broken condition (Gen 3) God still wants this. Paul knows that his God has a plan to restore the entire created order to the state in which once again, humanity can be at one with the world and one another (Rom 8:22-24). So for Paul, every time he caught a glimpse of this anticipated hope, every time he saw people loving one another as themselves, every time he saw the God of Israel among His people the Church he would consider it lovey and excellent and worth meditating upon. God wants humans to enjoy the world they’ve been given. Suffering might be unavoidable, but so is the beauty of life, and there is a lot of it. You just need to do a bit of looking.
For me, learning to love life starts in three places:
- Understanding, appreciating, and experiencing the majesty of God in Christ: Nothing moves me more, makes me tear up more, causes me to tremble more than the love of God in Christ. Admittedly, there are days and even seasons of my life where the Gospel and God can become quite dull or old hat. It is in those seasons I need to work through the hardness of my own heart, and the darkness blanketing it. However, when I move past my flesh, and I remember the stark truths of the Gospel, that’s where my motivation for flourishing, for loving others and to embrace God’s good gifts comes from.
- Seeing the beauty in your family and loving them fiercely as a result: For the men, there is no greater task (if God has given you the gift) to love your wife as Christ does the Church and to father your kids in the ways of the Lord (Eph 5). Nothing screams godly more than a man who takes family seriously to the point of willing to die for it. A beautiful life starts in the family.
- Being moved by the beauty and magnificence of friendship – loving others as yourself. Friendship – real friendship – is more than a simple catch up with your mates. Real friendship is laying your body upon the altar of sacrifice for the sake of the other. It is weeping when they weep, it is laughing when they laugh, it is bearing their burdens so that they too may enjoy the beauty God has to offer. Real friendship in Christ facilities human flourishing on a level that the world cannot hope to experience in and of themselves.
Dear friend, you suffer, you hurt, I know these things. I experience them almost on the daily. While we all experience these things, there is hope. Jesus Christ, our Lord, has defeated satan, sin, and death. Already you can taste and see that the Lord is good and that life is to be enjoyed not just suffered through. Don’t lose perspective of the bigger picture. Hold fast to the hope we have in Christ. Be in awe of His greatness. Love your family and friends well and just go to the beach, or the mountains or down to the park and have a good drink and food and give thanks to the Lord. You’ll be better for it.