VERSE: “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
OSWALD: “Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard. God is more tender than we can conceive, and every now and again He gives us the chance of being the rugged one that He may be the tender One.” (December 19th)
MY THOUGHT: It’s hard to watch people hurt. It’s even harder to stand back when everything within wants to leap forward and intervene, to somehow fix what seems so wrong and senseless in the lives of those we love.
“Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard.” Oswald’s words bring me up short every time I read them, for if I’m truthful, there are some situations that make me scratch my head. Trials and tragedies that leave me wondering if God really cares about my friend as much as I do.
But I’ve learned in my own life that God often appears cruel so that He might be kind. For there is a deep work that can only be done in a crucible. In a fiery trial so hot, all the dross of my heart finally releases its grip and comes to the surface. Not a pretty process, let me assure you. But a necessary one. For if I am ever to be like Jesus, I’m going to have to embrace the furnace and destruction before I’m ready for the anvil and reconstruction.
In times like these, I need to trust God and His goodness in my life. But I need to trust Him when He’s working in the lives of others. Even though I question His methods.
“If a man cannot get through to God,” Oswald writes, “it is because there is a secret thing that he does not intend to give up…People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.”
Wow, isn’t that true? We all want blessings, but few of us welcome the soul surgery we so desperately need. More and more, I’m hearing Christians use the excuse that “no one’s perfect” – thus implying, “why even try?” We don’t like the hard message of holiness. We’d rather not look to closely at shortcomings or sin. It seems too antiquated and harsh for today’s cozy Christianity. We’d rather cuddle under God’s mercy, thoughtlessly trampling His grace underfoot, than do the inevitably hard work of actually changing.
Which is an incredible tragedy – for when Jesus came and died, He bought more than our salvation. God sent His Son so that the Perfect One might perfect you and me!
Our job as servants of God is to “cut down to the very root,” Oswald says, by erecting the standard of Jesus Christ for people’s lives. When they respond, “We can never be that,” drive it home – “Jesus says you must.” But then add, you cannot without a new Spirit (Luke 11:13). The very thing Christ came to give us. His Spirit – His strength, power, and presence at work in and through our lives.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped sympathizing with people, especially when their situation involves sin, and started speaking the truth in love? Not from a holier-than-thou perch of judgment or spiritual pride. But from the humble position of a son or daughter who has been chastened by God.
There is always a chance we’ll be misunderstood or misinterpreted – and that’s something we’ll have to leave with God. But as we step back, God will step in. Allowing our friend, perhaps at that very moment, to finally discover just how tender and kind, forgiving and loving our heavenly Father really is.