We’d rather not accept it. Something deep inside us resists it. God and pain, together. The Holy Spirit and suffering, at the same time. This is not the message that sells books. It’s far too difficult. Far too uncomfortable. It’s sobering.
Like the green spot we missed when painting our bedroom baby blue… Like the 3 or 4 rock chips in my windshield… Like the sound of the train rolling though town… There are some things that are always there, so you hardly notice them.
But if you approach the familiar at face value and take it all in with new eyes, suddenly, it’s conspicuous.
Two themes in Acts that have existed quietly in the background of nearly every story but jump off the page if you’re honest: The Holy Spirit and suffering.
God’s Spirit is everywhere – interacting with people as the main character of the story.
And everywhere – Christians are suffering.
At the same time.
Holy Spirit and suffering.
I have to re-read whole pages because I’m surprised at how often the two go together. Makes me wonder: are they connected?
This I know: we don’t suffer much as a direct result of our faith today. But neither are we especially spiritually empowered.
And I know this: The Holy Spirit draws near in times of suffering. So near, sometimes, that suffering can feel…holy.
Because God is there.
Paul knew it: there was trouble ahead. Everywhere he went he heard God Himself warning him. Trouble’s comin’.
Others sensed it too. Not just a gut feeling; God Himself told them. It’s going to get rough for Paul.
And then this prophet named Agabus walks up to Paul and shows him how he’ll be arrested. Just in case Paul needs details.
At this everyone – even Paul’s companions – lose it. “Don’t go!” they say, their eyes big and earnest.
Paul’s response silences them: “Why are you breaking my heart? I’m ready to be bound or to die…”
How do you get to this place? How do you come face-to-face with the fact that you’re going to get hurt but keep moving forward?
You embrace a Bigger Story as your own. You take your personal story with your pain and your death and you surrender it to God’s Story. You let your story become part of that Story.
Because God’s story is about resurrection. And when resurrection meets our life, our story changes.
3 short stories about relationships with Jesus:
1 educated man. He’s studied for years about God and the coming Messiah. He’s passionate, articulate, and good at what he does. As far as that goes. But when an uneducated women who knows more than he hears him, she gracefully explains things more completely.
12 committed disciples. They’ve been solid, go-to guys for years. They work hard. As hard as they can. But then they meet Paul, who introduces them to the Source of strength. And they’re filled.
7 sons of a priest. They’re intrigued by the name “Jesus” which seems to work well for others. They decide to try it. Interested in a casual association, they name-drop and watch what happens. They’re nearly killed. Now intrigue sees more clearly and fears.
When our spirituality is resurrected there is always more: more information to learn, more power to experience, more holiness to revere. Always. More.