Illness deflates the spirit. Financial hardship discourages. The loss of relationships pains the heart. Loneliness sinks the soul. Broken dreams crush our hope. But in the end, our greatest woe may not be that we lack money, love or our health-it's that we don't believe God and the promise He's made to redeem our suffering.
We look at the evidence of our lives and deep down believe that the promise of health is for others. After all, we've been sick for fifteen years! Or we recall our car repairs and cardboard-walled apartments and think that God really isn't interested in meeting all of our needs. We ruminate on our divorces, or years of isolation, and conclude that relationships are for the happy who were blessed enough to have well-balanced parents.
When we don't believe God, despair and fear set in. When "by His wounds, we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5 NIV) and "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10, NIV) lose their significance, life distresses. When "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5, NIV) are empty words, so are our souls. When we believe that the words, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers" (3 John 1:2, NKJ)were meant for the characters of the Bible, we give up on the idea that God still heals today. When challenging life circumstances become a greater reality than what He has promised us in His Word, hope fades. And when Jesus' death only purchased for us eternal life, rather than abundant life on earth, His sacrifice becomes emptied of its power for the day-to-day of today.
But Jesus purchased more than just eternal life for us when He went to the Cross. He redeemed us, and saved us, in the greatest sense of the word. For "sozo" (saved), in the original Greek in which it was written in the Bible, means, "saved, healed, delivered and preserved." Therefore, because of His sacrifice, we are given power over sickness, depression, devastation, and all the lies that affront us about our identity and inheritance in His kingdom. Of course, the manifestation of His promises can take time, as we get to know Him and who He is for us, but they are real, Yes and Amen nonetheless.
Still, we struggle to embrace "sozo" because we have been taught that seeing is believing. We don't know how to believe first in order to see, because staying stuck in what we know is sometimes easier than stepping out in faith. Grasping on to a more optimistic reality feels unsafe to a life that has been accustomed to tragedy.
"But God," we protest, "Those promises seem like they are for everyone else but me, because life just never seems to get any better."
And we forget that it's not about our weaknesses, or what we have endured, but the Cross and what He endured for our sake. So what is truth? The voice in our head or what He has said?
When we say: "I have screwed up too much in life to ever be in a healthy relationship again." He says:
I was pierced for your transgressions. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV). Nails were driven into His feet and hands; a spear was thrust into His side, for the purpose of redeeming every mistake we have ever made.
When we say: "God doesn't care about me."
He says: I was crushed for your iniquities; (Isaiah 53:5, NIV) He cared about us so much that He thought that being bruised, broken, battered and murdered would be a worthwhile exchange for our freedom.
When we say: "I can't have peace in the midst of this situation" He says,
the punishment that brought you peace was upon Me; (that is, He took the punishment that we deserved for our independence from Him, upon Himself at the Cross, so that we would not have to feel guilty for our sins against Him, ourselves, or others).
And of course, when we protest that we will never be healed, He says otherwise:
"By My wounds you are healed." (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).
Let us ask Him for the courage to believe in Him, not in the trials that life has handed us. Because either His Word is true or it's not. Either God is a liar or our thoughts are deceiving us. It's up to us to decide, moment by moment, the truth that we want to embrace. Let us not adopt the mind's perspective out of a perceived inability to challenge the lies that have beset us our entire lives. Let us not buy into an inferior life, because it seems easier than doing the hard work of change. Let us ask Him to instill in our hearts the reality that, "Everything is possible for him who believes." (Mark 9:23, NIV). And may we know that in the end, we can do it, because, "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13, NIV). Amen, Jesus. Amen.