Have you heard this lie before? It goes like this: “You are not going to make it!” If you believe that you can never escape your trials, then you might be believing a lie from the Black Dog. In today’s podcast, learn how to fight this lie with the truth. Thanks and please share with a friend! Fight the Black Dog | Episode 10 | You’re Going to Make It
Archives For trials
In this fourth episode of our series “Where Was God?” we look at the main battle that Jesus was engaged in. Because he was fighting for us, he could not fight for himself. Even when it seems like life is hard for us, we have to realize that his work is infinitely harder than our own. He is a part of the much bigger struggle.
“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
The Greek words behind the phrase “beyond all comparison” are actually a repetition of the same word, which is the root word behind our English word “hyperbole.” It’s as if we’ll gain an eternal weight of glory that is so massive, that it is a “hyperbole beyond all hyperboles.” A hyperbole, by the way, is an extreme exaggeration. “I would swim all of the oceans to prove my love for you,” would be an example of a hyperbole. So what would a “hyperbole beyond all hyperboles” be? How about: “I would swim all of the oceans to prove my love for you—and I would do it an infinite amount of times.” That’s a hyperbole beyond all hyperboles!
The light and momentary affliction of our lives is preparing for us some glory that is equivalent to a hyperbole beyond all hyperboles. The idea behind “preparing” is that of production or manufacturing. We’re in a factory of affliction, which is producing “glory” for us at the end of the assembly line. To us that seems impossible; but to God it is possible.
Now imagine a huge scale, the old kind that consists of a balance and two saucers, in which you place the items being weighed. On one side of the scale, place all of your trials in the weighing dish. Actually, place all of the trials of the whole world in one of the dishes. Think of all of the evil that has ever been done, whether by you or Hitler. Think of all of the evil that is yet to be done, and place it, too, in that dish. That seems like a heavy load, and it is. One can barely think about all of the evil ever done or ever to be done, to children or families or races, without breaking down in tears. But hoist it up on one end of the scale, in one of the dishes.
Now go to the other side of the scale and to the other dish. Now place in it the “eternal weight of glory” that God is preparing for us. What happens next will blow your mind. It turns out that the “eternal weight of glory” far outweighs the other side of the scale. The eternal weight of glory slams down, being far heavier than all of the evil ever done, making the side of evil look like goose feathers. It’s not even close.
The weight of glory that God is preparing for us makes our present trials seem to be lightweight contenders. Feathers. Dust. Momentary. The scale does not tip one millimeter in their direction. The glory of our God weighs them down and sends them up to heaven.
There is no comparison between the evil we experience and the glory that God is sovereignly producing for us. To compare the two would require a hyperbole beyond all hyperboles. Learn to know the secret work of your trials and see the hand of God at work in your life, adding weight to your future glory.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
Imagine an empty piñata, perhaps there’s nothing more pathetic than that. It’s just something to crush and destroy with a bat. Nothing good comes out of it. Now imagine a clay pot. It’s fragile, like the piñata. It also can be crushed like the piñata.
Honest people will admit that life sometimes treats you like a piñata, taking swings at you left and right. You’re just hanging there by a string, waiting for the bat to come round again.
Or, we’re like clay pots. That’s the metaphor that the Bible uses in 2 Corinthians 4:7. You’ve got to love the Bible, by the way, for its brutal honesty. There’s no pie-in-the-sky here. The Bible understands me. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Reading the rhythm of these verses, you can sense the piñata swinging back and forth to the motions of the stick. Blow after blow. But there’s something astonishing about this piñata: though it is afflicted, it is not crushed; though life doesn’t make sense, it is not driven to despair; though it is persecuted, God has not abandoned; though it is knocked down like a boxer, it is not knocked out. Why?
Because of what’s inside of the piñata. It’s not an empty piñata. We are told that there’s something inside of the fragile, abused clay pot. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (4:7). The jar contains a treasure. Every time the jar is cracked, more treasure is released. A bit later, we’re told that “our outer self is wasting away” (16). You can just picture the outside of the jar wasting away with every swing.
We’re more like a piñata with treasure inside of it. When life takes a swing at us, treasure spills out. That’s the true secret of Christian suffering, which does not deny the bat; instead, it employs it. Christianity does not deny suffering, but undermines it. The harder we suffer, the more that treasure spills out of us. Just picture someone bashing a piñata, over and over, only to find more and more candy flooding out of it.
Trials release the treasure.
If we don’t have the treasure inside of us, then life will crush us. And that’s it. But if we have the treasure inside of us, then trials will release the treasure. The Treasure is Jesus Christ.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
Most often, we hear people using the presence of “bad” in this world as proof that God is a fake. Because evil exists, then God must not exist—at least not a good and powerful God, anyway. I was reading through John Calvin’s Institutes recently and came across these thoughts from Book I:
“Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties, every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.”
To my amazement, Calvin argues the opposite. He basically says that the presence of “evil things” in our world is a reason to believe in God. God’s goodness becomes more apparent from our poverty. Smothered by the evil around us, we are compelled to turn our eyes toward God. We have been stript of perfection and now we’re cold, vulnerable, and aching. We long to be clothed again; we know that we were not made to live like this. We’re constantly being stung by our own unhappiness, prodded like a horse toward the goal of the race. And as my dad always said, “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Being sick and tired of being sick and tired, compels us to seek an unquenchable source of health and strength. So take a new look at your trials. Maybe they aren’t proofs of God’s absence after all. Maybe they’re your solid proof that there’s something better for you. All things being even, neither the good things in this life nor the bad things in this life can give us eternal life or fill the hole in our hearts. Only God can do that. Trials might just be the swifter path toward Him.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
Psalm 118 contains an intoxicating verse, which will give great joy to those who drink it deeply into their heart. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). There are seven things that I want to point out.
First, we learn that God has a job: God is the Maker. He is the only one who made this day. This day would not have spun into existence were it not for him. Neither you nor I invented, manufactured, initiated, or fastened together this day. God made it and it’s here only because of his will. He wanted this day here and that’s why it’s here. Were it not for God, then this day would have never happened. “This is the day that the Lord has made.” He is the visionary, architect, and builder of all life, especially today.
Second, we learn that we have a job. If God’s job is to make this day, then our job is simple (though not always easy): to react. Actually, the verse specifies not only what we are to do, but also how we are to do it. We are to react with joy and gladness. To be happy, in other words, is our job. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” You and I both know that we always seek happiness, all the time. We never veer from this path. According to this verse, we never ought to stray from this course, either. Our job is to rejoice and be glad.
Third, we learn the pattern of grace before works. Most of us have this backward, getting us in all sorts of spiritual and existential trouble. Our default line of thought is: works before grace. We think that we have to do good deeds in order to get good things. So it is with everything else in our lives. We work really hard, we get good pay. We study really hard, we get good grades. We practice really hard, we make the team. We make all of the sales, we get more recognition. Then we carry over this line of thought to our spiritual lives—and here’s where it really gets dangerous! We do enough good stuff in order to tip the balances, and God will let us in. We do good deeds and God will have favor on us. But that is not the pattern that this verse gives us. In Psalm 118:24, grace comes before works. God gives us the “day” first. God initiates first, God provides first, and God acts first. Only then are we called to “work,” rejoicing in what he has given by his grace. Whenever this pattern of grace-before-works is upset in your life, disaster will follow. We need to live by God’s pattern. He loves first and only then do we react to his love.
Fourth, you already have something to rejoice about today, so don’t miss it. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” There is something special about this day that God has waiting for you. I know that life is tough, as we’re surrounded by constant tears. I’ve walked through the valley, too, many times. But I also know that even in the valley, there is something to rejoice about. God is not overwhelmed by the trials. If he were, then the trials would be “God.” But my God is bigger than all trials and can redeem even the wickedest day. There is something about this day that is worth rejoicing over; and if we only focus on the trials then we’ll never see the triumphs. Go confidently into this day, knowing that there is something to rejoice and be glad about. Hasn’t evil done enough damage in this world? Why then should we also allow it to take away the joy that God has for us in today? I say, let us not feed the fire of sorrow, so that we might fan the flame of joy.
Fifth, we do it together. This was very profound for me to see. The verse does not say, “Let me rejoice and be glad in it.” Rather, it says, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In other words, it’s easier to rejoice with others than it is by yourself. Listen, it is very helpful to depend on others in your pursuit of daily joy. Having joy by yourself is good, but it pales in comparison to sharing joy with another. As C. S. Lewis observed, sharing our joys with others actually completes our experience of joy. That’s why we share good books or movies or restaurants with friends. When your faith falters, you can depend on their faith. Two are stronger than one, in this fight for joy. If you’re having trouble finding something about this day to rejoice over, then go find someone else to rejoice with. Having a joyful life is more like a potluck, where everyone brings something fresh to the feast, and less like a microwave dinner, where you eat alone, merely warming up some frozen thing from the past.
Sixth, this verse is not only the plan for your life today, but also for the rest of your life. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse is a microcosm of the whole thing! This is the pattern for today—and for forever! God’s pattern does not shift. He is our Maker today and forever. We are to recognize him and have joy in him today and forever. The whole of your life is to fit this remarkable pattern that God has established. In other words, this is also your life strategy for tomorrow, the next year, and the next decade after that. You will never grow too sophisticated for this life strategy.
Seventh, therefore, if you can’t find joy today, then you’ll never find it the rest of your life. All the ingredients for true joy are present today. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If you’re waiting for something “good” to come true, then you’re seeking an inferior joy. If you’re waiting for something “bad” to come untrue, then you’re seeking an inferior joy. Don’t hear me wrong, we must strive to rid life of evil and there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to the various celebrations in life. However, these are not the source of joy and if we look only to them, then we will be crushed. If we look only to them, then we will fail to look to God. The great secret of this verse is that it gives us the roadmap to joy. Unfaltering and eternal joy is found only in God. God is the source of lasting joy. The source of joy is not contingent, but constant. Joy does not depend on how things turn out, but on God, the one who gives and retrieves each day. Look around you; joy is lurking near you today. If you can’t see it, then you may never see it. God, have mercy on us; help us not to be entranced by the episodes and evils that steal our eyes from you.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
“War makes death real to us,” wrote C. S. Lewis, as he tried to help some students think through the implications of seeking an education during WWII. The question he was dealing with was, “How can one devote his or her time and energy to the academy when there’s a war going on?” Lewis points out that life is no different than normal. War is not an abnormal situation, but merely highlights reality. The reality is that people are dying all around us. People have always been on the brink of eternity—war or no war. There has always been suffering and always will be. If you allow the war to rule your life, then you won’t do anything. Rather, allow the war to snap you back to reality. Allow the war to snatch your head from the clouds, to show you what’s really important in life. It’s not that we should not pursue the things of life; it’s that the things of life need to be pursued in a certain way, with one eye on eternity. Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of the material and temporal. Don’t lose your soul trying to hold on to the finite, the things that don’t really matter.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” I love this verse. It reveals that every person is searching for eternity. We’re all aching to find life, purpose, significance, and meaning. Yet, oftentimes, we search for the infinite among the finite. So we get frustrated and, instead of changing course, we just speed up. We continue to look for the infinite among the finite. We get bigger possessions, demand louder applause, search for a deeper love. But, as the verse says, we cannot find eternity among earthly pursuits. “He cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to end.” From the beginning of time to the end of time, you’ll never be able to find the eternal in your earthly pursuits. No matter how long or hard you look, you’ll never be satisfied by the things of this world. God has played a trick on you. He has put a hunger in your heart that will never go away, until you’ve tasted the Bread of Life. You’ll continue to ache, even if you have all that this world has to offer. The converse is true, too: the beggar will be satisfied if he finds God, though his shirt is torn and he has only one shoe.
Get a realistic view of life: there is God and there is suffering—and don’t ever confuse the two. What war are you going through right now? May your war give you clear eyes, enabling you to see that we are no longer in Paradise, but Paradise needs to be our pursuit.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
As I say in the video, I’ve heard several stories of cancer recently–more than usual. They’ve been heart-wrenching to learn about. This video is a small attempt to bring some sense to our suffering. It’s not meant to be a robust argument for the problem of evil in this world, but a pastoral one. I’ve come to realize that one of the best ways to encourage a weary soul is to point to the care and power of God. This video contains thoughts on Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, the small verse “Jesus wept,” and three reasons for comfort.
Star Wars fans have May the 4th day. Pot heads have cannabis day on April 20th. God might as well have 3-16 day, as in John 3:16, the most famous of the Christian Scriptures. Here it is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This verse gives us some astounding distinctions of the Christian faith. First, Christianity puts “acceptance” before “works.” In other world religions and in society in general, it’s the other way around. We’re swimming in a culture that puts works before acceptance. If you do the right things, you’ll get the right rewards. That’s the gist. Be a good student, get a good grade. Be a good worker, get good pay. Be a good athlete, get a starting position. Have the right looks, get the affirmation. Have the right friends, get the attention. Keep the right commandments, get salvation. That’s how it typically works in both the world and religion. The way of Jesus, however, thunders onto the scene, flipping our comfortable system on its head. Jesus puts acceptance before works, smashing our efforts with his grace. God gives us acceptance first and only then does he tell us how to follow him (works). Good works are not the requirement for his acceptance; good works are what we can do to draw nearer to the wonderful God who first accepted us.
Second, God’s stance toward you is love. He is not angry and unloving toward you. He is love toward you; he is “good” toward you. Until you know that God is good toward you, then you won’t approach him. Let’s say that in the other room there was either a hungry lion or a pot of gold. Before you opened the door, you would need to know which one it was. If it was a hungry lion, you would not go in. But if it were a pot of gold, then you would go in. God is not a hungry lion, God is a pot of gold. In Jesus Christ, there’s a storehouse full of treasure, waiting for you. God is love toward you. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants you to know how deeply he loves you. He doesn’t want your good works, he wants you. He doesn’t want to know what you can do for him; he wants you to know what he has done (and can do) for you.
Third, he defines the word “love” for us. The best definition of love comes from God, who gave his only Son in order to save his enemies. Love is sacrifice, in other words. God does not make the world pay for its sins, he made his Son pay for the world’s sins. God chose to sacrifice his Son Jesus rather than sacrifice the world.
Fourth, God’s grace is offensive. Can you believe that God would let sinners off the hook? He does. What if a serial killer, at the end of his life, turned to God in faith and received his gift of salvation. Would God forgive him? Yes, though we might not forgive him, God would. To be frank, that’s offensive to us. We demand that people pay for their wrongs, but God demanded that his Son Jesus pay for our wrongs. We can’t fathom loving like God loves. God so loved the world that he gave his perfect Son for sinners, so that the world might not be destroyed. Our sense of justice, which is not a bad thing, wants sinners to be destroyed. Out of love for you, he doesn’t destroy you, but destroys his Son instead. Jesus got justice; we got grace. No matter what you do, God will love you; in other words, there is no sin that causes him to walk out the door.
Fifth, our faith glues us to God’s gift of grace. Our good works don’t give us God’s grace, our faith does. To “believe,” as the verse says, means to point your life toward God and head his direction. God becomes the new goal of your life. You no longer operate according to works-before-acceptance. Instead, you operate out of acceptance-before-works, and that makes all the difference in the world. You let God save you and you trust him to do so. You stop killing yourself to gain acceptance in this world, and trust that the acceptance that God has for you in Jesus is all that you’ll ever need.
To believe is to set your course on “eternal life.” All trials end in triumph. All suffering ends in salvation. Life will not overcome you, but you will overcome death. The one who believes, walks boldly toward the eternal city of God.
© Samuel Kee, 2012
On a recent nature hike, I learned a few things about trees. First, I learned that they do not grow like hair. Hair grows from the roots, but trees grow from the top. So if I put a nail in a tree’s trunk, 100 years later the nail will be in the same spot, at the same height. The tree adds on to its top, not bottom, leaving the nail at the same level. Second, I learned that trees grow not just up, but also out. So they get fatter, perhaps “swallowing up” the nail. Third, all of a tree’s waste products—for every living thing produces waste—go to its center. The waste builds up the core of the tree, so that it becomes strong. The core is actually the strongest part of a tree, enabling it to withstand storms. Fourth, some trees get sick or bugged. And when this happens, the core gets eaten away. The tree gets weakened from the inside out. The core gets eaten away. You might think that this is no big deal, because who cares about the “waste” of a tree? This is actually a huge deal, for when the core is rotten, then the whole tree is threatened. The next big storm might blow it down, since it has no strength at its center.
Let me spiritualize this. We have a lot of stuff in our lives that we would call waste. It’s the stuff of suffering. The stuff we want to get rid of, the stuff we want to hide. But did you know, that it’s the waste that makes us stronger? Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:4). In God’s weird economy, he uses the bad stuff in our lives to make us stronger. To put it another way, he uses the hard stuff in our lives to make us harder.
But there’s a distinction here. While waste is good, intruders are bad. Bugs and disease are bad for a tree. They attack the tree’s core, making the whole tree vulnerable. For us this means that although trials can make us stronger, intruders make us weaker. Specifically, when we allow sin to fester in our hearts, we get eaten from the inside. Don’t underestimate the power of the little sins to bring you down. Satan swarms around us, every day, seeking to get inside. He wants to bring us down, from the inside out.
It’s quite remarkable when this happens, too, and even unpredictable. A tree may look fine on the outside, until a storm strikes and it falls to the ground. Then one look at its core will betray the truth. It was actually hollow and rotten. Satan had been at work long before the storm.
Here’s my encouragement from Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The fact that we desire is not bad, for God made us with the capacity to desire. Ultimately, he desires that we desire him. And that is the solution we seek. More than you desire sin, desire him.
Let me summarize my lesson from the trees: suffering makes you stronger, but sin kills you.
© Samuel Kee, 2012