Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There's a Hill outside of the City

I woke this morning to the radio news announcing a survey: "Are you praying to God to get you through these tough economic times?"--and this wasn't a religious station, either. When "tough times" are the subject of every conversation, the words "prayer" and "God" are mentioned considerably more often than when times are good.

Not everyone, of course, turns to God for help in hard circumstances. Some people prefer to shut their eyes and pretend nothing is really wrong, that "things are bound to work out somehow [without my having to help by changing anything in my own life]." Some people slide into depression and convince themselves that everything is hopeless anyway; others sulk because life isn't giving them what they think they deserve. And so many adopt the "borrowed trouble" tactic--a fearful obsession with what might happen, a loan that exacts horrendous interest rates physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--that worrying sometimes seems to be America's national pastime.

None of these approaches necessarily ignore God completely--it's easy enough to spiritualize any of them, to assume that "God never lets churchgoers get sick or lose their money" or to live in fear that God's ideas of what we need might not match our own. And it's as easy to get disgusted with God as with blind luck. The world is full of people who have adopted the slogan, "If God exists, He must not care about us too much, or He never would let so many horrible things happen."

Ironically, the ultimate proof that God does care lies in the most horrible thing He ever let happen--in something He in fact planned for. When circumstances tempt us to doubt that God loves us, it's time to take our eyes off those circumstances--off ourselves and our own expectations and "wants"--and look again at the Cross of Christ. Not as a pretty ornament or a sanitized picture in a Bible storybook, but in all its blood and dirt, all its sweat and agony and humiliation. That was what God was willing to go through so we could have, for ultimate eternity, something far better than the health and wealth we crave on earth.

When we remember that, just let us try to complain about our own temporary problems.

There's a hill outside of the city,
There's three crosses upon that hill,
There's a Man hanging on the center cross
And He knows this is all God's will.

There's nails through His wrists and His ankles,
There's a crown of thorns on His head,
There's tears in His eyes of love and pain
And as thick as His blood they are shed.

There's a woman crying beneath Him,
There's a man with a tortured soul,
There's a crowd that watches in fear and awe
As the terrible drama unfolds.

There's a cry of death from the hilltop,
There's a shadow over the land,
There's a victory won through that defeat
That so few can understand.

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