My tummy grumbles and my spirit joins in. I don’t really feel like forty days of self-imposed discomfort.
What’s the point? Life is tough enough as it is. Why add to the misery?
But then I think of someone I love. He has gone through incredibly tough stuff, grief beyond my ability to comprehend. I want to be able to relate to Him, to understand what makes Him tick. But how can I if I don’t share His experiences?
Abraham got a chance to do just that. He got to know what it would feel like to lose his only child. He experienced the heart-rending agony of a father watching his son silently plead for mercy as he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? … And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Abraham was getting a backstage pass into God’s cosmic play. He was getting the chance to enact God’s future story, to experience the same grief and elation that God the Father would feel over the death and resurrection of His only Son.
Moses, too, got the inside scoop on God. He got to bear the brunt of an ungrateful crowd griping about how he was handling things, angry about their health and safety conditions and ready to get rid of him as soon as he had outlived his usefulness to them. He also got to feel the agonized betrayal of a people head-spinningly quick to forget all he had done for them when their convenience or comfort was at stake.
Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” …As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. …The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
But along with the pain, Moses got the privilege of being God’s friend. He got to feel what God feels and know what God thinks. Incredibly, he even got to chat with God face to face, swapping stories about the “kids” and deciding how they would handle them. Sometimes they argued, often they disagreed, but their relationship was characterized by mutual commitment and love. At the end of the day, God was still God and Moses still a mortal. But they were friends.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
It’s easy to think of holy men long ago who walked with God that way. But when I stop to think about what God says He wants from us, I am dumbfounded. His greatest “command” is to love Him with all that I am. He doesn’t want a polite, contractual relationship in which I do my bit and He does His. He wants me to engage Him with all my heart, soul, body, and mind. He wants me to speak my mind and to listen to His. At the end of the day I am still the child and He the Father; I am the servant and He the Master. But we are friends.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
And our friendship will express itself in my getting involved in His life story just as He is involved in mine. If I am His friend, I will love the things that He loves and do the things that He wants doing. But on a deeper level, if I am His friend I will groan when He groans and laugh when He laughs. I will stay awake with Him in the garden, watching and praying as He faces the darkest night of His soul. And I will party with Him in the kingdom, celebrating each stray sheep that is found and each lost son that comes home.
Rather than being what I most avoid,
hardship is a gateway to what I most desire.
Just as sharing similar experiences ushered Abraham and Moses into closer friendship with God, so walking a mile in God’s shoes enables me to relate with Him in greater solidarity. As I learn to see myself and the world around me through this lens, I come to value suffering in a new way. The trials that I experience (whether voluntary or not) are opening my mind and shaping my heart to be able to commune with God in ways I couldn’t before. Rather than being what I most avoid, they are a gateway to what I most desire.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
So I dive into the disciplines of Lent full on—not because the Bible commands it or because I enjoy self-imposed misery, but because I really want to know Christ. I want to be His friend in joy and in sorrow, in struggle and in triumph, in the middle of His story and at the end. I want to walk these forty days of trial with Him so that I can also celebrate their victorious completion with Him. This is my opportunity to invest in our relationship.
For better or for worse, I get to be God’s friend. Now that’s a privilege worth suffering for.
7 thoughts on “A Friend to God”
It is worth suffering for. Just as the privilege of being considered as His child is the greatest gift one could ever have. Should not we then enter into the fellowship of His sufferings? It seems to be a very light thing compared to the blessedness of knowing Him.
I have to admit, Scarlett, that it rarely feels like a light thing when I am in the midst of a trial, especially one I did not choose and that seemingly has no good outcome. And yet I wholeheartedly agree with you. On the other side of it, He has always given the me the grace to be able to look back and wholeheartedly say, “If this is getting me more of You, then I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Yes, Tiffany, I’m in the midst of one of those if, not fiery, at least extremely uncomfortable trials right now. And no, it never is what one could call pleasurable, But what enables us to even being to call it “all joy” is simply knowing that Jesus is in there with us and working things out as we trust Him.
Here’s a passage to go with what you already put in your blog post:
I don’t think it’s a mistake that this is before the next section.
Ah, Luke. Everything seems to point back to Romans 8. No wonder Tom Wright considers that one of the king-pin passages of the whole Bible.
If we endure suffering as servants, then our Master seems harsh and abusive. But if we willingly accept it with the confidence of beloved children, it refines us rather than degrades us. Which is why the chapter goes on to say:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It’s fascinating you say that, for Lk 12:48 is one of those passages which haunts me. I know God doesn’t see me as merely his servant (Jn 15:15), but when enough people have, it’s hard to snap out of that way of thinking. And yet, if the kingdom is for the poor who have been oppressed and trampled on, maybe it’s easier to shift from “oppressed by man” → “child of God” than “oppressor of men” → “child of God”.
Well, I am going to read your post to my children tonight because you have expressed it simply and exquisitely what lent is all about. I put my arms around your neck as we are totally one in our love of Christ. Love to you Tiffany and for you. xx