our Co- Sufferer...

i think this whole weekend in NYC was just so i could hear dr. timothy keller (at the hunter college site of redeemer presbyterian church) preach on the compassion of God. he used the text jonah 4. and jonah was the book i had been studying all spring. the book that God used to prepare me for some things that would happen this spring. to clearly show me that He appoints a storm, a great fish, a plant, a scorching wind, and a worm ALL to reach jonah. GOD appoints all those things. my study of jonah began to teach my heart that GOD controls EVERY event in the universe. nothing happens without His knowledge. without Him allowing it. NOTHING. everything under heaven and on earth obeys Him (except for the preacher in this story, jonah, who eventually does God's bidding because he learns that he can't get away from it. and then complains about it. hmmmm, don’t know why jonah resonates with me so much).


any way, dr. keller’s message was about how compassion is used multiple times in that chapter to describe God and then in various other places in the Bible. God IS eternally compassionate.  compassion literally means co-suffer. tim keller says that we are compassionate only when we are attached at the heart to someone. that means God is attached at the heart to us. and it means deeply attached. to deeply love. God chooses to deeply love us. He doesn't NEED to love us. we attach ourselves to people because we NEED attachments. we were created to crave relationships. God is all sufficient and all joyful in His own triune Oneness. BUT He chose to become attached to us. He doesn’t NEED to be attached to us. and yet He is and then He chooses to co-suffer with us when we are lost in our sin. it grieves Him deeply. it is His choice to co-suffer. compassion is His choice.  and the hallmark of Christ...

dr. keller pointed out how jonah went outside of the city and judged the people in the city to be evil and not worthy of God's compassion. then contrasted that with Jesus who went outside of the city and CRIED out over the city with great compassion and then went back into the city and died for us all. Jesus' compassion made Him weep over us. Jesus co-suffering means that He went to the cross and took all of the wrath of God for our sins. He was so sorrowful over our sins that He took them from us. 

i had been so worried that all my tears and sadness lately over a personal situation was a sign that my faith wasn't strong enough. but i realized that some of my tears were tears of compassion. and that Jesus feels even stronger about sin that i do. He weeps with me over someone else’s sin and the ramifications of those sins. when we weep over sin and the ramifications of sins that we are not weeping alone. there is Someone who weeps with us. God is attached to us in an even stronger way than we are attached to each other. He will move heaven and earth and appoint whatever He needs to appoint when the time is right to move someone’s heart. He alone knows what it will take to move someone’s heart. He created our hearts. they are satisfied in Him alone. we are restless and uncentered without Him. He alone knows the perfect timing. He alone has the power to change a heart. to make all things new. to give someone a second, third, one-millionth chance.

not all my tears are tears of compassion though. some of them are because this isn’t a comfortable place to be. i like every box checked. everything done right. everyone i know and love to be safe and well and good and rooted and established in faith. i want everyone to like me. to think i am doing everything right and good. those tears are tears of pride. i liked this definition of pride that i read this week. i know this kind of pride...

What's the definition of pride?

If we could sum it up, it's the mindset of self, the pursuit of self-exaltation, 

a focus on the desire to control all things for self.

 In exalting himself, the person actually believes, "I am valuable and worthy. I am the source of anything good or wise or successful. I deserve the credit for whatever I achieve or acquire. 

I deserve love, admiration, and respect. All good things are from me, through me and to me. 

All honor and glory should go to me for my enjoyment and pleasure."

Our instinct is to say, as Nebuchadnezzar did when he walked on the rooftop overlooking Babylon, 

"Isn't this Babylon that I have built by the power of my hands and for my glory?"

 Most people don't say those things out loud, but that is what they are thinking and how they are living.

"Pursuing the Servant's Mindset" , Stuart Scott

in my case, i had a lot of pride about the family, the LIFE, the good things I HAD BUILT by my own hands. certainly i gave God a little bit of credit. every now and then. but mostly i was proud of how i had handled things up until this point. i had checked all the boxes. done everything the “right” way. i had been faithful to God in doing what He told me to do. but i realized i was doing it thinking that if i did everything “right” that God would bless me. make things comfortable. make everything turn out fine. and God isn’t a box to check so that we have a “good life”. God is our life. He is outside any box we try to put Him in. and He has His own Way of doing things. our trust isn’t in seeing the results. we walk by faith not by sight. we trust Him beyond whatever is happening right now. 

dr. keller said that one application to take from this final chapter in jonah is that Jesus' compassion means that we WILL have trouble in this world. not just trouble because the world is fallen. that is a bunch of trouble all on its own. add to that the fact we will have discomfort and lose things that we enjoy at times because we see how God removed the lovely plant from jonah (a lovely plant that He Himself had sent to give jonah comfort. all good things come from Him) not to mention sent a nasty wasty scorching wind (“nasty wasty” is a lea marshall addition to the text).  jonah LOVED that plant but God giveth and He taketh away in order to move jonah's hardened heart. God will take away things we love to reach us and that is an example of His compassion. it was His compassion to send that plant. it was His compassion to send the worm to eat that plant. and His compassion to send the scorching wind that so discomforted jonah. 

discomfortable compassion. not my favorite kind. but sometimes the only kind that speaks to a hardened heart. it is quite humorous that in the very chapter where jonah is COMPLAINING to God about being TOO compassionate to the people in ninevah just when God is displaying His own compassion to jonah. funny, but i think the humor was lost on jonah. like it is lost on me sometimes when God is displaying His discomfortable compassion to me and i am not laughing.

i still weep with over some things that are happening to some people that i care about. i have compassion because i am co-suffering with them. but i also know now that God weeps with me. He is co-suffering with me and with those He is attached to. the good news is that our compassion cannot compel anyone to do anything (i know that doesn't sound like good news but i am getting to the good part) BUT Jesus' compassion means that ALL our sins were covered on the cross and that He is going to appoint whatever it takes to appoint to get our attention. He is going to take away whatever He needs to take away from our life to turn our heart to the Heart of the One who is DEEPLY attached to his children. the heart of the God of compassion. the co-sufferer with us all...

...Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn this iron helm of fate...
{from this present crisis by james russell lowell}