Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Behold, I and the children God has given me."
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (ESV)
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Bent Into Shape
Thursday of Advent 3
18 December 2014
It is a good thing we can't hold all our troubles in our minds at once. Our faulty minds and memories do us a great favor by making it impossible to keep all our griefs in our consciousness at the same time. We feel them little by little. One day we are down and greatly burdened by a crisis in our lives and then the next we find ourselves buoyed up and recovered from the sense of depression that we had felt. We can scarcely remember why we felt badly yesterday. Even a week's worth of trouble would swamp our psyche, and cause the bark of our mind to swirl into incoherence. C. S. Lewis said, "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief." That is why our Lord Jesus says, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Mt 6:34). Today's trouble is a big enough burden, we don't need to anticipate tomorrow's. Tomorrow will come soon enough with all its trouble.
The Lord Jesus is with us in the midst of all our troubles. We almost always think that we need to "do something" about whatever is troubling us. In fact, we are neither capable of handling our spiritual troubles nor do we have the strength to act in a way that will be helpful to us. Luther says we are too plodding and miserable to be the active ones in dealing with our own troubles. If that is true, where does that leave us? It leaves us with our Lord Christ's help. Where better to find salvation than in the One who made heaven and earth? We may truly struggle and feel our suffering to the core of our being, but we have a Lord. We may howl in rage and frustration, yet our Lord means to carry our sorrows and bear our griefs for us. Those throbbing hurts force us to trust the Lord's rescue.
None of those trials we face are unknown to our heavenly Father. As parents we may allow our children to fail, to teach them how to react properly to failure and to show them that we, their parents, are ready and able to bring them rescue. The Lord treats us this way by letting trouble befall us for a greater and unknown good for us. The Formula of Concord speaks about the crosses and suffering. "God in His purpose has ordained before the time of the world by what crosses and sufferings He would conform every one of His elect to the image of His Son" (FC 11.49). Our sufferings then bend us into the shape of God's Son. And so while we feel "bent out of shape" by our trials and suffering, our heavenly Father only wants us to be bent into His sons.
"This is what God wants when He says: 'Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you' (Ps 55:22). He will care for you. Do not be afraid. Likewise in Phil 4:4-6: 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.' Let Him care. We are too plodding and miserable to be able to endure the pile of cares and worry about our affairs even for one moment.
"Therefore, it is best to trust God, although it may not be without tears, sorrow, and pain. What can we do against this? Our flesh is such that it is impossible for it not to sob, weep, grieve, and complain. Indeed, even cattle express their pain by their bellowing when they are slaughtered; and lifeless things, like timber, are not cut down and broken up without a crash. But let us sustain ourselves with the Word and faith, and let us not doubt that it has already been determined by God that He wants to turn these pains, troubles, and brief crosses with which the pope, the emperor, and Mohammed oppress us into everlasting and highest joy. With this confidence and hope we shall very easily lighten our troubles and cares. 'He will act' (Ps 37:5)."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis,
Lord Jesus, You suffered with a view to the joy set before You, scorning the shame of the cross. Help us to bear our suffering and burdens by looking through our suffering to Your own. Amen.
For Ellen Brda, who will be undergoing testing on Monday, that she would be preserved from harm and that the proper therapies would be determined
For the Praesidium of the LCMS, which supports and advises the President of Synod, that the Lord would give them wisdom from the divine Word
For all those who are suffering with griefs that they are remembering in the days leading up to the feast of Christmas, that they would find comfort in the Christ-Child
For the people of God, that they might hear the call to "Come, All Ye Faithful" and follow the Word of God unto the celebration of the incarnation of Christ of the virgin Mary
Art: Annunciation Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, Julius (1818)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014