Post by Jon at Stuff Christians Like
Sometimes, hope hurts.
It shouldn’t. The phrase, “hope hurts” should be an oxymoron like “Lady Gaga gospel album.” But I promise you, it’s not.
Sometimes when you’re so deep in a season of hurt, you get used to the bad. You start to think you deserve it. You start to expect it and get comfortable with it and get numb to it. And like a creature that lives so far down on the bottom of the sea, you adapt to it. You cobble together little survival mechanisms that help you get through. You get by.
But hope is tenacious …
Even in the darkest of my days, when I’d journal about suicide and despair, a fragment of hope still bounced about softly in the dryer of my head. (When you’re married with kids and have lots of laundry to do, 42% of your metaphors and analogies become housework flavored.)
There was a problem though, there was a painful obstacle between me and hope. You see, I was so far down the path of hopelessness, I was so lost and selfish and bent on destruction that I found myself in a terrible lose-lose situation. For example: If my wife was kind to me, I felt hurt because she didn’t know how hurtful I was secretly being to her with porn and a cadre of lies that would have killed her. If my wife was mean to me, I felt hurt because she had been mean to me. Any way I turned, simply resulted in more grossness.
And that is one of sin’s goals. Not simply to remove the good from your life, but to have it actually serve as a weapon of mass destruction.
Have you ever felt that way?
Have you ever felt completely unworthy when someone offers you love?
Have you ever been ashamed of the lies you’re living when someone offers you truth?
Have you ever felt undeserving of something good, because deep down, you believed that person wouldn’t really love you if they knew who you were?
It’s very possible that I’m the only one, and that’s OK. But I do need to tell you about the 9 words in the Bible that changed the way hope felt for me.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m a big fan of “edge verses.” I’m a big fan of looking on the periphery of a scene in the Bible and seeing all the deep truth that often gets hidden amidst a major scene. And in Luke 22 that certainly happens.
Jesus is on the threshold of getting crucified. He has the last supper with his disciples. He is sharing his thoughts on the father and the concept of serving and ruling. There is a sense of great importance heavy in the air. In the middle of that, he has a short conversation with Simon about how he is going to betray him.
It’s going to happen. Jesus knows this, but he wishes it wasn’t. He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And then, in 9 words, he explains a big part of the reason I thought a mess-up like me could be a Christian.
Jesus tells Simon:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
That’s it, those are 9 really simple words, but they demand a second look.
Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence, And when you have turned back? He’s saying:
And when you fail.
And when you sin.
And when you blow it and sell me out like a common thief.
And when you literally and physically turn your back on me.
And when you ruin it all.
When you turn back.
That concept is part of why our God is so different than everything we expect. We can turn back. There’s a return. There’s a comeback. There’s a loss and a brokenness and a state of falling, but you can turn back. That door is open. When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.
Then you get to the part that is so easy to miss, the comma. Thank God for the comma, because that’s not how I would have written that sentence.
Mine would have looked more like:
“And when you have turned back, repent for three years before you try to get within a mile of my holiness.”
“And when you have turned back, don’t think for a second you’re qualified to tell other people about me.”
“And when you have turned back, here’s a long list of works you’ll need to do in order to clean yourself of the mistakes you’ve made and the consequences you’ve earned.”
But Christ doesn’t do that! He throws in a comma. He continues the sentence and simply says, “strengthen your brothers.”
Four years ago I ruined my life, but you know what?
God gave me the gift of the comma.
And that’s why I write Stuff Christians Like.
I have turned back. Not once, not twice, but a million times. And now it’s time to strengthen my brothers.
I don’t know what you’ll get this Christmas for a present, but please know this, God wants to give you the comma. He wants to give you grace. He wants you to know that when you have turned back, you can still strengthen your brothers.
It’s time to accept the comma of grace.