Some lives appear so successful. The valleys seem lush and green; the mountains seem inviting; a high place of rest and enjoyment. Other’s lives appear like failures. The valleys seem like dry, wasted land and the mountains seem harsh, cold and uninviting. When I look over my life, there is not much that this world would consider successful. My valleys have been filled with mires and what seems like wastelands and my mountains have been arduous climbs into difficult and challenging territories. Hardly inviting; definitely not restful. When I look too long at the view from this world, I can get really down and consider myself a complete failure. But, when I sit quietly and wait for God to reveal His view, the picture turns inside out and I see where my valleys were times He brought me into the way of the suffering to come along side another soul and walk them through. He shows me that my arduous mountains were times He weaved my life through the life of another who was on the edge of peril and brought us both out for His glory.
In Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, he reveals what appears to be a church run amok; drunkenness in church, sexual promiscuity among church members (even incest), mixing of pagan practices, lack of order and decency and other bad practices. Can you imagine the heyday today’s media would have on this group? They would expose all their faults, delighting in their indiscretions and then attempt to judge them from a religious standpoint. Paul himself would be drug through the mud. After all, if the church is that bad, how much worse could the founder be? And Paul could have easily agreed. He keeps getting shipwrecked, he keeps getting beaten up; his life is not exactly one this world would hold up as “successful.” Even the people in the church at Corinth labeled him a failure! They say he’s not really that impressive of a speaker and instead of his life demonstrating a powerful, successful life, he keeps getting thrown into prison and stoned! Not exactly the kind of life we all aspire to.
But Paul didn’t see it that way at all. He had God’s “inside-out” view and he never wavered from it. All throughout his writings he speaks of the glory of suffering and the amazing comfort of God. Despite all he’s had to deal with in his life, He calls God the Father of mercy.
I’m no Paul. Not even close. But having lived a life full of difficulty – first by unjust circumstances, then by my own sin and now by the design of God, I very much appreciate Paul’s life and his view. He points out in 1 Corinthians that the suffering of a dedicated Christ-follower is always for the benefit of others. God uses us in the lives of those around us in eternal ways through harsh and challenging circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 12:15, Paul says, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” A life of failure in this world’s view becomes a life of amazing success in God’s view.
I don’t like going through disappointments. I don’t enjoy being taken advantage of. It’s hard to work at something you KNOW is God’s will and then watch it fall apart and leave you in a painful situation. But when I get quiet and wait, God shows me that His view is that the pain is His will. Not pain for the sake of pain, but because in that pain, He makes me more like Him and then uses me in the life of another soul who desperately needed the touch of God. It’s an inside-out view because for the natural mind, it makes no sense. But the spiritual mind can understand that sometimes the person who needs the touch of God is in a painful place, and the only way to get to them is to be in that painful place with them.
To “spend and be spent” for another’s soul is costly. It hurts and it’s hard. So, today I am taking an inside-out view and letting the Father of mercy comfort me. I am refusing to panic when the pain and disappointment attempts to take over. I am choosing another view.
Shhhh…get quiet. Wait patiently. Let Him show you His inside-out view. What appears ugly, harsh or a failure will turn into beauty, success and joy right before your eyes.
It’s an amazing and awe-inspiring view.