Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Finest Things This World Can Offer

photo from Kai Degner's website
In psychologist Larry Crabb's book, "Shattered Dreams: God's Unexpected Pathway to Joy," the author invites us to embrace suffering as a gift that enables the kind of growth that may not happen otherwise.

I certainly agree that suffering can be an aid to our growth, and I appreciate the fact that Dr. Crabb doesn't promote the popular notion that followers of Jesus can expect life to be a bed of roses. Also, like him, I don't believe God will necessarily grant believers special protection and abundant material blessings, but I do have a problem with the following statement: 

"The finest things the world can offer have no compelling appeal to a reborn spirit. They are nothing compared to the joy of living in His Presence."

I consider myself a "reborn spirit" who has been exceptionally fortunate in having had only minor experiences of suffering in my life. That could change at any time, and I want to be prepared for that as much as one can be.

But "the joy of living in God's presence", I believe,  isn't found only in times of solemn reflection on our suffering, but also in the savoring of God's blessings. When I experience with my grandchildren the excitement of finding a wealth of earthworms in our compost pile, or celebrate the warm embrace of my loving wife, or am in the loving presence of members of our house church congregation, or enjoy some sweet corn and tomatoes fresh from our garden, I am also being blessed with a much appreciated taste of God's presence.

It's interesting to me that salvation history begins with a garden lush with life and delicious food and ends in a renewed heaven and earth that is likewise a home to "trees bearing all manner of fruit", a place where there is an ongoing wedding banquet laden with all kinds of food, a whole new Eden full of "the finest things the world can offer."

Of course if Dr. Crabb simply meant to say that the world of Hollywood, Wall Street or Madison Avenue has "no compelling appeal to a reborn spirit", I would totally agree, but he is referring to our very existence in this present God-created world.

To me, the good news is that in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, God is ever present with the "beloved community" that is in a covenant relationship with their Creator and Redeemer.

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