The other day I headed to a fundraising seminar in Orlando. At 10 am. So the 2 and 1/2 hour trip from Bradenton had to start a bit early due to the lovely Orlando traffic. I did what I could to beat it, and I did for the most part. But there times when the proverbial Grandma with a walker could have passed me (a la Office Space).
Traffic is frustrating, but it is inevitable, particularly in Orlando. Because I left so early, preparing for the worst, it didn’t bother me nearly as much. But there was something else in my favor: it didn’t surprise me. It didn’t come out of nowhere. I-4 in the morning always has bad traffic. If I choose to drive through Orlando, I will hit traffic. The very expectation of traffic lessened my frustration. Could I really be mad that I was sitting in traffic on I-4 on a weekday morning? Would that have made any sense? Should I have been surprised?
Dealing with trials, particularly when you are doing something good or right, becomes less difficult when not caught by surprise. When I’m caught by surprise, I get angry or begin despairing. Or I want to stop doing what I did (helping when helping gets me hurt).
Doesn’t God love me? Don’t I have enough to deal with now? God is giving me the shaft! What did I do wrong? Didn’t I love that person well now and he/she did this?
The health and wealth prosperity gospel preachers would have you believe that if God is pleased with you, it will show up in all kinds of blessings. Mostly physical or financial, but all now.
Sadly I think I believe those jokers more than I believe what God says through His apostle. I’m more often than not surprised by suffering. This isn’t supposed to be happening to me! At least much more than I admit. But I Peter 4:12 reminds us
“12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Can I really be surprised, and filled with anger, when trials happen? Suffering and Orlando traffic shouldn’t surprise us.
Yet according to Peter, there’s really nothing morbid about driving through life, as though you are always on the lookout, trying to prepare yourself for every suffering. Kind of like the way you might think “accident” every time you see break-lights on the interstate. Instead of being surprised (and the concomitant anger or despair), we can rejoice. Rejoice?
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
At Christmas time we enter a time of celebration (though not only celebration but also longing). God did not leave us to suffer alone, but instead came to suffer with us. But not only as an example of sympathy; it was much more than that. Jesus became our substitute for us. Suffering is temporary but His glory is forever, and we are part of that glory in Him. He loves his little brothers and sisters.
Sometimes we need to hear those angels singing a little louder “Glory to God in highest…”
His glory was revealed, continues to be revealed, and will fully be revealed one day. At that time we won’t need reminders to rejoice. Until then we do. May we all hear the angels a little louder this Christmas. And may we gladly join them even as we go through trials that our Savior has already walked through before us. And for us. And now we are in Him.
If this Christmas presents particular sadness, I pray the hope of Christ’s first and second comings will remind you that God cares about your suffering so much that He suffered for you that you may share in His glory.