How God Uses Our Glorious Mess to Reveal the Gospel

I remember attending my first sunrise Easter service as a true follower of Jesus Christ nearly forty years ago, experiencing a sense of all-out wonder. Until then I never realized that Christ’s death on the cross and victorious resurrection meant anything more than a pretty, new dress and a candy-filled basket.

That morning, as the sun rose and cast its dawning light across the assembled congregation, I knew my life had changed forever. What once had been distant religious pleasantry was now Absolute Truth embodied in human flesh. Jesus died not just for me, but instead of me. He defeated sin and death and set me free!

This spring, as I prepared once again to celebrate the Resurrected Savior, I reflected over the past year.  In every place - from the pages of my journal to the depths of my being - what stood out was the ongoing experience of new life and growth in Christ born out of some form of suffering and death. I’ve grappled with the death of dreams and ambitions; the loss of respect or understanding; and the struggle with position or prestige or provision.

The Lord has used these past 18 months to remind me . . . the Jesus way is not the easy way.

Not the Easy Way, but the Jesus Way

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Not the easy way

but the Jesus way

As an Executive Director with City, I find myself in meetings where I am literally wringing my sweaty hands underneath the table praying nobody notices my presence. Regularly I make the choice to step out of my fears and into the fray, even though I want to roll up into a ball and hide. No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake God’s call even though it exposes and continues to expose my brokenness.

Equally as challenging, is my pursuit of a PhD in North American Missiology. Nearly every day this past year I questioned my sanity! I most often feel utterly unremarkable for the task. Don’t get me wrong, the education is stimulating, but the steps toward finally earning the degree often feel insurmountable. I am a middle-aged woman in a young man’s world. I am an Activator[1] and a practitioner - not a debater or a scholar.

Never before in my walk with Jesus have I had to dig so deep to find inner strength. What I wanted to experience was the emergence of a redesigned version of myself full of confidence and assurance, or a sudden blast of intelligence to carry me through the next phase of study. Instead, he kept repeating, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He kept calling me to press on in faith.

The Gospel Lights Up the Darkness

All year long I’ve asked God, “Why do you call us to serve where we feel most inadequate?” Then, just after the first of the year I found myself in 2 Corinthians. In the fourth chapter the apostle Paul describes believers as “jars of clay” - commonplace, nondescript, earthenware vessels containing the extraordinary: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

As jars of clay, Paul says, we are called to light up the darkness along the path that is fraught with affliction, perplexity, persecution, and hardship. He reminds, “We are always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–11).

Amazingly, we are called, in all our glorious mess, to bring the knowledge of Christ into the human experience where despair and sorrow, unrealized goals and dashed dreams, hunger, thirst, and irrelevance wreak havoc.

I find that people are so willing to hear me share my faith when I invite them into my untidy places and when I take the time to step into theirs. Instead of God using our achievements, He seems to use the most humiliating moments to manifest the life of Jesus…to open a way for the gospel.  

So, the journey is not over, and while that first Easter service is a distant, yet distinct memory, I am grateful for the way Jesus Christ changed the trajectory of my life. He continues to bring about life and death and life again – reviving, strengthening, and energizing my soul along the way.

How has God laid bare your weaknesses and how has he met you in these challenging places? Where might he use the dark places in your life to light the way in someone else’s?

 

[1] “Activator” is one of my strengths derived from Gallup’s Strengths Finder, a leadership development tool used by U.S. LDHR. Activators are defined as possessing a “When can we start?” attitude, as being constantly in motion and learning while acting and moving.” Online: https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us, accessed 22 May 2018.

This article was published on Global Connections on June 12, 2018.