Seen on www.MSChristian.org I was drawn to this new friend of mine for lots of reasons, but I'll list only two: One) A favorite teacher in the school where my children attend, a sister of ours in Christ, and a fellow church family member also has MS. She recently retired from her teaching job, but still goes to the school to assist. She's precious! She loves much! And is much loved! We've watched her suffer through this disease, and we've seen Jesus shine through her in it. And Two) My uncle had Muscular Dystrophy; and though these diseases are different, in some ways they are so similar. Neither one pleasant. Both hard. Both frustrating. Both seeming unfair and cruel and mean. One thing about my uncle though, he touched so many people's lives in the chair that he sat in. And then, he touched even more in the iron lung that he was put to lie in - in order to help keep him breathing for as long as it did. He lived with my grandparents until the day he died. And every day the milk-man (yes, it was a LONG time ago) would come by to bring the milk and Uncle Joe would talk to him about Jesus (just as he did every person that visited!). One day, the milk man came, and didn't see Uncle Joe in the iron-lung bed; so he looked at my grandmother and asked, "Where's little Joe?" To which grandmother told him, "He's gone." The milk man shook his head and turned to go with tears (that he had no control over and couldn't stop no matter the will power) streaming down his face... not even being able to vocalize a word to them as he walked out the door. My uncle made a difference (a HUGE one!) to SO MANY in the skin that he lived in for as long as he did; for he didn't live there alone, Jesus lived in his skin with him. And it showed so brightly that people couldn't fail to miss Him.
I wrote to a friend recently. A new one. Because of something he said. He has Multiple Sclerosis, and was sharing just a tad of his story in efforts to let others see a bit of what the journey is like at the very beginning of it. I couldn't help but like him immediately. His sweetness was obvious and seen through his humor. He called what He was going through "my journey to that dark" (he's legally blind) and he wrote,"Even though it might be a path to no more light in the world around me, I really have to thank God for somehow allowing me to keep a sense of humor about it." See? You like him too? But I think that what he called "a path to no more light in the world around me" is actually the very road that takes you to real the Light inside another world that's more real than this one will ever be! Because most of us can relate (in some small way) that going through the darkness of anything often brings you to the Greater Light on the other side of it! Seeing God more clearly. And things. Learning perspectives. What life is really about. What really matters. What don't............ yada yada yada.... Mostly and foremost, seeing God, knowing Him, showing Him, and basking in the warmth of His pleasure.
My new friend ended his note saying this, "... loosing one's sight tends to have a few bumps in the road. Next time you see me smile, because I might be a little grumpy but I can tell you I'm smiling a little myself. NO matter how bad it gets just remember everyone has something they are trying to hide, and for once I don't have to pretend I'm not seeing it." It's that "everyone has something they are trying to hide"that got to me.
He's right, you know? We all have things that we try to hide. We all have handicaps of some sort and we are all trying to overcome something. We all have things that cripple us, frustrate us, aggravate us, and that leaves us feeling lacking and that we deem reason enough give us seasonal permission to "shake our fists" at God in fits from time to time from our pure dislike of it. Things that we would change and get over if God would only choose to let us! For we don't have the power to, but He does. For some reason, God loves us despite our acts of ugly; and when we allow Him to (though He might not heal us from the thing that we've begged Him for) He goes and changes us in it (when we cooperate with Him and let Him)... He grows us, strengthens us, gives our eyes sight to see things that we hadn't seen before, He helps our ears to hear, and He heals our hearts and our deeper hurts. And then, God will go and use that very thing (that we think such a burden) to help others to see Jesus through us as well. It's amazing how He does it. I call it His way of using "the foolish things of this world to confound the wise" and "the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." For what man would choose to use "foolish" things and "weak" things like that to show his glory in? He'll even use our very wickedness of sin and rebellion that grieved Him so (after we've repented and turned from it) to help others(!)... to encourage them, give them hope, and draw them to Him! Why not sweep it under the rug and hide it and be told never to mention it again (as He throws as far as the East is from the West and washes it whiter than snow) instead of using that old-evil-bleached-white-detestable-sin as the very thing to build our testimonies around? There we go - showing the ugly of what we've done and where we've been while God uses it to show Himself to others in! What kind of God would let us show Him through the skin of our sin - and be able to show it in such a way that the only thing left to be seen is Beautiful? Him! Just Him. Why does He do that? Do you know what I mean? Show up out loud to others through our ugly? He uses the "foolish things" and the "weak things" instead of the wise and the mighty! Oh, how I love it and how I am awed by it when I see Him doing that in others! Yet all the while often fighting His want to do that in me.
Thinking of the passages that contain that verse I can't help but put it here. Look very carefully at what He is saying while you read this, for it says much more than I've ever realized that it did before.
".. the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men,
and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men.
For [simply] consider your own call, brethren;
not many [of you were considered to be] wise
according to human estimates and standards,
not many influential and powerful,
not many of high and noble birth.
[No] for God selected (deliberately chose)
what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame,
and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.
And God also selected (deliberately chose)
what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt,
even the things that are nothing,
that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,
So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God."
1 Corinthians 1:25-... (Amplified Version)
He "deliberately chose" to do it that way! To me that is our Lord's way of letting us share with Him in His sufferings... and Jesus' way of allowing us to be a glimpse (or some sort of a mild reflection) of the same picture of Who He was when He walked this earth... and who He still is today as He continues to walk. To me it's His way of Him showing up again in the picture that He shows us of Himself in Isaiah 53, and Him living it out again in our bodies through our lives. Watch and see Jesus in these Scriptures; but as you see Jesus, also see Jesus again in the picture lived out in you. See if you can see a picture of Jesus' body (as described in this picture) again in yours. In other words, does your skin (in some ways) look like the skin that He describes here?
"For He shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
He hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He was despised
and forsaken by men
a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness;
and like One from Whom men hide their faces.
He was despised,
and we did not appreciate His worth
or have any esteem for Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses)
and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment],
yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].
..... and by His wounds we were healed."
(The Scriptures quoted here are from both the KJV and the AMP)
I don't know that I know how to say what seems so obvious for me to see. But now, as Christians, as children reborn again of God and His Spirit; we're told that "we live in Him and He (lives) in us because He has given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:13). And just as Jesus once was born as a baby and lived in the skin of a man named Jesus, He still lives in human skins... this time in me! this time in you! this time in us! Jesus lived then and NOW lives still having: "no form nor comeliness," "no beauty that we should desire Him," "a man of sorrows and pains, acquainted with grief and sickness" "one whom men hide their faces" from, His "worth" not appreciated nor esteemed,.... "yet we [ignorantly] consider Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God," BUT "by His wounds we are healed." Can you see what I see? Can you see what I'm trying to say? That Jesus Himself shows up again in our skins! Again - having no "beauty" that would draw all eyes and men to us. Again - "a man of sorrows and pains".. sometimes in such forms that men "hide their faces" and won't look at us. Again - His worth not being appreciated nor esteemed. Again - with people ignorantly considering us "stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God." WHILE it is often through those very "wounds" that others are healed when finally their eyes are unveiled to see the beauty beneath the disguise of its grief-stricken uncomely skin! Finally, we're at a place when others aren't falsely drawn to our "wisdom according to human standards, nor our "influential and powerful" positions, nor our "high and noble births", nor our "beauty",...... NO! Instead, He uses the "foolish things" of this world in order to show the world Jesus!
The chapter continues (in the NTL), and remember that as you see Jesus, see Jesus again put to live inside the case of your skin.
"And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for His own sins
He was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed...
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
He did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, He was led away.
No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream.
But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.
But He was buried like a criminal;...
But it was the Lord's good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief.
when His life is made an offering for sin,
He will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord's good plan will prosper in His hands.
When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish,
He will be satisfied.
And because His experience, My righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous,
for He will bear all their sins.
I will give Him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because He exposed Himself to death.
He was counted among rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels."
Have you ever felt your "troubles" some sort of "punishment" from God? Have you ever felt "pierced," "crushed," "beaten," "whipped," "oppressed and treated harshly"? Have you ever felt you were "unjustly condemned," like "no one really cared," that your "life was cut short in midstream," "struck down," and felt like you were "buried like a criminal" in your suffering skin? And have you ever really considered that it could possibly be "the Lord's good plan to crush and cause you grief" giving you an opportunity to give your life as "an offering for sin" for Him so that others might "could be made whole"? so that others might "could be healed"? and so that others living in their "rebellion" might see Jesus again (this time in your skin) and turn from their sin and be saved because of the Jesus that they saw in you? Could it be that it was "the Lord's good plan" to give you "many [spiritual] descendants" through your "anguish", and that because of your "experience" you -God's "righteous servant"- will make it possible for "many to be counted righteous" because Jesus lived His story again in a man with your name and because you "interceded for rebels" on account of offering Him your life (laying your life down for His) and letting Him live again in yours?
We are told to:
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,
who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart."
Shall we not "fix" our eyes on Jesus and consider Him and what He has done so that we won't grow weary and loose heart in our own sufferings when we're plagued with it too? And in our realizing that because of the joy set before Jesus He was able to endure the cross and the shame, and so He lay His life down in order to save, can not we do the same? We're told that we too are called to "share" in those sufferings as He did, so that we could also share in His glory.
Part 2 to follow