My wife stood last week in the entryway of my kid’s school sobbing. Not a little quiet cry but really letting all the emotions come to the surface. A lady had asked how she was doing and she let it all out. Six or seven godly women gathered around her praying. They laid hands on my bride, praying passionately, many of the women started to cry as well.
I would usually be embarrassed by this situation. We’re supposed to have it all together. We’re Christian leaders so we need to lead the way in the Victorious Christian Life. What will people think if they see my wife sobbing in public? As I stood there, however, I thought to myself, “This is the Victorious Christian Life…this is Victorious Christian Sobbing.”
Early in our marriage my wife had chronic pain lasting several years. For the last few years she has been pain free. A huge blessing. The pain started to return about a month ago and we’ve been working with doctors and physical therapists to get it back under control. As she stood there sobbing she was letting the women know she needed God’s strength to carry her through every moment. It was clear to me these other godly women were moved realizing they desired my wife’s healing but also desired the same thing from God. As I stood there praying along I kept thinking, “This is good. This is not normal…it’s a little embarrassing…but this is good.”
I’ve been mentored in this area recently by a godly man. When I first met this man I was excited because of his reputation. I knew he had mentored others but I didn’t know if we’d click. It’s pretty easy for guys to have relationships where you hang out with other guys going fishing, working on backyard projects, watching sports, doing all sorts of activities together. It’s hard, however, for men to have relationships where you “go deep” in the things of God. A friendship where your walk with Jesus is truly better after spending time together. These deep spiritual mentoring relationships can be hard to find. I’ve been blessed, however, to find this friendship in John Calvin.
As I stood there watching my wife sobbing I kept thinking about the last time Johnny C (yes, we’re that tight) and I sat down together. It was in the 702-715 page range of his magisterial 1600 page Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume version edited by John T. McNeil). Calvin brought up the subject of the Theology of the Cross. The cliff-notes version of the Theology of the Cross could be worded like this: If we aren’t familiar with continual pain we won’t continually understand, appreciate, or benefit from the cross. We need to frequently enter into pain to continually enter into Christ. Calvin, as usual, unpacks these ideas. Whether or not you agree with Calvin on issues of salvation, I ask you to set them aside for a bit and listen to this man who is obviously well acquainted with the Bible, Jesus and grief:
Calvin opens the conversation by saying:
We are to take up our cross, as followers of Christ. But it behooves the godly mind to climb still higher, to the height which Christ calls his disciples: that each must bear his own cross [Matt. 16:24]. For whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil. It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put his own children to a definite test. Beginning with Christ, his first-born, he follows this plan with all his children.
Most churches don’t lead with this reality. Who would want to follow Jesus if they are guaranteed a “hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil?” Yes, I’m even a little uneasy about his statement. I feel like we’re at the Credo House having a Luther Latte and Calvin leans forward saying, “Now Tim, I know this sucks on the surface. Who wants to experience this type of life? But, I don’t think you’ll fully trust in God’s power if He doesn’t let you first experience the need for His power.” I exhale slowly and reply, “Ok, I’m listening.” He continues:
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