“Dear God, make me right with you, then kill me.”
For many years, that was my go-to prayer. I was certain that should I die in my sorry spiritual condition, I’d awake in hell. Life no longer held hope for me, so I envied those six feet under this world of hurt. So blending together this cocktail petition of doubt, despair, and fear, I prayed a wish for death, with one precondition.
Thankfully, God never gave me what I demanded—the death part, anyway. What he did give me was Jesus, crucified and risen, who made me right with the Father long ago. He gave me a wife who is a better woman than I could have ever deserved. He gave me a church, and a pastor, who welcomed me as a fellow sinner washed in the blood of the Lamb. The Lord restored joy to my life.
And in this delightful condition, I am in constant, deadly danger.
The Christian never walks off the battlefield. The scene of warfare just morphs into a new sphere. When we are in the throes of depression, the temptation to despair is acute. When we are lonely for a companion, lust, donning its myriad of masks, dances before our souls. When we feel divorced from the loving presence of the true God, a pantheon of idols fight for our allegiance. And when our lives seem to be on track, when we have a good job, a devoted spouse, a caring congregation, we find that we are no safer from the devil’s attacks than we were in dark years of struggle.
When life is good, evil simply rummages through its closet to find new disguises.
In happiness, we dare never forget that it is Christ, and Christ alone, who has restored our joy. The gifts we enjoy are presents from the hand of the benevolent Giver. @@Each source of joy is like a sacrament, the grace of God in Christ made tangible for us.@@ Not only did we do nothing to deserve them; we do plenty to deserve the opposite.
But then there are the voices that pat us on the back, saying, “You did very well in finding for yourself such a good spouse. You worked hard to have this job. You deserve a break after all you’ve been through. Indeed, you deserve more, and more, and more.” Whispered in our heads are such self-congratulatory, self-deserving affirmations, all of which are but the footstool for that king of vices: pride. And pride does not only go before a fall; pride is the fall.
A prideful man has already bitten the dust, even while all he tastes is the sweetness of achievement.
Are you happy? Is your life going well? Give thanks to God for these gifts. But let joy be tempered by the reality that we are still in the middle of a firefight. We may be at a party, but that’s no time to slip off our armor and sheathe our swords.
It’s time, rather, to do what a Christian always does: trust in Jesus who has done, and will continue to do, everything for us, including protecting us from the evil one. The devil will find new disguises to try and lure us away, but Jesus never changes his appearance. He’s still the God, bloody, dead, risen, and baptized onto us. His body is our armor, covering us head to toe in divine skin. Clothed in Jesus, let us rejoice in the gift that he is, and the gifts that he gives.
In new, happy seasons of life, we know that, life being what it is, more sorrows will come. So it is on this earthly pilgrimage of day and night, summer and winter, death and resurrection. But in this we rest secure: @@Christ crucified is the same in yesterday’s tears, today’s smiles, and tomorrow’s unknowns.@@