attitude

Standing under the Cross

Standing Under the Cross

Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).

Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God’s faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.

~ Henri J.M. Nouwen in Bread for the Journey

received through “Daily Meditation” from HenriNouwen.org

What is normal?

I am reading in 2 Corinthians at the moment. There are all kinds of things that speak to me and seem to be relevant to my situation. Possibly the most important insight happened this week, when I meditated on 2 Cor 6:4.

I patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.

This sentence is prefaced with the remark that Paul shows in everything that he is a true minister of God. Following this, Paul writes about several kinds of problems which he endured and through it proofed that he is a minister of God. But is this normal?

It nearly sounds as if Paul considers it normal to have problems!

This is in stark contrast to what I want to experience – a more or less stress-free and unproblematic life, or at least low stress and less affected by problems than what I experienced, e.g., during the last two years. Already two chapters earlier Paul mentions a whole list of unpleasant adversities that he experienced (2 Cor 4:8-12), and in the first chapter he mentions problems that were really beyond his ability to endure (2 Cor 1:8).

I am wondering how anybody can endure that? I guess the answer is given in 2 Cor 6:7 – “God’s power is working in me”. This is one of the marks of and a recommendation for a minister of God that Paul mentioned – not to live in our human strength but in the inner strength that comes from God (2 Cor 4:16). Again and again he states – that is why he never gives up (2 Cor 4:1, 16). Wow!

I still find this hard to stomach – does this really mean that we are to consider problems as something normal? I don’t like this. I am light-years away from this attitude.

Slowly I am realizing that I was off base and made things more difficult for myself when I rebelled inwardly against difficulties. I did this more often than not during the last two years. This has probably only resulted in wasting my energy where I could not accept problems and resisted them. Slowly it dawns on me – some things might have developed differently if I had accepted problems as a normal part of my life.Especially in one case (I am slowly realizing) did I really waste my energy, when God seemed to speak to me about something unpleasant, incomprehensible. I just could not imagine this really being God’s will, and accordingly I refused to accept it. Looking back, I can see that I really burnt myself out over it and how this has probably contributed to my general exhaustion.Of course, nobody enjoys problems, but there seems to be a difference if I accept them with a weary smile, or if I am getting upset about them and rebelling against them.How often during the lat two years have I waited for my life to become “normal” again. Under “normal” I meant no or at least less difficulties. However, if I consider as “normal” a life with problems (such as Paul does), I will encounter them with a different attitude. Even if I don’t know what lays around the next corner, problems won’t hit me with their full force and catch me completely flat-footed. I am more likely to endure them and they won’t unsettle me as much. If my strength is not sufficient, then I can still trust that Jesus lives in me and gives me his strength. When I don’t see a purpose in the negative things, it is also helpful to remember that God promised to “work all things out for good”, that he will use even negative things for our good (Ro 8:28). [By the way, I don’t know if you ever noticed, it does not say that God takes away negative things or that he will turn negative things into positive things, but that he will use them for our good.]Along these lines, I hope that in the future I will encounter problems with a new attitude. I am already curious what God will make out of it.