The Weekend Wanderer: 5 December 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Advent“Oh How We Need Advent (This Year More Than Most)” – A friend shared this article with me and I found it very beautiful, heart-rending, honest, and joyful all at the same time. Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. It so so much more than a preparation for Christmas. I appreciate the way that the author, E. M. Welcher, brings together the anticipatory longing and much-needed hope of Advent so powerfully.


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“On Being Grateful” – Thanksgiving was just a short time ago, but our need for gratitude in relation to our lives is ever-present. We know gratitude is important, but it is also not natural for us. Particularly in a year that has come to be considered one of the worst years of our lifetimes, how do we live with gratitude? Kevin Williamson wrestles with this question, touching upon memory, gratitude, suffering, and the distinctly Christian response to it all.


9 nonobvious conversation“Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations: The art of making connection even in a time of dislocation” – I’m increasingly convinced that the inability to have conversations—to truly listen to and speak with (not listen past and talk at) one another—is one of the biggest problems of our day. Here is David Brooks’ nine ways to help improve that: “After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.”


relationship ending“‘Covid ended our marriage’: The couples who split in the pandemic” – Relational strain during the pandemic is surging, particularly in marriages, as this piece from the BBC highlights. It seems like strains or difficulties that were already present have been heightened and new challenges have emerged because of the unique situation of lockdowns, children at home for schooling, job changes or loss, and so much more. The importance of reaching out for help (such as to a counselor or local church), learning to talk well together (see the previous article by David Brooks or this one on active listening), assessing your relationship, and accessing other resources is more important than ever.


books“A Year of Reading: 2020 by John Wilson” – At First Things, John Wilson offers his characteristic wide-ranging list of recommendations for reading from the past year. While I have read a couple of the books on Wilson’s list, I found many curiosities and treasures to explore, from fiction to poetry to memoir to natural history and more. If you’re looking for something to read during the long winter, Wilson’s recommendations will likely have something for you.


Indonesia SA attacks“Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders” – Religious persecution is not a thing of the past. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer. “The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians. Four Salvation Army members were killed – one of them beheaded – in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday. Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles Islamist militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

A Prayer to Love and Forgive One’s Enemy

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45)

Lord, take my heart in Your hands and shape it to love those who do not love me and even work against me.

Help me not to return wrong with wrong, but to respond to wrong with care, love, prayer, and mercy.

Help me to know what it looks like to turn the other cheek while not enabling ongoing wrong or making it seem like wrong is right.

Give me boldness and discernment to walk as Your child even when my circumstances lead me to forget who I am and cause me to stumble in frustration, grief, and hurt.

What can I do but call to You? You are my God—my Father—and I am Your child—Your disciple.

Lead me in Your way of love and forgiveness that, even in wrong, people may see You in me.

Finding Encouragement within Suffering: a reflection on Hebrews 12

drought

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:7)

Be encouraged: God disciplines His children because He loves them. Do not lose heart amidst your suffering. Instead, endure it sustained by the truth that God is lovingly at work even here.

We can fight against our suffering, and it may have some good effect, particularly if we face unjust suffering from external forces. However, fighting against our circumstances is different than fighting against God. We must internally and spiritually submit ourselves to God for training in righteousness, even if we legitimately wrestle with our circumstances.

We could give up in the face of our suffering, simply throwing in the towel by passively surrendering to what is happening. This most often happens when we feel we are powerless to change our circumstances. Still, this powerlessness to outside circumstances is different than our inner spiritual submission to God amidst our circumstances. Even if apparently powerless, we still have power to yield our lives to God so that He might grow us amidst our suffering. Although sometimes powerless to change our situation, God still releases His power in us as we surrender to Him, changing us to become more like Christ.

At other times, we are powerless to change our circumstances but do have power to remove ourselves from those circumstances. This takes great discernment because we must constantly yield to God so that He might have His way in us. Sometimes choosing to change our circumstances is best for our safety or our growth. At other times leaving our circumstances may actually circumvent what God wants to develop in our lives through challenging circumstances or suffering.

In our suffering-averse culture we do well to thoroughly consider whether we are listening more to God than we are listening to ourselves when considering leaving tough circumstances. We do not want to miss out on His best work in our lives. As James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

It isn’t easy to discern when we should choose fight or flight. However, amidst it all we should always choose spiritually to yield to God so that He might have His way in growing us to full maturity in Christ, even through suffering and trials. We will not grow in Christ without facing hardships and challenges. We will not gain wisdom apart from navigating tough and trying experiences which take us beyond what we already know and understand. Still, w will not make our way through these challenges well with Christ if we do not daily remember God’s love for us as a good father even in the midst of suffering.

Run with Discipline: insights on spiritual growth and suffering from Hebrews 12

image 1 - running

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:7)

this is a radical reframing of the suffering that the believers are enduring. It is not making light of the suffering, but an invitation to see suffering in a different light. What is that light? It is to see suffering in light of belief in God’s trustworthy work as a good Father.

There are two aspects of this perspective on suffering. The first is this: the race of faith requires enduring hardship as discipline.

Now everyone knows that if you want to run well, you have to train. As much as I would love to think that I could simply wake up one morning and run a marathon by simply changing my shoes and outfit, I know that would not work at all. So, the writer says, similar to an athlete who enters into training, we can begin to see our life as not only a race of faith but a training in faith. “Endure hardship,” the writer says, “as discipline.” This is the discipline not only of a good trainer, but of a good Father who is helping to shape faith into our lives so that we can run the race well. It does not mean it is easy, but we all know that, as in athletics, so too in life: no pain – no gain.

“How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:9)

When we have that perspective on suffering and know that our trainer is also our good Father, we can then, second of all, as it says in verse 9, submit to the goodness of God’s fatherly training.

Now there is a difference between submitting to suffering and submitting to God’s fatherly training amidst suffering. There is a difference between giving ourselves over to suffering—letting it have its way with us—and giving ourselves over to God amidst our suffering—letting Him have His way with us. We still want to name wrong as wrong, injustice as injustice, sin as sin. We are not equating God with suffering. However, there is a difference when we know we are dearly loved children of God. We can trust our Father to apply His goodness to our lives even amidst situations we would never choose.

This is the reality that Paul describes in Romans 8:28, which is never trite, but deeply true that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

And so, in light of who we are as God’s dearly loved children, let us run the race of faith with discipline!

The Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

Blue sky sunshine

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Christ. I could not buy or earn this favor, but must receive it from You as a presented gift. I do not take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. We can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, sonship, and being able to call on You? All of these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we live our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning, but here with You it is sheer attainable gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within what we are told is true through Your Word. Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ—as we share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with never-ending praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, those who have received the Spirit, and we yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Let us deny ourselves that we might find You, and also find ourselves in the journey. Today, Lord, we are Yours.