Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Orienting Yourself in the Wilds of Suffering


 

 


            I want to introduce you to the idea of trinitarian triangulation. It is a simple but, I think, very helpful idea. Simply stated, it is the practice of gaining perspective on yourself and your situation in difficult and perplexing times by keeping three things in view. Actually, it is the practice of keeping three persons in view - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            Let's say that you are planning to go on a hiking trip out into the wilds of the Rocky Mountains or along the Appalachian Trail. A course on orienteering will teach you how to use your compass to determine your exact location by using two permanent visible landmarks. The goal of this knowledge, of course, is to find your way to your destination by always being aware of where you are at any given time. Being "lost" is that extremely distressing feeling of not knowing where you are and, therefore, unable to figure out where you are heading.

            There are many times that we can feel "lost" in the unsettling hardships of life when we cannot see the horizon of our future and everything around us seems unfamiliar and threatening. It happens when we walk into a cancer clinic, at the betrayal of a friend or family member, or the day after a funeral. In our day and in Biblical times, an incredibly disorienting experience was that of actually being displaced from your homeland and becoming a refugee. Millions of people year after year know what it is like to flee and leave all that they possess and have known behind them. The future becomes frighteningly uncertain.

            It was to such a group of refugees that the apostle Peter wrote his first letter. Scattered throughout Asia Minor (the country of Turkey today), their very lives were threatened because of their devotion to Jesus Christ. So, Peter wrote to them and he began the letter by telling them where exactly they stood. He didn't point to the spot on the physical map where they were stood. They knew that already and it could change very quickly. He pointed them to a much more important place, a secure place that would never change no matter how perplexing and painful their present circumstances were. He pointed to them where they stood in relationship to God.

            In orienteering, all you need are two visible permanent landmarks to figure out where you are. Peter gives us three towering permanent mountains upon which to set our sights. By reminding every sincere follower of Jesus of where we stand in relationship to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he supplies us with the certainty that we need to regain our composure and overcome the feeling of being lost, alone, and afraid in life.

            Dear Christian, when you are perplexed and afraid, reorient yourself to the three unchanging truths about you are in relation to the Triune God as recorded for you in 1 Peter 1:1,2.

 

  • The Father: "to those who are the elect exiles of the Dispersion... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
    • You are God's child. He is your Father.
    • He knew you and loved you before you were born.
    • Your life is in His hands and though our circumstances change, they only do so by His plan and His purpose.
    • He who set His love upon you long ago, will never let you go.
  • The Spirit: "in the sanctification of the Spirit..."
    • You are sealed by the Spirit of God. God has marked you and made you as His very own.
    • You don't have to figure it all out and be a super hero. The Spirit has been given to help you become more like Jesus.
    • It is not where you are but what you are that matters. It is the Spirit of God who has been charged to work this in your life for good as you trust and follow.
    • The Spirit of God is the guarantee that you will make it safely home.

 

  • The Son: "for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood."
    • Jesus is the hero (the Christ) and He has won our salvation.
    • You don't have to find your way through this. Just follow Jesus.
    • He who lived and died for you has been given authority over all things. If you trust Him and obey Him, you will not be disappointed.
    • Your perfection is not an unrealistic expectation from God. It is an incredibly generous provision lovingly granted by your heavenly Father. He secured your forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son. His blood has cleansed you. You are forgiven.
    • This hardship is not punishment for your sins. Jesus has borne that.

 

            If I were to sum this up (and there is much more that could be considered under each of these truths), I would put it this way:

 

When you are feeling lost in the trials of life, as a genuine follower of Jesus, set your compass by looking at the three unchanging truths of your Triune God:

 

1. God the Father has loved you and accepted you as His child by His plan and not your performance.

2. God the Spirit is at work through this trial to make you like Jesus and to bring you safely home. You are not alone.

3. God the Son is the One you must look to, listen to, and lean upon. He is perfect. You are not. He knows that and has provided complete forgiveness. He commands you in the way you are to go so that you might know the all-satisfying joy of communion with the Triune God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

 

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