Life is woefully and joyfully unpredictably predictable. Oscillating rhythm permeates our lives. We all live incredibly different lives, some more routine than others. We all go through different life events, different celebrations and challenges, yet we experience the same rhythms of grace.
The answer we find in Scripture echoes what we hear in the world. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 1 declares, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”.
Solomon then goes on to list the seasons of life we all find too common. Everything from a time to weep, to a time to laugh; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak, and the list goes on.
Yet at the same time, we are reminded that the Christian’s journey is not an aimless fluctuation, but that “we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 18).
This dilemma seems meaningless unless we confront and contemporaneously embrace the comfort of the rhythms God sets in our lives and the work of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ through and through.
The Christian life is like sleeping and waking. When we sleep, we are most vulnerable, unaware and susceptible to change. Sleep is part of our rhythm, predictable. Yet, sleep is not always the same.
Earlier this year, when I underwent neurosurgery, sleep was not something I wanted. I was unsure of what would happen whilst I was asleep under anaesthetic, afraid of what would change that I wasn’t aware of.
Suffering in the Christian life sometimes feels like sleeping. Unsure of what will be the outcome, what will change. We feel helpless – unsure of what is happening. We yearn to wake up without knowing what change awaits us, what we may lose or gain, what will be the same.
The glory of this uncertainty is found not only in the predictability and rhythms of life (as unpredictable as they feel at times), but also in what awaits.
In Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Rome, after he has finished expounding on the premise for the hope we have before God in Christ, Paul shifts to speak about the Christian’s present experience. In Romans chapter 5, verses 3-5, he writes,
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurances produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
These seasons of suffering, seasons as they are, lead us not only to the character-building all self-help books will promise us, but also lead us on towards a hope far greater and far more enduring.
Yet, in the grand scheme of all this, it is easy to look ahead and speak of this hope but accept it only as hypothetical. We hear of it from the pulpit, yet we feel as though our life continues in rhythms of uncertainty. Lacking an inkling of growth, we succumb to doubting the work of the Spirit in us.
The joy of Scripture though is the reminder that while we may rejoice in the sufferings that lead us ultimately to an eternal hope, we may also rejoice in the God who governs the rhythms of our lives.
David speaks of this rhythm beautifully in the midst of a crisis when he declares in Psalm chapter 3, verse 5, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.”
He is the Lord who sustains us not only when we most feel our need of Him, but even when we don’t even realise we need Him. He sustains us while we are asleep, suffering in the midst. He sustains us again when we awake to our daily and eternal hope.
Blake Gardiner is from Auckland, sounds American, looks Swedish, but grew up in Laos. As an introvert, Blake lives life on the edge by socialising. When he isn’t putting his life at such risk, he enjoys reading theology and debating whether Interstellar is truly the greatest movie of all time.