The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
Just in case you don’t recognize it, the quote above is from Princess Leia in Star Wars.
The title – that’s from me.
Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.
And that line is from C. S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s Screwtape (a devil) talking to his nephew (a devil in training) about how God uses the low points in people’s lives. And how God’s special people seem to go through longer and deeper troughs than most.
Suffering for Being a Christian
1Pe 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
And there’s the problem with suffering too much.
People who are into sports know about the “killer instinct”. I’m a hockey fan. I always get nervous when my team has a two goal lead. It’s too easy to sit back and let the other team get a goal – then all of a sudden they think they can win. Next think you know – they tie the game and then my team loses. I’d much rather see at least 3 goals for a lead.
But with the spiritual war – there’s a danger with the killer instinct. When Satan has someone down – going too far to beat the person into a feeling of hopelessness can actually be a bad thing. As Screwtape tries to point out to his nephew – there’s a danger. God does His greatest works with people in those really down moments. There’s a fine line between someone being down and out – versus down and looking for help / hope.
Even someone who only marginally even knows about God can call out to Him for help. And He’ll be there. And all of a sudden the devil has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by pushing just a bit too hard.
As Christians – we’re supposed to know this. Unfortunately, knowing it – realizing it – believing it – remembering it – isn’t so easy. But when that moment comes – when the devil pushes too hard – and there’s a feeling of “No – you are not going to win!” – then there’s hope.
The really hard part for me – is how long it takes. It takes too long to remember. It takes such a short time to forget. And it often seems like it’s never really going to get better. But I don’t want Satan to win.
During one period – of more than twenty years – when I was really down and (I thought) out – it turns out I had been copying Psalms. Don’t remember ever doing it, but I later found the hand written copies that were obviously from me. That was apparently my way of not letting Satan win. So now – I turn back to them to find comfort. Even David has his feelings of – God, where are you?
Ps 6:1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Ps 6:2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
Ps 6:3 My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?
This sounds awful. This sounds like where I am now.
And yet – this very same Psalm ends with –
Ps 6:8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
Ps 6:9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
Ps 6:10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace
I feel like I’ve been squeezed too hard.
I don’t know how long it’s going to take.
But I also feel like I can’t give in on everything I’m trying to be.
I feel like I can’t let Satan win.
I feel like I need to slip from Satan’s fingers,
and be caught by the hand God.
I first wrote this several years ago. Since then, many things have happened – a number of them not good. The most recent is a staph infection that put me into septic shock, with kidneys failing and lungs filling with fluid. I told God, if it’s time for me to “go home” (die) – although I’ve often wanted to die, I feel like I have more to offer now – I’m OK with it. If He wants me to stay here and continue to work for Him – that’s OK too. Whatever He wants, I’m good with His decision. After a week in the hospital and a month of IV drip at home, I am starting to feel much better. The kidney problem, where they expected to see how bad the damage was after 6 weeks, is completely gone. One week after leaving the hospital, there were only trace amounts of fluid left in my lungs. I still have, at this time, another six weeks before they declare the infection “gone” – at least as far as they can tell. But God apparently answered me, and told me He wants me to continue here for some amount of time.
So, yes – I got squeezed again. I have got to say though – I also got caught by the hand of God, and sent out again by the hand of Jesus.
Truth is – either way – live of die – I couldn’t lose. And knowing that is nothing short of a miracle.