In The Ring With Jesus

 

In looking for a photo to put this post into words, I found one featuring Ronda Rousey, a world-famous American fighter, having her hands bandaged and held by her coach.

I thought the image of a woman fighting in a ring was appropriate, because that’s how I often see myself; stubborn, angry, wanting to right wrong by ‘fighting it out’. And seeing the picture, it wasn’t just a woman being cared for by her coach. I saw my Heavenly Father’s hands covering my own with His, tenderly reassuring His love for me. But, there’s a problem – I still want to get in the ring. I want to fight and wrestle with Jesus until He blesses me the way I want to be blessed.

Heavens, who does that sound like?

“Then Jacob was left alone; and the Angel of the Lord wrestled with him until the day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hit was out of joint as they wrestled… and Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Genesis 32:24-26

I know many Christians, myself included, struggle to grasp the relationship we have with God as our Heavenly Father. Our fathers here on earth can’t be perfect – and many are far from that ideal – so it’s difficult for us to grasp what a perfect father’s love really is. But something else I’ve always struggled with, is anger.

I have a short fuse; it’s not easy to admit, but it’s true. Sure, I’m easy going and most things slide off my back – I’m sure motherhood did that to me. But for the most part, injustice, inconveniences, and impertinent people boil my blood in seconds. And in those moments when I give in to the fury, give in to the anger rising in me, I choose to forget the peace and blessing I can have from my Father.

What prompted me to write about this was the sermon at church today. A seasoned godly man from within our fellowship spoke about the ‘mystery of Christ’, which is God Himself in us; heaven, the very presence of God, living in us. He leads us through the power of His grace, and our obedience, toward where He would have us go and the person He is growing us into. Picture the prodigal son – God, the Father, stands with arms toward us; do we also reach out in eager love to embrace Him?

My problem is this: I rely on happiness, not joy, to sustain me. Happiness depends on circumstance, whereas joy is based on the foundation of Christ. Through my struggle with mental illness, I have found it physically and mentally draining to even try to seek joy through prayer, bible reading, listening to sermons – even singing worship songs, as well as other non-spiritual things I’ve often enjoyed. In fact, almost everything I usually enjoy is tiring to me. So, I’ve found it easier to fill myself with superficial ‘joys’ – things I do that make me happy, which certainly aren’t bad in and of themselves, but realising I find more fulfillment in creative hobbies or my work than say, my time with God or with loved ones, raises a huge red flag to me.

And yes, a lot of this comes down to the neurophysiological chemistry in my brain – that is to say, not finding enjoyment in things you usually enjoy is a very common symptom for those with depression. But I’m not okay with that. I am so not okay with that. And I’m willing to fight – to fight both God and myself. Let me explain.

Imagine this in your mind. God, our Father, sitting on His throne in a great hall – the floor scattered with broken toys in front of Him. His children approach Him, one by one saying, “God, this toy is broken – give me a new one!” and with that throw their broken toy on the floor. But every once in a while, a particular child comes along who says, “Father, I broke my toy. Can you please fix it for me? Let me watch you while you fix it”. They know their Father, and they know His heart for what He’s given them.

When the time comes and we find ourselves in a tense situation: a trial, a temptation, a tragedy… God does not think so little of our worth and joy as to merely give us a new situation. No, God blesses us in the times we find most hard – even if it’s by our encouragement to others in moments of our greatest pain. God is not Santa – He won’t give us whatever we want. But He does give us whatever is most good.

And He can’t take us to the next step in our journey if we fail at one point – in order to move on, we must learn, we must grow, and most importantly, we must trust and obey. And in doing so, allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of God’s own perfect Son.

And so, I’ll keep striving towards holiness, even if it means God has to put my hip out of joint in the process.¬†Because then I’ll know it’s by His power, His grace, that He has chosen to save me, and continues working in me even while I insist on fighting against Him at times. And, just like Jacob, I’ll be stubborn and relentless in seeking His blessing – not for the things I want, but for that which is most good for me: God Himself. For, the mystery of Christ is this: God Himself, the very presence of heaven, in us right now! And you can have this. I can have this. I just need to keep getting back into the ring; wrestling against my sin for holiness, and wrestling with God for blessing.

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