When we are tempted, tested, and afflicted which way do we run? Do we run to God, or do we run to whatever, or whoever, offers us some small comfort? Do we run to God or do we flee to temporary relief? Do we enjoy five minutes of mouth pleasure, munching on our favorite junk food to ease the pain of loneliness? Do we devote hour after hour to lifting weights, to sweat out the hurt of a relationship that never bore fruit? Or do we double down on our heart-felt belief that if only we can do right by God, the Almighty will ease our present affliction? How often do we accept that our present trials are from God?
At present, we have (as a society) devoted decades of time and effort to selling our children on the accepted wisdom that suffering and affliction is morally and spiritually "bad," and that God cannot possibly be the source of such hurt. But, that is just our attempt to run away from the fact that everything, whether it comes from men or from the devil, is sent from God. This is how God turns us to the cross, to teach us to fear Him and to have patience. But, when we look to ourselves or to another person for comfort and consolation, more often than not we end up looking for relief from people and things that are not God. In this way we end up despisers of God instead of "cross-eyed" Christians.
Yet this is who we are as baptized sinners. We talk out of both sides of our mouth. Out of the one side we praise God for his mercy and forgiveness and out of the other side we curse Him for thinking we need to be disciplined and reined in. And so we determine that God is a stern, short-tempered Lord and a gracious, long-suffering Father. And the fact is, He is both.
Outside of where God desires to be preached, revealed, and worshipped, He is a stern judge, quick to anger, jealous, and vengeful. But, where He chooses to be preached, revealed, and worshipped He is a faithful, loving, and kind Father who desires that all people be saved from judgment and death. The only thing that distinguishes which side of the Almighty we run up against is whether we are running from the whirlwind or toward the cross.
When God grabs us we do not know whether He intends to exercise anger or grace over us. But, in relation to the crucified Jesus, there is only grace and mercy for us from our heavenly Father. When we fear God's furious anger and vengeance it is because we are fleeing from the cross. On the other hand, when we cry out for rescue, it is because we behold Jesus hanging from the cursed tree for us.
And so we determine that God is a stern, short-tempered Lord and a gracious, long-suffering Father. And the fact is, He is both.
Whether we try to escape our punishment or whether we embrace that God's judgment is what we deserve is all a matter of whether we are "cross-eyed" or not. God does not wield suffering and affliction upon us to balance the scales of justice, but to stop us dead in our tracks, to turn us around so we see and hear and behold His Word nailed to an execution stake.
Therefore, all baptized sinners, or "saints" as the Bible calls us, must recognize that when trials and afflictions overwhelm us and we fear God's furious anger, they are not sent to exclude us from the kingdom but rather that we be driven into the sheep-fold by and by, that we take comfort that we are saved by the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore, when we feel our sins, fear God's judgment, and give up all hope in our works pleasing God, then we are ready to receive all the judgment of God in Jesus Christ. Then we may turn and behold that the Lord is good, abounding in faithful, loving, kindness. Our loving, heavenly Father in whom we have received adoption through the blood of Jesus. Then our fear, hopelessness, and confusion will be turned into comfort and peace because our temptations, trials, and afflictions have been washed in the blood of the Lamb today and always.