the scent of love: Mark 14

read Mark 14.   Sometimes we just feel worn out.  If you’ve ever had small children, you know what it feels like to be depleted.  Children want 110% of you.  You can’t take a shower.  You can’t sleep through the night.  Somehow you have to figure out how to give from a place of fatigue.  The same holds true if you have a project at work that demands all your time or if you’re caring for someone who is sick.  There are seasons in life where we feel overwhelmed for the simple reason that we are.

Other times, we feel overwhelmed for no discernible reason.  In those times, we add guilt to our burden.  What’s wrong with us that we feel discouraged, we think?  We list all our blessings, and yet we can still feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness, and we don’t know why.

So how do we live with joy no matter what?

The simple answer is: look at the cross.  No one likes to look at it.  No one wants to think of Jesus being spit upon, beaten, mocked, betrayed and murdered as he is in Mark 14. Look how innocent He is – they can’t even find anyone here to accuse Him. I especially hate the image of Jesus weeping in the garden of Gethsemene, begging God – begging Him – that there might be another way than the cross.  Jesus was no cardboard cutout figure, suffering without a scratch on his painted surface.  Jesus was as human as we are.  He didn’t want to suffer any more than we do.  Yet Jesus was also God, and therefore perfect.  So apparently it’s okay to wish for two opposite things at the same time – that our children would behave, or our work would disappear or the sick would get better – and also that God would give us the strength to accept His will.  Peace comes when we can accept, as Jesus does, that no matter what happens, God will bring good out of it.

To me, the most beautiful thing to hold on to in this chapter is the woman who comes and breaks open an expensive jar of perfume and pours it over Jesus.  Jesus praises her and says what is true even as I write this: “this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

Christianity is not about just gritting your teeth and getting through.  It is about the lavish extravagant love that God has for us, that enables us to love Him and others in a lavish extravagant way.   God has broken open the most expensive perfume of all – Himself – and showered it all over us.  The scent of God’s love transforms everything.  It can change things that feel like a burial into a resurrection.  The scent of love is all around us, right now.  Just inhale His love – and you will find yourself exhaling love without even trying.

posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on December 20, 2011

how to have victory over pain: Mark 13

read Mark 13.  When one of my nieces was five years old, she fell and cut her head.  Before giving her stitches, the emergency room doctor took out an enormous needle and shot her in the head with novocaine, right in the very place that hurt.  Tears filled her eyes.  “I wasn’t very good at that,” she said.  Her reaction made her mother and I cry.  Why?  Because she was so very good at handling that shot.  She just didn’t realize it.  She thought the pain meant she had failed.

Sometimes the only thing we can do with pain is endure it.  If the pain is bad enough, sometimes just enduring pain is a victory.  But the thing to hold on to is that pain itself doesn’t mean you’re a failure.  Our enemy (and if you’ve been reading this blog or the Bible for any length of time, you will know that the Bible says we humans have an enemy, a/k/a the devil, who tries to destroy our lives, our happiness and our destiny through accusations and lies) tells us that pain means we’re a failure.  But that is a lie.  Pain does hurt.  Pain should make us cry.   Just because you suffer doesn’t mean you’re a failure.  There’s a way have victory, even in the midst of pain.

In the 13th chapter of Mark, Jesus discusses the terrible events that will happen before He comes again.  He doesn’t sugarcoat them.  He says we will experience war, earthquakes, betrayals, hatred, great anguish, false messiahs, and the darkening of the sun, moon and stars. He says no one except God knows when this will happen, not even Jesus.  But when it’s done, He will come again.

Some chapters in the Bible are warm and fuzzy.  Others, like this one, are full of fire and brimstone.  But even in this chapter, God combines love with truth in a way that lights our hair on fire – without burning it.

The key to understanding the beauty of this chapter lies in the analogy Christ makes here to birthing pains.  v. 8.  Birth always involves pain, no matter how strong the epidural.  But you tolerate the pain because you have no choice.  You transcend the pain by focusing on the joy to come.  And when you hold your child, you forget the pain completely.

In the same breath that Christ discusses these unpleasant details, he assures us not to be afraid.  He moves from discussing the “great anguish” to making an analogy with a sweet little fig tree.  He assures us that he who endures to the end will be saved.

The reason Christ could be positive here is because of something that He knew, but that His listeners had yet to see: the cross.  Jesus Christ experienced the worst of every one of these prophecies on the cross, to enable a way for the rest of us to endure them.  Jesus was betrayed.  He was hated.  The earth quaked when he died.  The sun darkened.  He cried out in great anguish.  God turned his back on Jesus.  Jesus was desecrated.  Jesus labored in pain in order to give birth to us.  And like a mother in delivery, he endured the cross for the joy set before Him. Hebrews 12:2.

Christ didn’t just endure the pain of the cross for the Second Coming.  He endured that pain for the joy of being able to have a relationship with us now.  Because of the cross, salvation is available to all of us, any of us, right this very second. All you have to do is ask.

And if you’re in pain right now,  I’m sorry.  So is God.  So is everyone who loves you, and lots of people who don’t even know you.  No matter what you’re going through, watch for Jesus.  You will see the God who loves you in the midst of the pain.  His heart breaks with yours.  He knows how you feel.  He experienced what you are feeling, and more, on the cross so that He can be with you now, no matter what.  You can endure pain and have victory with Christ holding your hand.  In some strange supernatural God kind of magic, if you cling to Christ in your pain, you will find gardens growing out of any wilderness in your life, no matter how desolate things might appear.

posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on December 19, 2011