Today’s Lent Project devotional is by Brendan Trinkle. He is a member of our Leadership Team and hosts the Midtown Table Group along with his wife, Lindsay.
Yesterday Eddie wrote so eloquently about release from a Theology of Glory, where we think of our life in Christ as a movement from one great experience to the next, letting excitement or disappointment dictate our condition. In its place, a Theology of the Cross – of dying to ourselves every day in exchange for the resurrection life of Jesus – meets us with grace and freedom in our darkest moments, and helps us into the God-touched kind of humanity intended from the beginning. This is a beautiful picture of the gospel, here and now.
If I’m being honest, Eddie’s post hit home for me not because I feel that I’m living “from glory to glory,” but because I’ve been living for a while in the downward arc of the cross without having language for it or hope that there’s purpose in it. Without the hope of resurrection, of God reaching into our low points with kind hands and raising us up, we can only see that “the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines” and there is no “yet I will rejoice…” at the end of it (Hab. 3:17-18). This is the trouble we often face in seasons of doubt, sorrow, etc. – when we cannot see what is on the other side, it can be difficult to imagine the other side even exists.
I find some encouragement about this from Paul’s words in Philippians 3. Speaking of the resurrection life of Christ, he says:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (vv. 12–15)
Even (perhaps especially) in places of uncertainty, Paul deems it maturity to acknowledge our imperfection, lean on our belonging to Christ, and think not on what is behind but strain toward what lies ahead. And lest we fear that an inability to think that way should disqualify us, he assures us that God will reveal truth to the truth-seekers even if they aren’t quite there yet.
That last bit speaks peace to me today, saying “you may not know exactly where you are, but keep pressing in. You may not be thinking ‘right’ thoughts about faith, but God will meet you there anyway.” It’s the substance of the Theology of the Cross for me, that despite confusion and the feeling of death that sometimes comes there is life to be had, and hope to be found. Whatever that death may be – conviction, depression, or utter despair – God’s goodness to us in it goes deep. He comes down into the grave, lays beside us, understands, and lifts us up.