The Christian life is one of great contrasts - paradoxes, to be more specific. Skim the pages of the New Testament and you'll find this to be true:

  • Find your life, you'll lose it; lose it, you'll find it (Matt. 10:39)
  • Find your rest under a yoke (Matt. 11:29)
  • The last will be first, and the first last (Matt. 20:16)
  • Life comes from death (John 12:24)
  • We're in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-16)
  • We become slaves once we are set free (Romans 6:18)
  • Wise up by being a fool (1 Cor. 3:18)
  • There is rejoicing in the midst of sorrow (2 Cor. 6:10)
  • We are strong when we are weak (2 Cor. 12:10)
  • Loss is gain (Phil. 3:7)
  • Humility is the path to exaltation (James 4:10)

We see these paradoxes in our lives as Christians because of Him whose name we bear - the incarnate Christ. He is the Word become flesh (John 1:1, 14), and His incarnation gives birth (no pun intended) to the great extremes in our spiritual experience.

It is our sacred practice as the church to remember what Christ has done for His people in taking on human flesh so that the great weight of sin that He bore on our behalf would be made all the more vivid. Christ did not sin, and yet He (the Righteous one) bore the punishment due for sin. This truth is the bedrock of our faith. Without it - without that paradox - the gospel crumbles.

We needed Jesus to be one of us in order to save us. Christians see this writ so large in the Scriptures, and yet we often forget to notice (and trust in) Jesus' humanity in the times of our greatest human need! Where should we turn when tragedy strikes, when doubts arise, when hope fades and when grief becomes overwhelming? We turn to Jesus! We look to the poor, unattractive, despised, rejected, chastised, oppressed, persecuted and abandoned Jesus. Jesus was acquainted with grief, with sorrow, with pain and with loss. Jesus, it just so happens, planned it that way.

The hymn-writer Anne Steele (1716-1778) recognized these truths when she penned Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul, describing in poetic fashion how the Christian life is an ebb and flow of sorrow matched with hope. When griefs rise, relief is found. In our lowest moments meditation on God's grace through Jesus Christ lifts us higher than the world could ever understand.

Because Christ walked among us, fulfilled the law, died on a cross for our sins and rose to glory we have access to the throne of God! Even though we feel far we couldn't be nearer. Though all seems hopeless we have the greatest of all hopes. In the midst of life's greatest battles we find our refuge. The world of sin and death in which we still remain will ever press against us, but we will never lose heart, for 'His Word will bring a sweet relief for every pain we feel.'

Dear refuge of my weary soul, on Thee, when sorrows rise,
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll, my fainting hope relies.
To Thee I tell each rising grief, for Thou alone canst heal;
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel.

But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail, I fear to call Thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail, and all my hopes decline.
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee? Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to Thee, though prostrate in the dust.

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face, and shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sov’reign grace be deaf when I complain?
No, still the ear of sov’reign grace attends the mourner’s prayer;
O may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there.

Thy mercy seat is open still, here let my soul retreat;
With humble hope attend Thy will, and wait beneath Thy feet.
Thy mercy seat is open still, here let my soul retreat;
With humble hope attend Thy will, and wait beneath Thy feet.

©2014 Matt Merker