“The hiddenness of God is one of the most profound themes in Lutheran Theology.” So says the author as I delve into the third chapter of the book, The Spirituality Of The Cross. Gene Edward Veith Jr. makes a case for the regular life of a Christian to be one of an everyday ordinariness. He even makes the claim that a regular, normal, average Christian walks a walk that includes struggles, pain, difficulties, sin and (GASP), DOUBT!
To say God is hidden is not to say He is far away, but that He is still near even when we can’t see Him. Too many times we get caught up with a, “God is far from me, I can’t feel Him” mentality. This is an epidemic that has concludes that the only way to know that God’s near is to “feel” His presence. This encourages experiential, emotion-rocking moments that can bring someone crashing down to earth like a meteor when we don’t “feel” Him or can’t get that “high” again. The central flaw of this is works. We have, once again, because we love to make it about us, added do’s to the done, instead of letting the done build trust (or faith).
This chapter pits the theology of the cross (trusting in Christ) against the theology of glory (trusting in self/works). The author does a wonderful job of distinguishing between the two and gives compelling accounts of how we (Christianity) have allowed a theology of glory to be our guide in mainstream Christianity. I recall a recent sermon that concluded,”if God was going to use the church, we have to get in line and if we’re not, we playing for the wrong team!” Oh, how I hoped for a message of grace to end this sermon with a “no one ever gets in line perfectly, but Christ did for our benefit.”(or something to that effect)
Through some examples, the author lays a foundation for a lack of trust in God for His will in our weaknesses, even using examples of doctor-assisted suicides and euthanasia. Without giving everything away, it was a compelling explanation, but I had to wonder as I read where he was going with it.
Here is another thing that’s encouraging to me within the Lutheran faith. This welcoming of suffering as part of the Christian life. He’s not advocating willfully or purposefully beating up on ourselves, but acknowledges that suffering is a part of the Christian life. One that may even include some normal looking things, like boredom and mild depression. Knowing you can say, “why God?” Knowing you can come to God and ask those tough questions. It would even be considered an act of sanctity according to the author’s understanding of Luther.
As I find myself being reprogrammed by the reading of this book, I kept going back to earlier times. When I felt embarrassed to have a shaky faith or a (more than) occasional doubt about a difficulty or situation. To know I can trust His Word and not have to “feel” like I do, well, this brings me joy, even if it’s not always displayed on my face.(and that’s ok too!)
This theology of suffering also encourages heartfelt prayers that drive us before the face of God in very real and raw ways. Another reason to not hide behind the smiling facade of a “praise God”, but instead cry out in a desperate plea, “God, I need you” I can see for the first time how difficulties CAN BE like a refining fire. Though in the mainstream, it’s sugar-coated to get to the holy part.
This chapter ends with a brief discussion on the issue of sanctification. I remember being told that sanctification is our part in this walk. That we HAVE to act better and look better so our lives reflect the fragrance of Christ and things like that. The author looks at sanctification as simply our faith being grown and spontaneous works growing out of that. I’m all for that! I get it! I truly do! But it seems like such a contradiction to what is normally taught. We say it’s not about what’s on the outside and yet it seems to be such a focus to gauge what God is doing in the life of a believer, pastor, church. The author is saying that no one really knows with perfect certainty and in fact a Christian may still look VERY flawed. I appreciate this statement. I often look at myself and wonder, “have I really come that far?”
If I revealed some of my current struggles you might say, “I need greater faith.” If you know where I’ve come from, you might say, “Wow! Great!” I would say to either, “Nearer to the end, but never there. Finally at completion in the Father’s care.”
I am thankful to be hidden in Christ. My hope is that I trust Him, when He is Hidden from me.
As with my previous post, these words are mine as I work out my understanding and approach the cross of Christ. I ask for grace for any of my failings on this page.
Thoughts on chapter 2, Part 2: click HERE
Thoughts on the 1st part of chapter 2: click HERE
Thoughts on chapter 1: click HERE