Afflicted And Loved

BY DOMINICK SANTORE

Some days, I stare at the computer screen, haphazardly pecking at my keyboard, wondering where the words will come from or even if the words will ever come again. I can go on a tear and write five articles in a week or so and then struggle to get even one out in a month. Maybe it’s the pressure of being asked to join this great collective of Christian thinkers and speakers on Christ Hold Fast. I don’t know one contributor that I wouldn’t lift up higher than myself based on the wonderful way they get their stories across and convey their understanding of scripture to the readers. In reality though, my struggles to put pen to paper have more to do with the daily struggles of life. It’s hard to write with encouragement and conviction when you're going through some dark moments. It’s difficult to be confident in any ability you have when you feel low.

In those times, I have to remind myself that this new website-this place of liberation, is not for the “got it together” group of Christians. The Christians who can confidently tally up their conversion counts while on mission, always smiling with a wide grin that even the greatest televangelists would be jealous of. It's not for the people who want to keep fooling themselves into thinking “the law works.” Oh, they need to hear this message, but until they come to understand the truth about God’s grace, they’ll read with a, “yes, but...” supposition. They’ll miss what's being said and claim we don’t care about the law and maybe say, we’re even outside the faith. That’s why this place is not for them ...YET!

No, this place is for those who have come to an end of themselves. The ones who can admit they struggle in their sins. The ones who’ve been on a dark journey and the ones still looking for the end of the tunnel with no light in sight except for the truth that guides their weary steps. This is for the people who have struggling marriages even when they’ve tried everything. This is for the people who wrestle with various addictions and sometimes lose a battle a little too often. This is for the people who are sometimes trapped in the darkness of their minds and struggle with life and have maybe even considered at times, the worst option as a way out. This is a place for the people who heard the message of, “if/then” and found it wanting.

That message of, “if you______, then God will _____” broke me. I know others who've been broken by it as well. They were broken because it didn’t work the way they were told it would work and as a result, the onus falls on the broken. Why? Because if it didn’t work, then their faith couldn't have been great or sure enough. So the struggles continue, the sins overwhelm, the depressions get deeper and the masks are krazy-glued to our faces. At this point we don’t want people to see the sin and struggle behind it. We fight, not the good fight of faith, but the good fight of fake.

We hide and look the right part, all while in this husk of a body lies shattered pieces of a hidden existence that cry out with weary tears for rest.

 I’ve heard so many of these stories and I know there are so many more yet to come.

And that’s why we're here. Christ Hold Fast wants you freed from having to wear masks and trying to look like white-washed tombs when you feel more like dead bones inside. We want a message of God’s grace to be your hope. Christ has lived for you, died for you and rose for you and your hope should resides in his complete and finished work and not how well we obey. That means its ok to be honest with your struggles. I write this in the midst of my own. I write this knowing personally other brothers and sisters who are neck deep in afflictions of various kinds. The writers here, many of them have similar stories and struggles, and the ones that don’t, I guarantee identify better than you could possibly imagine.

Because of that, this is possibly one of the most important things I want you hear:

For he (God) has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted and has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. -Psalm 22:24

God wants you to be honest with him. He knows your struggles. He knows your pain and heartache, your depression and your anxiety. He knows your sins and the dark road you've traveled and may still be on. There is no mask He can’t see past. He sees all of it, and more than that, he has not turned his face from you. In fact, He has sent his Son to you. His Son, who came to earth and overcame all of it for you.  Sin (in whatever form) is the ultimate stronghold in a Christian life. It never completely goes away. Christ overcame it, in life and in death and gave us his perfection so we might be known by God by it, even as we still struggle and wrestle with sin.

In all of it, whatever stage of life-whatever struggle in life, He has not hidden his face from you. In Christ, you cannot be shamed before God by your sin. Pry off your masks, let the brokenness spill out from the husk. Lay the fake aside. Cry, weep, wail before God. He hears you. Sometimes, I wish I could tell people to "have faith and everything will go well." I can’t. I can say that, "in Christ, God calls you well." Whatever you do, whatever your struggle, whatever your sins, Christ is always whispering words of forgiveness in the ear of our Father in Heaven.

On your worst days, on your best days, Christ Holds Fast to you…

Amen.

A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?

Twitter: @adefeatedvictor