The Paradox

“Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

The book of Romans was written to be an example of the comprehensive theology of Paul. That’s why I love Romans, you get a little bit of everything. When I don’t know where to start, I go to Romans. When I need a shareable or highly applicable verse, I know I can rely on Romans to deliver.

So I wasn’t surprised when reading today that I stumbled across Romans 12:12, one of the many gems. It struck me. At first, I just thought to myself: that’s a Facebook status verse right there.  Reading it again, I thought to myself: yeah, I’m pretty good at that.

I rejoice in the hope I have in Christ. I’m patient in times of trouble. I pray everyday. Yeah, I’ve got this. Facebook post justified.

But then I thought a little more…

What would the fruit of this verse be in my life and what would happen in me if I was truly obedient to this command? Mediating on that thought, this is what came to me:

Freedom.

Peace.

Understanding.

If I were truly rejoicing in hope, I would have freedom from the things of this world. They wouldn’t define me.

If I were patient in tribulation, I’d have peace about my circumstances.

If I were constant in prayer, I’d certainly have peace and freedom but I’d also have a better understanding of what I’ve been through and why I had to go through it.

Let’s be real here.

There are days when I know in my heart that I am free from this world, but is that a common feeling? Not so much, at least not lately. I’m still burdened by the same things and even though I’m feeling lighter, there are still gremlins looming in the shadows. Emotional dependence on others, insecurities about my body, and a crippling fear of failure to name a few – I am still a slave to my flesh much of the time.

Peace. I’ll just laugh at that one.   You know when you’re watching a movie you’ve seen before and you know how it’s going to end?  It’s really painful to watch every time, but you almost think maybe it will end differently? Like in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for example, when Cedric dies. Every time I read it I want it to end differently, but it never does. Cedric dies every time and I want a different outcome! He didn’t have to die, did he? It just seems so unnecessary. Sorry, Harry Potter super fan over here, I can’t help myself… What I’m trying to say is that we’ve all found ourselves in situations where we want a different outcome. We play things over in our heads hoping for a different ending, but it never comes. You wake up and your wallet is still missing, your car is still wrecked, and you’re still really, really angry. I don’t have perfect peace, not even close.

And lastly, understanding, but specifically understanding that comes as a result of being constant in prayer. I don’t know about constant, but I have been praying a lot lately. It is a battle. I really have to fight for the motivation to take a moment and to get quiet before the Lord. It’s hard, especially in this day and age where there are so many distractions. But that’s no excuse. How do we expect to understand anything if we’re not talking to God? I’d be lying if I said I haven’t fallen short here as well.

I’m not a perfect embodiment of this verse and I confess my shortcomings openly, but I would be conveying false humility if I stopped there. I’ve been doing some work lately, some really hard work, and the fruit is starting to emerge in my life.

I’ve been obedient to God’s call in my life to do my best to follow Him, fix my eyes on Him, and to not turn away. I’ve been fighting distraction like it’s my job. I’ve finally been listening to the still, small voice saying come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

See, Jesus says something different than the gremlins in my head. Jesus says I’m worth it. Jesus says that I actually can be an embodiment of Romans 12:12… but only with Him.  My flesh says don’t be free, stay chained to your burdens, you can’t overcome them! It says that I can’t have peace. It says that I’ll never understand.   And you know what? That is the truth. I can’t do this. It’s too much. What the world offers me is too painful and it will crush me.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1

I embody Romans 12:12 because I belong to Jesus. I know his love and that has wrecked me for the better. 1 John 3:1 says that when you know the love of God, you are not only called a Son of God, but you are a Son of God. It also calls our attention to the paradoxical nature of the teachings of Jesus.   God’s love is paradoxical and he calls us to live the same way. God calls us to live lives that don’t make sense to the non-believer.

The rest of this passage in Romans says more of the same:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.” Romans 12:14-18

I can’t embody this, but God can through me. I’m not doing it perfectly, but I am working hard to try to do it better. I’m not going to cheat you with just a story of how I’ve failed in living out these verses. I will boast in the work that God is doing in my heart. It’s painful and exhausting, but like Luke 18:27 says: What is impossible with man is possible with God.

The beauty in all of this and what I’ve really been starting to grasp is that when I walk in obedience, I’m forced in to a trusting relationship with God. When I’m in a trusting relationship with God, I can superfluously embody this passage in Romans.

With God, I can live the paradox, living by my own flesh will only get me more bondage.

RD

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