I attended a teen summer camp many years ago and the speaker said a most interesting thing. He said that teenagers who go to the mall are going to hell. You could have heard a pin drop. Every teen there had been to the mall and each one had just been told by the "authority" that they were going to hell. Although, that was not exactly what he had said. He did not say that ALL teenagers who go to the mall were going to hell. What really rankled the kids at the camp was what the speaker did not say.
It's my contention that what we talk about is the dominant part of our culture. What gets the most press becomes the "flavor" of our community. Many churches these days are talking about the power of God and quoting Scriptures like "on earth as it is in heaven". Please hear me. I absolutely love this promise and I lean into it as hard as I can. However, I have noticed that we are not sure what to do with friends that have not acquired their miracle yet. I have friends with cancer, a son who is deaf, and several friends who have disfunctional marriages. I pray for these situations, believing that it is God's will to heal and restore. I do not believe that God sent these sicknesses or hardships to "teach" or "refine". God is not the author of death - Satan is.
So what do I say about those I love who suffer daily; those who battle character deficiencies for years on end? I think part of my difficulty is the traditional theology that sees the death and resurrection of Jesus as a point in linear time after which "all things have become new". I suspect that this is lazy theology. This idea ignores many Scriptures which talk of our suffering and those who remain sick.
I think we may have stumbled upon a major cultural mistake. Two thousand years ago time was conceived of as being cyclical not linear. Jesus life, death and resurrection was unique and world changing. However, the invitation to his potiential disciples is to follow him - to share in his life; to share in his death and "somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead."
We participate in the cyclical sequence of events which begins with a clash between the kingdom of heaven and the powers of this earth (human and demonic). The clash can both undo the works of Satan and produce persecution. In both however, we suffer for a little while so that our faith, which is of greater worth than gold can be proved genuine (1 Peter 1:7). Put another way, the life of living faith in Jesus will take us through seasons of pain and suffering as we battle for true faith and as we carry the burdens of others.
This conversation will applaud the faith of the one who lives with pain and the faith of the one who has been freed of pain. To ignore the seasons of unrealized victory and anticipated freedom in the continuing cycle of redemptive history is to paint those who are battling pain and disappointment, with a second-class brush. As if somehow they are exeperiencing a lesser measure of the love of our Father. What is love? To lay down your life for another. It is my bet that those of us who follow Jesus will experience both the fellowship of sharing in his suffering and the power of his resurrection in a continuing cycle of deepening faith.