What a Relief!

Psalm 103:13b-14 The Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

A sweet friend on mine posted to a social media yesterday that she was desperate for her kids to take a long nap. Immediately I began to pray that God would give her that break and would refresh her heart, soul and mind to energize her to be God's kind of mom for the remainder of the day. I could almost physically feel her exhaustion and cry her tears of frustration because I've been right where she was.

There are moments in every human life where we feel almost trapped in the life we've carved out for ourselves. We are desperate for relief. The question I ask myself at times like that is, "Is it okay to avoid this? Am I right to seek relief?"

This morning my scheduled reading is the 22nd Chapter of Acts. Paul has narrowly escaped with his life by being arrested. No doubt the misery of prison was a relief compared to the pain of the beating he had been receiving. Paul asks the commander of the soldiers who are taking him into prison for permission to address the very people who had just been beating him.

I imagine this scene being played on one of the reality television show that are popular these days. This is absolutely the moment the station would break for a commercial. Afterwards, the volume would definitely be turned up by all. Surely Paul was getting ready to let these wretched people have it. I'm afraid to say it but Paul's speech would likely end up on the editor's floor; his scene would be cut out.

Paul didn't respond with anger or venom but love and concern. His sole focus was one thing - continuing to make the most of every opportunity to tell his story and allow Jesus to receive all the glory. His story is listened to with great attentiveness until he reports that God sent him to the Gentiles. That is unacceptable to his Jewish audience and once again they are calling for his life.

The commander orders Paul to be brought back inside and flogged, which means to be punished with whips usually reinforced with various pain-inducing implements such as spikes. As Paul is being tied up, he asks the man overseeing his flogging if it is legal to flog a Roman citizen who has not been tried and found guilty of an offense. Paul knows the answer to his question is no, so why did he ask it? Clearly the answer lies in avoidance. Paul knew he either could not or should not endure the pain of the flogging.

This made me wonder if there are times I bring unnecessary suffering on my head that could or should have been avoided. Immediately my mind is flooded with times I have fallen to sin and the pain that inevitably followed. The hurt from sin if my life is marked with emotional scars and damaged relationships. When Jesus died in my place on the cross, he died not only to make a way for my sin to be forgiven but to free me of the ache associated with sin.

At other times, there is pain in my life simply because I live in a fallen world. Jesus love and grace is a free-flowing waterfall always ready to refresh me. When I'm frustrated with being a parent, sick of inconsiderate people or nauseated at the thought of washing one more batch of clothes, there is a source of relief for me. When Jesus dies in my place on the cross, he died not only to make a way for my sin to be forgiven but to free me of the stress of every day life.

Jesus, I want to take one step closer to you every day. As I take one step closer to You, it is also a step away from the life of sin and pain that I'm leaving behind. As I take one step closer to You, it becomes easier for me to see You amidst the pain of living in a fallen world. Only You know just how frail I truly am. You are my Relief.

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