The Weight of the World

It has never been easier to complain about the troubles of this life. Never have we had more avenues for releasing our grief about our latest trial. Every time I open social media, a news website or even listen to dinner conversations, I hear dark perspectives on the present, the future or overall dissatisfaction.

But what is this all about? We were never meant to bear the weight of the world. When we complain about the present or express our dread for the future, where is our focus. In the passage I read today, I see true sorrow and true despair. What was that about?

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look — the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Matthew 26:36‭-‬46 NLT

Christ faced true desolation as He looked towards the cross. It wasn’t about the suffering of the crucifixion, but what He would face after physical death. We may sometimes feel like we bear the weight of the world on our shoulders, Christ actually did.

For all of us, He bore the weight of the cup of judgement for sin. He bore the greatest punishment, the distance that sin creates in the relationship with the Father. No one in human form before or since experienced such a deep understanding of what this would mean. We try to grasp the impact of our sin and conceptualize the meaning of it’s impact on our relationship with the Father, but Christ knew what it meant. He knew and He grieved with that full knowledge.

So, when faced with a true “grievance”, what did Christ model?

  • He asked His friends for prayer
  • He went to the Father
  • He asked the Father to take it away
  • He submitted to the will of the Father, whatever that may be.

I believe we should be willing to do the same. Not only it is a good pattern, when faced with a true trouble, but also it can act as a filter for our complaining. Is our trial truly trying or is it a mere inconvenience, a light momentary affliction worthy only of releasing to the Lord before moving on, letting go. If something is not worthy of bringing to the Father, then it is probably not worthy of our Facebook feed or our dinner conversation.

Who Will You Be?

In pondering the miraculous things that God has done over the centuries, my first thought leads me towards my own actions in the Christian life. Looking back, I evaluate what I have done, where I have been and if I have contributed in any small way to the things that He has accomplished. Looking ahead, with all my plans and strategies, the question becomes what shall I do or what can I do to be most effective in contributing to the cause of Christ around the world. But in the stillness of night, I felt the spirit ask me to reevaluate my thinking. It is not, what shall you do, but rather, who will you be?

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:29-30‬ ‭MSG‬‬

If I am unwilling to be shaped as the life of His Son, then I am unwilling to be used by Him. It is only as we become like Him that we become truly useful to Him, otherwise, He would only use our actions the same way that He would use the wind or the waves or an unjust ruler who somehow serves His purposes.

Again the refrain that has surfaced time and again in my life only to be buried by the busies: “For my determined purpose is to know Him…

So, who will I be? Will I be a great leader who makes his earthly companions proud? How about a dynamic counselor who through wise words leads others on the best possible paths for their lives. Will I be a writer or speaker of some renown whose words live on when my body is dust?

None of these things reflect who we are really to be. We are to be like Him. We are to reflect the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NET‬‬

Against such things there is no law… What an uncomplicated life we could live. The weight of decisions set aside for the joy of the presence. Our ministry not tied up in a strategy, but in these fruit spilling over into the lives of others as we pour into our own lives from the unending capacity of our Father.

The Christian life is simple. It is not complicated. We are the ones who make it complicated. So, back to the question, who will I be? This is my choice. No one else can choose what I will be. It is a daily decision, with some detours that I am responsible for. In Christ, in the Body, I will be a child of God. I will live for Him. I will not grow weary, I will allow Him to gloriously complete the good work that He began.

Reacting to the News from Turkey

In recent days, the news from Turkey seems to be producing the wrong kind of headlines.

  • Bombings in Ankara, Istanbul, and Diyarbakir
  • Attacks on personal freedoms and freedom of the press
  • Threats against minorities and their properties
  • Dark tales of loss of refugee life and abuse of displaced peoples

In light of news like this, what should our response be? Many countries have begun issuing travel advisories, telling their citizens to stay home. Parts of the city, which were once crowded with tourists are now empty except for small groups and a high police presence. Sharp declines have occurred in visitors from Europe, Russia and the United States. Many cruise lines have cancelled their stops in the ports of Turkey.

As an evangelical believer from the West who has happily lived in Turkey for many years, I find this response troubling. Turkey was long seen as the moderate Muslim partner that the Western world had been looking for. This viewpoint led to an extended period of growth in prosperity and freedom for the country. Much of Turkey saw development that brought standards of living forward by leaps and bounds. Many foreigners, who visit Turkey for the first time, are surprised by the very European feel of many of it’s cities.

Unfortunately, recent events are leading to a more isolationist attitude towards Turkey. The ever “on again-off again” merry-go-round with the EU has never been so obviously against EU membership. The United States has not found the willing partner in the region that they once found when the Turkish military leaders were more influential. Perhaps most significantly, the current administration’s falling out with an influential Turkish religious leader, who resides in the US, has led to the loss of their biggest media advocate abroad.

If trends continue, Turkey will have no choice but to lean more and more to the South and the East for partnerships abroad. Even more so, this will lead Turkey to look within and become even more isolated from the rest of the world. Although Turkey is very modern, the percentage of the population which speaks European languages is very low, with less than 17% of the population speaking English with any proficiency.

Practically, this means that even though Internet usage is high, the vast majority of the population relies on the local media for their information and news. Attempts to provide alternative perspectives via Social Media have been actively thwarted by the government. More and more, regardless of where you are in the world, the likelihood of having a broader perspective is dependent on personal relationships.

In my opinion, the West must continue see Turkey as a vital connection point to the Muslim world. Whether the context is business, tourism or inter-religious dialogue, to turn away from Turkey at this point would be a great mistake. In Turkish culture, it is impossible to have influence without relationships. Relationships are best established with time and tea. If Western businessmen, politicians and tourists allow recent difficulties to create a significant lapse in these relationships, it could have the greatest impact on their worse case scenarios for Turkey becoming a reality.