Monday, January 30, 2017

There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood - Thoughts On Suffering

There is a fountain filled with blood....

Suffering is as distasteful to me as this image from a well-known hymn. My sister once told me that all anxiety is rooted in the desire to escape what is uncomfortable. In essence, we cannot cope with the broken reality of ourselves, others, our environment. We seek to escape, desperately trying to regain some sort of false comfort, false security. And in our fruitless efforts, anxiety is born. I find this to be very true of myself.

William Cowper* is the author of the hymn above, and maybe not surprisingly, was a man well acquainted with sorrow, depression, and suicide attempts. A very tortured soul, desperately trying to find and hang on to God despite very tragic and unjust circumstances that plagued his life from the time he was born until the time of his death some seventy years later. His hymn is the only "modern-day" worship song I've come across that leaves the same distasteful feeling as the words of Jesus at the Last Supper when Jesus shockingly told His disciples to eat of His body and drink of His blood. But I think because of Cowper's demons, he understood what a gruesome and shocking reality Christ was calling His disciples to, and was unafraid to go there...hence his rather profound imagery.

It is with great DISCOMFORT that I am realizing that ultimately with Christ we are accepting and diving headlong into that blood-filled fountain, drawn from Emmanuel's veins. A fountain of suffering, overwhelming and deep pain. It makes me sick! My stomach turns at the thought! But every time I try to outrun the discomfort, it finds me. It mocks and then devours me. I will never outrun it and instead the anxiety that I hate grows even stronger.

And sinners plunge beneath that flood

To turn and face head on- no not just face but to EMBRACE suffering as Christ did.... Can I? I am struggling through a very unexpected fifth pregnancy, and for weeks now I've endured fatigue and morning sickness along with scattered thoughts and overwhelmed feelings. Can I stop running, turn and embrace this surprising turn of events? I am fortunate that a baby is the likely outcome of this current struggle..But what about the struggles that do not have such a joyous and likely outcome? An acquaintance of mine but dear mentor to my sister is in her eighties, recently widowed and now facing an horrific surgery to remove portions of her mouth and jaw because cancer is eroding and overtaking what once was healthy and good. Can she trust Him through that pain and fear and doubt and darkness? Can she plunge beneath the flood? Accept and embrace and count it all as joy? Is she expected to?

I spoke with a friend this last Sunday after a worship service that I help facilitate at one of our local retirement homes. My friend has a wheel chair bound son with many health issues who was given a very bleak prognosis at birth and yet is miraculously enjoying his third decade of life. I wondered aloud if she had always been this strong, this resilient, taking him to theme parks and vacations and connecting with many families in the community. She told me that she had struggled with debilitating anxiety, and that a few years ago my mom had told her she needed Jesus and His Word, to turn to Him first to get through the waves of depression and despair. She said that is when her life began to change and she began to live again, which in turn overflowed to her son, and began the amazing adventure they are now living filled with friends and experiences that many 30 year olds today do not have! It left me speechless as I really considered what this woman and her son daily choose to do- the bravery displayed in turning from trying to avoid the pain and reality, (which was more than understandable!) and embracing what was, and then unexpectedly finding joy and hope and life and peace despite their circumstances.

Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunge beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

What a picture, a fountain of blood wherein the one who submerges herself in a life drained of it's life-blood, arises, no, RESURRECTS cleaner, whiter, freer than before! It is counter intuitive and horrifying and yet it is what this life in Christ's footsteps beckon us to. There is life unseen beyond death and we are forced to embrace and foreshadow this reality now in this death-trapped world as we call hope and attention to that glorious day when all will be made right but also as proof that His Kingdom has in fact now come, that there is life to be had after death HERE.

So many places in my life I run from suffering, big and small. Can I stop and turn, embrace the cross before me? Christ-like in my trust that suffering will yield obedience and obedience will yield freedom from well-worn worry and result in life? At the very least it will yield greater capacity to handle the trivial annoyances and interruptions of my day to day that unhinge and frustrate me. A change of perspective, a change of direction. A full submersion and acceptance in the fountain of Christ before me.

  1. God Moves In A Mysterious Way
    by William Cowper

    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

    *For an excellent read on more of William Cowper's life, check out this article by John Piper Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of a Saint

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