Over the course of the past 5 weeks of term, I have been challenged on several occasions about the idea of balance – holding two seemingly different elements of life in equal proportions and importance. What do I mean by this? The Bible contains lots of counter-intuitive truths. I think the first time I was made aware of this was when we went through the story of Jesus healing the lame beggar (John 5:1-15) in Risky Living at HT. We are called to trust in Jesus, and to step out expectantly and persistently, praying boldly for change that we want to see happening. Yet, we have to understand that ultimately, God works in His way and in His time, and His ways are higher than ours. This then begs the question: when we pray, what exactly are we praying for? How do we pray for things we want to see happening, but also acknowledge that God might not work in the ways that we expect?
The Bible study the week after touched on the topic of freedom and surrender (John 8:31-47), which is yet another counter-intuitive truth. In John 8:31, Jesus said, "if you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." So, Jesus was saying that to be free, we have to hold fast to His teachings. The worldly idea of freedom comes with the sense of being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Yet the Bible calls us to still be obedient to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to be under His reign. Freedom in a Biblical sense is a freedom from Satan and his ruling, a freedom from slavery to fear and from the hold of sin. How then can we balance the idea of having the "freedom" to do whatever we want, but also having to live in step with God's righteousness?
Another time when I was faced with the idea of holding different things in tension was when I had the opportunity to engage with people in need. In several Just Love events, I was reminded that the God we serve is a just and merciful God – this means that to have the Father's heart is to have a heart for people who are marginalised, oppressed and in need. All of us are broken, albeit in our own different ways, which shows itself in many forms to the world (poverty, insecurities, homelessness etc.). In the face of seemingly helpless situations that other people are going through, I constantly steel myself to accept that I cannot physically do anything to help. Yet, I am aware that while I try to detach myself, I do not want to lose the tender heart that willingly empathises with their suffering and shares in their sorrow. How then can I balance these opposing feelings, to be able to reach out effectively, but not lose myself in the process?
The three stories and questions I have shared above are just some of the many that I have come across in my walk with God so far, and I list a few more in hopes to paint a better picture but also as food for thought:
Doing and being: Knowing that our salvation is not based on our works but also acknowledging that works come with our salvation (Luke 10:38-42 -> The story of Mary and Martha)
Not of this world but sent into this world (John 17:15-18 -> Jesus Prays for His Disciples)
Faith based on evidence and faith in things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
The last story I would like to bring up is one of grief and hope. This was articulated brilliantly by Reuben in Sprout's last CG meeting, and it made clear that although these are all seemingly opposing ideas, it is not impossible to feel both ways and live them out concurrently. Jesus promises to be our living hope, and we know we can put our trust in Him because His plans are good. Yet that does not mean we are not allowed to grieve in the face of loss. There is a time for everything: a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3). It is not antithetical to feel both sorrow and hope at the same time. We grieve the loss of something that was precious to us, yet we hope in the promise that all things will be restored in finality, and through this, we can start to see how this balancing game can look like in our lives.
Just like how Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and our friend, we exist with many identities at the same time. The Biblical call to accept counterintuitive things reflects the worldly tension of living as a son/daughter, a friend, a student, a leader etc. all at once. Me being a good student does not mean I have to sacrifice being a filial daughter. Us praying expectantly does not mean we do not acknowledge God's sovereignty and ask for His will to be done. Mourning does not mean we cannot give praise. Like the Psalmists who mourned, they turned it into praise in the presence of God. Like Job who cried out to God, He never disputed God's sovereignty and continued trusting in His plans. I do not know if a perfect balance can ever be achieved, but I find it a good reminder to not tend towards either extreme. Even though the task may seem impossible, perhaps its symptomatic of a greater need for God's presence and wisdom, to help us overcome and understand it. I know that there is one identity that is the basis of all we are, and that is being a child of God. I hope that the promise of love from a perfect Father for us, His broken children, is something that brings peace, even as we navigate the delicate balances of life.