"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:9)
As emotional beings, humans experience a wide variety of feelings, both positive and negative. Psychologists tell us there are nine distinct emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, anger, surprise, sadness, anticipation, and fear.
Of these, I believe that fear is the strongest and most common. More decisions are fear-based than love-based. Fear is also the emotion that we are least willing to admit. It suggests weakness, and none of us like to admit to being weak. Nevertheless, there are two things that we cannot help but be fearful over: suffering and death.
Think for a moment how much effort we humans put into protecting and securing ourselves against the suffering that comes from hurt and loss. Consider how uncomfortable we become when the topic of death, especially the eventuality of our own death, becomes the focus of conversation. (This probably explains why pre-funeral arrangements are such a hard sell. Most people would prefer not to think about death, much less plan for it, even though we all know it is going to happen no matter what we do or how well we take care of ourselves.)
The apostle Paul taught that if we are truly believers in Christ, then the sting of death is gone (1st Corinthians 15:55). James promises that suffering can be turned into a source of joy (James 1:2,3). But let's be honest, most of us wonder just how that all works in real life.
Paul explained to the Corinthians that the secret was found in looking beyond the veil, (2nd Corinthians 3:13-16), for that is where we “see Jesus.” Most of us have a veil over our eyes when suffering & death intrude into our lives. All we can see is how things look in this present world. But when I “see Jesus” in my circumstances, I look past the veil and see “the world to come.” In an instant, suffering and death are redefined as friends and helpers, not enemies. They are no longer the “end,” but rather a means to a greater and more glorious end; that is, a “crown of glory and honor,” just like the one given to Jesus by the Father after He suffered and “tasted death.” When I truly believe this, then joy will prevail in my suffering, and peace will triumph over death.
It is one thing to believe that God is a forgiving God, quite another thing to believe that He has forgiven “me.” For many of us, self-forgiveness is more difficult than forgiving others.
This is especially true if someone has done something contrary to what he wants to believe is true about himself. Do you know what I am talking about? We begin by assuring ourselves, “I would never, ever, do that.” Then, in an unexpected moment of weakness, we find ourselves doing the very thing that we were confident we would never do.
Such moments are very disillusioning. We all hold to moral illusions about ourselves that need to be “dis-ed.” This is probably why the moment we assure ourselves that there is something we would never do, we soon find ourselves doing it. And God will let us, because He wants us to reject illusions of our own goodness in favor of a more honest appraisal.
Oswald Chambers once noted, “We are never nearer to greatness than when we are face down at the foot of the cross.” Greatness in God’s eyes is not found in moral perfection or religious rectitude. Rather, it is found in brokenness and humility, as a consequence of a correct appraisal of ourselves - the kind of self-appraisal that was forced upon David in the aftermath of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah:
There are two key verses we would do well to keep in mind when we are tempted to disillusion ourselves: