A dear friend recently gave me A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, a book of morning and evening prayers. Every day the prayers blow me away with spiritual depth and personal conviction. I hope you’ll read the quote below slowly, allowing God to speak to you personally as he did to me.
In focusing on Jesus’s life in his morning prayer on the 6th day, Baillie wrote this:
Help me, Lord, to remember the blessed life that was once lived out on this common earth, under these ordinary skies. May I take this memory into each task and duty of today.
Help me to remember—
His eagerness to help others, rather than be helped;
His sympathy with suffering of every kind;
His bravery in the face of his own suffering;
His gentleness toward others, so that when he was abused he did not retaliate;
His steadiness of purpose in keeping to his appointed task;
His serenity of spirit;
His complete reliance upon you, his Father in heaven.
In each of these ways give me grace to follow in his footsteps.
Each line speaks to my heart about how little I look like Jesus. The words highlight the navel-gazing tendencies of the American church-at-large where too many Christians generally feel like me—God wants me comfortable and happy, so his will is to protect me from anything too hard. I don’t believe that theologically, but in practical terms my prayers and expectations are based on that belief.
Imaging Jesus requires us to encounter suffering and difficulty. In light of our prosperity compared to the world, how do we first become sympathetic to suffering of others and then eager to help them unless we deliberately listen to people unlike us to learn about and meet their needs? How can we ever exhibit bravery unless we actually face personal suffering? My comfortable, happy life certainly doesn’t help me rely on God because his presence isn’t very necessary. How do any of us give up our addictions to stuff in a land where we give no thought to tossing anything in the trash or hoarding it rather than gifting it?
Help me, Lord, by giving me the grace to accept suffering and hardship as gifts from your loving hand to help me grow and opportunities to show forth the character and love of Jesus.