A dear friend recently suffered an enormous loss. His home and all of his family’s belongings were lost in a devastating home fire. In just a few hours, the historic home in which his family had invested years of renovation ended up as a pile of cinders and ash. This included all their clothes and family photos—virtually all of their earthly possessions. In the midst of this tragedy, one of the first things I wondered about was the quality of my friend’s homeowner’s insurance policy. It’s not that I was unconcerned about his family’s safety and their emotional loss, but as one who is predisposed to finding hope and safety in financial stability, the first thought that jumped to my mind was, Are they completely protected from all this suffering and loss?
I am convinced that many of us wonder about God’s faithfulness, goodness, and love toward us, not because He has been unfaithful, but rather because we believe He has not lived up to providing the safe and prosperous outcomes we’ve imagined for our lives, such as our individual and cultural notions of safety, predictability and peace, pleasure and affluence. I wonder if our forebears from past generations bought into this idea, if they believed that those who follow Christ should expect a life free from insecurity, suffering, and loss.
In Philippians, Paul explains his reorientation from the false securities of his previous life to a new understanding in which he rejects those former notions in order that he “may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8–9). Now, because of Christ, he has suffered the loss of these accomplishments, and he even considers them “as dung” (v.8). This is one of many passages in the Bible that reminds us that God is not necessarily working to bring about our own individual dreams of the good life. If we don’t recognize this, we are likely to find ourselves primed for disappointment with God. He is concerned with something of much greater value than helping us achieve everything we want. His desire is for all of creation to experience the redemption and restoration we need.
Paul knows that his former aspirations are nothing compared to gaining a relationship with Christ and being found in Him. As we consider our own privileges and accomplishments in comparison to the incomparable gift of knowing Jesus Christ, we will see the former things as far less important. We can appreciate them even as we count them as loss in comparison to the value of knowing Christ. Is the loss of these identity markers a true loss of identity? No. Our truest identity and a fuller comprehension of His redemptive love are found in our union with Christ. Only through Him are we truly secure.
Written by Rob Wheeler