When we were in Dallas last weekend sharing about Releasing Kings and hearts, I shared my own stories of tragedy and triumph. There is some fragrance that comes into our lives when we experience a death and resurrection on a personal level. Everyone there was either in that cycle or just coming out. The common denominator was quite often financial pressure that was eroding hope and dreams. Resurrections are glorious and powerful and necessary experiences that change us forever. The unfortunate reality is that they are always preceded by a death. It’s hard to have a decent resurrection without a proper death. We are often not equipped to deal with the valley of the shadow of death, but God is there as well, even though we don’t expect Him.
Valleys feel like – The first thought in the process of death is, “Why has God forsaken me?” There is a shame that goes with failure and defeat that our hearts struggle to overcome. We mistakenly assume that we’ve missed God. Even our Christian friends look on our misery and either don’t know what to say or offer up rather misguided and unhelpful pleasantries. The biggest casualty is our future. We cannot see the mountains from the despair of a grave. We cannot see our future. The first glimpse of hope is that we see Jesus, just extending His hand and embracing us and letting us know that He still loves us, still works through us, and that somehow there is still a future. Embracing this vulnerability is the hardest and most important step of discipleship that we can go through. Prayer, proclamations, principles and prophecy at this stage are just symptoms that we are hopelessly trying to resurrect ourselves. Surrender comes first.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. John 12:24-26 NIV
Resurrection feels like – The first hint of resurrection is the sense that my Father still loves me and is still present. The future is still not visible, but the experience of being loved in a hopeless situation is the first hint. Everything that I used to trust is gone, and there is nothing left but Jesus. He is the only hope I have left, the only reason to continue living. I am vulnerable, surrendered and peaceful. Tears flow freely from this point on, from a heart that is forever more tender and broken. Weakness is the foundation for strength; compassion is the foundation for passion. There is an unmistakable fragrance.
The Fragrance – We don’t live in death and defeat, but we do pass through valleys and experience resurrections. These cycles are like breathing… they are also breathtaking. The brokenness that results from “being given over to death for Jesus sake” releases a fragrance of maturity in resurrection that is the wellspring of our ministry to other people. We don’t surrender to defeat, but we do embrace our vulnerability; we surrender to the resurrection that makes dreams come true. We don’t lose heart or give up on our dream; we just realize that God has to do His part to make it happen. This pruning from the Father is the unpleasant discipline of love that releases a fragrance that others easily perceive. They can identify with our valleys… we stop pretending that it’s all peaks and no valleys. Jesus is both the captain of our salvation who set the captives free, yet He was also a man of sorrows… we are longing for both the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings as we become like Him (Phil 3:8-10).
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isa 53:3 NIV
Jesus’ greatest miracle and most surprising initiative is that, as God, he chose to be “God with us,” and became a man who was tempted in every way just like we are. Following Jesus leaves us with the paradox: Our strength comes through weakness! We are more than conquerors, yet we have fellowship with His sufferings. We go through deaths in order to experience resurrections.
You volunteered, remember? – That resurrection is in full view when we remember that we invited Jesus into our hearts to dig us deeper, to use us however He wanted to. We volunteered to be the clay and let Him be the potter. We exit the grave when our experience of being loved by the Father allows us to catch the first glimpse of the purpose in this process. There are casualties and delays in warfare. God is not the author of evil and loss, yet He can redeem our situation and our hearts, and indeed He must, for us to truly know who He really is. We are followers of Jesus and we all go through seasons of death and resurrection that release the depth and height of who we really are.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Rom 8:17 NIV
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… Phil 3:10 NIV
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:8-10
The gift – These broken hearts who have embraced their vulnerability and experience resurrection(s) carry this fragrance of death and life in remarkable ways. They bring life to the broken hearts and abandoned dreams. They invite others to the party that is now Kingdom. They hear the music and dance with abandon that their Father has counted them worthy to work with Him. Death and resurrection is the unmistakable fragrance on those sons and daughters who are being invited into the Kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matt 10:7-8 NIV