For the Christian, we live a life of paradox. We live constantly in the tension of what is and what is to come. I use the word tension, because I believe that within our very souls there should be two dueling realities that coalesce together to form our Christian worldview. However, their coexistence, the present reality and the coming, is a tightrope act that if walked alone has the propensity to crush us under the pressure.
Know you will overcome, but accept the current reality. This is the Stockdale Paradox. It was named after a Vietnam War veteran who spent eight years as a prisoner of war and was tortured about twenty times in that span. Living in this tension, Stockdale never cracked and other than the physical beatings he took, escaped with relatively little harm.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” — Romans 6:5
We will overcome simply because Christ has already overcome. That’s all there is to it. We are not merely called to optimism, but outright confidence in the words of Jesus when He told the disciples to find their peace in Him in the midst of trials as He had overcome the world (John 16:33). We have this very same guarantee which has been tattooed on our hearts and is the Holy Spirit. It is the seal of God’s covenant with us promising our forthcoming inheritance that we will surely receive (Ephesians 1:13–14).
The here and now is broken. While there is beauty in this world, the overarching truth lies in the fact that our world has never been the same since the Garden of Eden. Once sin was introduced into the world, we humans have been just that, but nothing more. Once the effectors of God’s will, I find myself to be a rebel in the best of cases. And the world is filled with people like this. The world is not Heaven and it isn’t supposed to be now. However, this is not to be negative. This is not a dig, but merely perspective on the current situation. There is war, crime, poverty, hate and fear. This is just how the world should be that does not completely rely on the God of peace.
No man is an island. I love Simon and Garfunkel, but their worldview was a crock. Even Stockdale in prison had a community that supported him and vice versa. Jesus was scarcely without His disciples. The apostles in prison were always creating a form of community with the other inmates and the guards. If they actively sought community wherever they went, then I cannot portend to be any more self-sufficient. We were always meant to live in community and to deny that need would undermine the rest of this philosophy. Without community, we have wasted precious time here as community provides the propping up which enables us to stumble our way together along the long and winding road of life.
We will overcome though the current reality seems bleak. We have ample assurance from Jesus Himself that God has already triumphed; now, it is our opportunity to join in that victory. That victory is over sin which so pervades this world that our reality is one of brokenness and pain. Life is not misery, but there is plenty of pain in the midst of those plateaus of happiness. Finally, our reality and reality to come are meant to be taken on with others because alone we are too weak. We need others so that we may all stand upright. Friend, there’s a lot of work to be done and we all need one another’s help. How about living today in Christ’s victory, so that we can make our present a little better and we can all enjoy it together?