I recently listened to something and learned about an experiment with dogs. It was rather cruel, but it exposed something important. The dogs were put alone in a cage with a metal floor and the floor was electrified. Random areas of the floor were given shocks and the dogs would jump to another area. However, as soon as they jumped to a new area, the dogs would be shocked there. There was really no escape. Eventually, the dogs gave up. They just cowered in a corner and waited for the next shock. When it came, they didn’t move. Since they had learned that there was no escape, the dogs resigned themselves to the pain.
I know people like that. Once they determined that there was no hope, they gave up. They learned to look at themselves as losers, failures, prey for others. They just expected abuse because it always came. Even if it didn’t come right away, it came eventually. So these poor folks live in expectation of pain at any moment, ready to grit their teeth or flinch or cry.
Actually, many people have this kind of education in their lives. We talk about “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” We anticipate trouble, expect it even when we have no evidence. Why? Because we have trained ourselves to get ready for the shock and pain. This is why, when given the choice, most people will choose to hear the bad news first. Since it is coming anyway, we might as well get it out of the way. The bad news always comes.
Then along comes Jesus. He tells us that He loves us without strings, without the bad news. He just loves us. He has reached out to us in our need and He has given us all we need.
But, no matter how much we want that to be true, our experience—our training—tells us that it cannot be true. We must have to measure up somehow (and eventually we won’t) or we must have to guarantee it somehow (and we know that we can’t) or we must have to be special in some way (and we don’t believe we are). So, no matter how loving Jesus is or how pure His love for us is, we find it hard to accept that we are accepted.
This broken world did not and could not prepare us for Jesus. Nothing in this world is the way it should be. Sin broke everything. But Jesus comes from outside this world. Jesus is God, coming to us to save us. His love is not affected by the brokenness sin caused.
But, listen, Jesus understands when we find it hard to trust Him. He wants us to trust Him, to believe in His acceptance and love, but He knows this world and He understands our training. That’s why He tells us, over and over, that He will not leave us or let us go. That’s why He tells us to be happy, because He has “overcome the world.”
One of my favorite Scripture passages is from Romans 12:2 where Paul tells us,
. . . do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .
The transformation that is taking place in you and me is not one of better performance or greater spirituality. We are not working hard to stop being losers. It is our thinking that is being changed. We are adapting to the truth about ourselves and our Lord. We are unlearning the training of our experience in this world and we are learning the reality of our value and position in Jesus.
And, little by little, it is working. We are beginning to see that it is all true…