Suddenly the Judge Shall Come

“Suddenly the Judge shall come and the deeds of each shall be revealed.” 

This is a line from the morning prayers I say. When I first became an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I used to emotionally cringe at this line. It played into my old juridical perspective of God, depicting God as pounding his gavel and declaring me guilty. Or worse, it played on some of my deeper distortions of God as a deity hiding around the corner, waiting for me to do something bad so he could jump out and catch me red-handed. 

But that isn’t the God revealed in Jesus. He’s a good, loving, generous Father who desires us to enter the true human life and vocation as his image-bearers, ambassadors, and priests.

So now, I see this line more therapeutically. A judge determines what is real and true. Like a doctor touching an area on our body in order to diagnose, the pain that we experience reveals disease or disorder that needs to be addressed and healed.

So it’s for our goodness and health that the Judge comes and reveals our deeds. It reveals what is real. And that honest revelation is always a gift, and never a curse.

But how does the Judge come and reveal? I find in my life it’s through pressure and suffering. When circumstances become stressful, that’s when the Judge reveals, when the Doctor diagnoses. As part of the process, the crap that I’m fairly good at burying during normal times is exposed. Anger, anxiety, fear, impatience, gossip, pride, self-centeredness, control, self-preservation, and so much more are flushed into the open.

And that’s when I’m reminded and invited again to trust in and follow my Shepherd. In him I lack nothing. In him I am safe. In him I am sustained. In him the fractured and frenzied pieces of my life are being reintegrated and restored.

I write this because yesterday morning as I prayed that line, I choked when I realized how the past couple of weeks have brought the Judge so powerfully. I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt so overwhelmed, to the point I feel physically ill and emotionally strung out. And what’s being exposed isn’t good. It feels like all the spiritual formation over the past several years has evaporated.

I’m not writing this to invoke pity. Rather, it’s a reminder that true and genuine honesty is a gift, not a curse. If I let God do his work, then what I’m experiencing is ultimately for my good. Suddenly the Judge comes and it is a good thing, even though it hurts so much.

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