Category Archives: Suffering

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 12 – The Top 10 Most Persistent Questions

Mt St Helens 7-9-11 PSYou don’t know what you don’t know. And you will never know exactly how another person feels or the depth of their personal suffering. I’ve spent almost 40 years of my life as a pastor and counselor. During those years I’ve empathetically listened as people have poured out their hearts and told me their stories. Some are horrific, catastrophic, or tragic beyond belief. All are filled with emotions from violent anger to shocked bewilderment. While the people and stories are all unique, the questions articulated remain very similar and all are a variation of what I’ve been calling life’s most persistent question, “Why?”

“God wants to build character in our lives,” I once mused to a young father with three children who was mourning the loss of his wife from cancer.

“I don’t need any more character,” he shouted at me. “I need my wife back!”

Ouch! His explosion reminded me of the then-recent eruption of Mt. St. Helens (pictured above almost 35 years after the explosion).  I was a young pastor and just trying to make sense myself out of his tragic circumstances. Parroting what I truly believed, but without any comprehension of his own incredible grief, my words, that were intended to soothe and answer, simply applied salt to his wounded heart. I’ve learned a few things about suffering myself since then and would never make such a statement under similar circumstances today.

Based upon many such encounters with grieving souls, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most persistent questions. Much has been written about them, and I seriously doubt what I might say will shed any additional light on the topic. But by their very nature, they persistently remain the questions that cross generational, societal, and geographical boundaries. They are universal questions, asked by all people in all places at all times. And in one way or another, they are also questions considered by the ancients and recorded in the pages of the Bible.

While there are personalized versions of every one of these, the general questions are universal.  And when asked in a real-life situation, every one of them are typically accompanied by a pretext. For example, “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t God prevent tragedy?” or “God answers prayers for other people, why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Here are my top 10:

10.   Why would a loving God send someone to hell?

9.     Why doesn’t God prevent corrupt leaders from coming into power?

8.     Why doesn’t God put an end to all suffering?

7.    Why does God allow innocent children to be victimized and harmed?

6.    Why doesn’t God heal everyone who asks?

5.    Why doesn’t God prevent tragedy?

4.    Why does God allow evil?

3.    Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

2.    Why do evil people prosper?

1.    Why do the righteous suffer?

Before you quickly attempt to provide pat answers to these questions, consider the fact that these questions are consistently universal and ubiquitous—they appear everywhere at all times. If our philosophical and theological answers were adequate to explain the human condition on a level beyond the intellect, wouldn’t people stop asking them, and have stopped doing so years ago?

And please remember that they are posed in the midst of great turmoil of soul and spirit, typically generated by circumstances that have destroyed the fabric of human decency and order. They are not questions that inquire or call for a philosophical or even theological dialogue, although that sometimes occurs and may be profitable. No, these questions are more like a rhetorical shotgun blast, an interrogation generated by an internal explosion of angst and turmoil of the soul—triggered by external circumstances beyond our control.

These are questions that at the same time demand an answer, while not really expecting any single answer to sufficiently explain the catastrophe of a broken life and heart. So, how do we respond? How should we respond? And what do you think about the questions themselves? Are there other questions you would add to the top 10? I’d love to hear what you think, and I’ll share my thoughts in a later post. I will tell you this, Mt. St. Helens is proof that time may bring beauty out of the most explosive of circumstances. It takes time, but time alone does not heal all wounds. Ultimately, only Jesus does that.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 10

Highway to sunset Farm Road Springfield MO 5-2-15On the road to Emmaus, Jesus took the time to offer an explanation to his two questioning friends who were searching for an explanation, for a reason behind all the events they had experienced. He understood the sorrow and disappointment they felt, the loss that had blinded their eyes with tears and dampened their hearts with grief.

“Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself” (Luke 24:27, nlt).

Jesus is a gentleman. He patiently listened and explained. They had an engaging conversation. As they walked, they approached their destination. He did not invite himself in for dinner. He will not force himself on anyone. He will respond to an invitation, though. He waits patiently for each of us to invite him into our heart. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” (Revelation 3:20, nkjv).

Cleopas and his friend invited Jesus in and he joined them for a meal. Jesus wants fellowship with us. He wasn’t angry with them. He loved them and was concerned for them. As Jesus blessed the dinner bread, they suddenly understood. Their eyes were opened and they immediately knew who he was.

Along with that revelation came something unexpected. God is always doing things we don’t expect. He vanished out of their sight. But even though they couldn’t see him with their physical sight, their spiritual eyes were opened. That is what happens when we journey with Jesus; we walk by faith, not by sight.

An encounter with Jesus changes everything. They had seen the Lord and their emotions went from confused sadness to elated gladness. Excitedly, they told each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as he explained the Scriptures to them as they walked down the road.

When we can’t clearly see the road ahead because our vision is blocked by tears or by the tangled web of weedy circumstances, we must focus on Jesus. Once we see him, he gives us vision for the road ahead and shows us the way. He can turn our “Why?” into “Why not!”

I don’t know which lonely Emmaus Road you may be traveling. But I am sure that Jesus is with you, even if you don’t see him or recognize his presence. And when Jesus accompanies us on the road less traveled, it makes all the difference.

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 8

Sunset rolling farm fields Portrait along Hwy 90 near Ritzville WA 4-29-15On the Emmaus Road, late afternoon shadows lengthened as Cleopas and his buddy were walking along and asking questions—probably rhetorical questions. They may or may not have expected answers, but they needed to ask the questions. Their questions represent the dilemmas many of us face in the journey of life:

  •  “What are we going to do now? What is going to happen to us?”
  • “If He did rise from the dead, how did he do it?”
  •  “Why did this happen to a good guy like Jesus? He didn’t deserve to suffer like that.”

The Bible says “they communed together and reasoned…” (Luke 24:15, kjv). The Greek word for “reasoned” is suzeteo and means “make a thorough investigation.” These guys wanted to know what was going on. They were posing the questions of suffering that everybody asks at one time or another.

First, we want to know “What happened?” or “How did this happen?” This is the quest for details. We want to understand fully the whole story. Like hearing the news of a friend’s sudden death, we want to understand how it happened. Was it an accident or a sudden illness? We want to know who, what, when, and where. Details of information will be passed back and forth to satisfy our need to know.

Second, “Why did this happen?” This is a more profound question, and one that consistently persists. Once we know how, we want to know why. The “why” questions are always the most difficult, indeed they are life’s most persistent questions. They often defy solution. We search for reasons. Like Cleopas and his buddy, we investigate and seek answers, even though they often can’t be found in the here and now.

  • “Why did Jesus return to Jerusalem if He knew people wanted to kill him?”
  • “Why did Peter deny Jesus?”
  • “Why did Judas betray Jesus and then kill himself?”
  • “Why didn’t Jesus stop the people who were killing him?”
  •  “Why didn’t we all stick together?”

When we are troubled, it is helpful to remember that Jesus walks with us on our journey of life. He is never distant or far away. While these disciples were walking along and trying to figure things out, Jesus drew near to them. During troubled times we may think God is a million miles away. Panic sets in when we feel abandoned. We don’t usually make good decisions when we are in a state of panic or fear. And fear makes a poor lens for viewing life. It distorts reality and magnifies problems. It makes God appear to be far away while trouble appears to be next door.

Jesus is as close as the mention of his name. The Bible is full of promises about God’s nearness and comfort during our times of sorrow and grief. The journey may get rough at times, but Jesus will strengthen our faith as we recognize his presence and trust the promises of Scripture:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
  • For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, nkjv)
  • … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
  • Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, nkjv)

Never forget:  Jesus is bigger than your questions, and as close as the mention of his name.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 7

Road Less Travelled Spring trees roadway 3 forks area 4-15-15In 1916, Robert Frost published a poem titled, The Road Not Taken. It helps to illustrate the fact that life really is a journey and that we have a variety of options. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by. / And that has made all the difference.” Jodi and I both love that poem, and the many parallels to life that can be drawn from it.

Sometimes the little choices we make in life that really do make all the difference. Had it not been for a mutual friend, or the fact that I chose to attend a particular church youth event as a teenager, I might never have met Jodi. Naturally, we seldom realize the importance of those little choices and decisions at the time. Because we never see more than a small snapshot of the entire roadmap at any one time, we are prone to be shortsighted. That makes it even more important to stay close to Jesus and walk with him so he can show us the way. It can be a tall order.

The Apostle Paul reflected on this challenge in 1 Corinthians 13:12. He wrote, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (nlt). Here he contrasts our present blurred vision with the future clear revelation in heaven. When we see Jesus Christ face-to-face, we will see everything else with clarity. Even in this life, the more clearly we see Jesus, the more clearly we will understand the meaning of the here and now.

The Easter story provides the foundation for our faith in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God. Before the resurrection came death and despair. Jesus’ followers were scattered and shocked. You can read Luke’s version of the story beginning in Luke 24:13. All of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The disciples of Jesus were in hiding. There was serious talk of disbanding their group. They were about ready to close the door on the New Testament church for the last time. Little did they know that they were really only forty days away from the grand opening of the church doors on the Day of Pentecost!

Without Jesus, they couldn’t go on. Their hopes were crushed, their dreams shattered. As far as they could see, their leader was gone. But was he? Strange reports from some of the women and a firsthand account by Peter told of an empty tomb, grave clothes lying wrapped as though the body had just evaporated from them, and an appearance by angels announcing a resurrection.

As two friends walked on the road to Emmaus (a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem) they discussed the situation. We know the name of one, Cleopas (possibly a male form of Cleopatra). His name meant “the glory of being called a father.” A name like that would identify him as a leader. Obviously both Cleopas and his companion had been closely associated with Jesus and the twelve disciples. Perhaps they were part of the larger group of seventy that Jesus had sent out.

We don’t know why they were walking to Emmaus. Maybe they lived there. Maybe they were escaping Jerusalem for fear of losing their own lives. Maybe they just wanted to walk and talk and try to sort things out in their minds. Whenever we have problems, it helps to talk things over with a friend. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle and the greatest event in history. Yet, from day one it has generated a lot of questions—for many people more questions than answers. That’s the way it is with miracles. Reason asks questions. Our mind wants a resolution to our questions, our hearts want ato believe for that which seems impossible. Faith simply believes the impossible is possible.  Keep believing.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 6

Ghost Tree Middle of Cottonwoods Meadowbrook Farm - Nostalgic Purple 4-16-15Sometimes God uses this life’s greatest losses to bring about heaven’s greatest gains.

Perhaps like Mary and Martha in the Bible who lost their brother Lazarus, you have experienced the death of a loved one and been deeply grieved. Grief is a process and it takes time to process our feelings of grief and loss—tempered with the comfort of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven.

The story of Mary and Martha’s grief at the death of their beloved brother draws me into the drama of the situation. And that is where I discover what has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It also happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible—the go-to verse for those who are not gifted with a good memory but want to remember a verse in the Scriptures.  John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”  If you are not familiar with the context, this verse begs the question, “Why?”  Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus wept because of the grief he saw in the lives of his good friends Mary and Martha after the sudden and untimely death of their brother Lazarus. I love this chapter because it provides so many of the answers to the “why?” questions about life and death. Here are a few of the lessons I learn from this:

  1. John 11:5 tells us that “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus:” Despite our circumstances, we should never forget that God loves us and wants what is best for us.
  2. John 11:19 tells us that Mary and Martha’s friends gathered: We learn that friends can help us process our grief and bear our burdens.
  3. It is normal to have questions when death suddenly takes a loved one: Mary and Martha were grieving – and they sent for Jesus while their brother was still alive, but Jesus did not respond to their request until after Lazarus died. Naturally, they were disappointed, and somewhat angry. So much so that when Jesus finally did arrive with his disciples, Martha (always the one associated with action) goes out to meet him and rather accusingly exclaims, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
  4. Martha showed her belief and hope when she said, “Even now, you could do something.”
  5. What followed is an important lesson for us about life and death and belief in Jesus: John 11:23-27 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
  6. Martha shared the good news that Jesus had come and sent a secret message to her grieving sister, Mary. “The Master is here, and He is calling for you.” (Matthew 11:28)
  7. We tend to tell ourselves a story to accommodate our pain and resolve our incredulity at our circumstances.  Mary rehearsed the same speech her sister Martha had given. “Jesus, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” No doubt they had said this over and over. If only. . .”
  8. Jesus cares about our grief. Upon seeing Mary and the weeping, grieving crowd, “Jesus wept.” This is perhaps one of the most poignant verses in all of Scripture. It lets us know that Jesus really was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
  9. Others recognized the compassion and power of Jesus.  Yet, they still searched for reasons and asked questions:  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
  10. Jesus was moved by their compassion, in spite of their questions and reasoning. John 11:38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.” Where He proceeded to call Lazarus from the grave!

A final takeaway from this:  When other people see our faith in Jesus, despite our grief and questions and reasoning, they will be drawn to Him.

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” (John 11:45 NIV)

Because sometimes God uses this life’s greatest losses to bring about heaven’s greatest gains!

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 5

Seaside beach grassy sandy foreground 4-11-15When do most people buy a home or business security system? They do so after they or a neighbor have been robbed. The feeling of being violated breeds an environment of distrust and a sense of urgency. An event motivated us to ask questions and discover solutions so we can take action. Why?  Because something  happened to us that is out of our control. We believe we can get back in control and establish a sense of security by installing a security system.

Whenever something traumatic happens to us, we ask questions in our quest to regain some sense of meaning and security. And our biggest questions usually are God-sized questions that we would like Him to answer. And the biggest question of all is, “WHY?” The why questions always accompany challenges and remain the most lingering and persistent questions. It is a persistent question because it is a question about insecurity and angst – feelings we all experience. We long to make some sense out of events that shape our lives, and gain some sense of security in the process. So we long to know why.

John records a situation where Jesus and his disciples passed by a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7). This disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Their question revealed a common belief – almost like the idea of karma. If something bad happens, then it must be somebody’s fault. Jesus set the record straight – this man was born blind for God’s purposes, not because of something he or his parents had done.

While we are looking for somebody to blame, Jesus is looking for somebody to bless. But when something bad happens to us, long after we have answered the “who, what, when, where, and how” we still seek understanding, thus we ask “Why?” Our insecurity screams out for something secure to provide stability to calm our chaos of emotions.

After the death of their brother Lazarus, when Jesus did not arrive as requested and anticipated, Mary and Martha asked, “Why didn’t you come when we needed you?”

In the next post, I’ll explore how Jesus responded to their inquiry. He never did directly answer their question. What he did do turned their demand into delight and their grief into gratitude.

But until then, remember this:

Your best security system is Jesus! 

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 3

Eagle soaring closeup Skagit County 3-26-15“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”       -Isaiah 40:31

Wait. How we hate to wait! The word may spark anxiety in your heart, but the grieving process takes time. And that flies in the face of our “why wait?” culture and personal orientation when it comes to relief from pressure, anxiety, or desire of any kind.

Whenever you suffer a significant loss, you grieve. And the loss may seem insignificant to others or inconsequential in the big scheme of things. But if it was a big deal to you, if it made your heart feel pain, if it left you anxious and afraid, then you are facing grief. And working through the stages of grief takes time. You will get better. I know, you’ve heard it before. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

Denial. Anger. Bargaining.  Depression. Acceptance. How this process of grief plays out, and the length of each stage differs from person to person. It takes time–you just don’t know how much time. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

If you have read this far, you might think I am over-simplifying things, and if you are grieving your mind may have already circled back to the “Why?” question again. Well, you’ve come this far.  Why stop now? There, I did it–found another use for that most persistent question. And how about another?  Why not? Why not, indeed?

Why not learn from a fellow traveler on the road of suffering who had his share of disappointment–both giving it and receiving it. His name was Peter – and yes he is the one who cursed and denied that he had ever heard of Jesus (after promising that he would never do such a thing) at the moment Jesus needed him the most. Ouch!  Like I said, he understood disappointment. The Bible tells us that following that stellar performance, Peter went out and “wept bitterly.” This was such a big deal that both Matthew and Luke reported his bitter tears in their Gospels (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).

When Peter speaks about suffering and disappointment, perhaps we should listen. Many years past that painful event, Peter, who had been transformed by Pentecost and the working of the Spirit in his life over time, shares some advice for fellow pilgrims who wonder, “Why me?”

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  (1 Peter 4:12-19 NIV)

So did you catch what Peter said? I understand that he was writing to first century Christians who may have been facing persecution and even martyrdom for their faith–unlike anything most westerners are likely to face today. However his words provide meaning to all people in all places for all time.

  • Don’t be surprised by suffering.
  • Rejoice in your relationship with Christ.
  • Don’t think you are suffering for Christ if you are just being a jerk.
  • You may be suffering, “according to God’s will” despite those who theorize that God always wants you to be happy.
  • Commit yourself to our Faithful God.
  • Continue to do good.

This begs the question, “Why is it so difficult to apply this to my life?” Let’s begin with baby steps:

  1. What surprises you about your situation? The word “incredulity” means, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” What would it take for you to get over your shock that it did happen?
  2. What blessing can you discover to rejoice about today?
  3. What can you do to commit your ways to God? I like to pray and personalize these verses from Psalm 37:3-5 “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.” (NIV)
  4. What is one good thing that you can do right now as a next step toward “continuing to do good”? Go for it. You can do this!

And always remember:  When you think you won’t, YOU WILL GET BETTER! Have a great weekend. After all, why not? More about life’s persistent question and another relevant story about Peter next week.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 2

Snoqualmie Trail along Snoqualmie River Mt Si Background 3-20-15For most of us, the quest for answers continues long after the storm has passed. And that lingering, most persistent question consistently nags at your heart and soul. At a time when your troubled soul pines for consistency and order, you instead experience a chaos of emotions and the only consistent thing seems to be a flashback to traumatic events accompanied by the search for a cause: “Why?”

Long after you have organized the pertinent details (the who, what, where, when, and how) into a tidy corner of your mind, you just cannot seem to find an adequate compartment to fit the enormous tension contained in that tiny three-lettered word, “Why?”

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why didn’t God prevent it?
  • Why couldn’t I have seen it coming?
  • Why was I so careless?
  • Why didn’t someone warn me?
  • Why can’t I get over this?

Don’t get me wrong. Why is an important question. Maybe life’s most important question when asked in the context of, “Why am I here?” Defining the answer to that question helps provide purpose in life–an essential ingredient for a fulfilling existence. And as Simon Sinek reminds us in his best-selling business book, Start With Why, if you don’t know why you won’t know how, and may not fully understand what, either.  This truth pertains to individuals as well as businesses and organizations.

Why explores the reasons behind what we do. Why searches for intent and motivation. But why can also indicate a quest for placing blame or shame. And that is frequently the application when it comes to dealing with the grief of disappointment, catastrophe, or loss. We want a reasonable explanation for the chaos in our hearts and lives. We want to know who is responsible, to resolve our own angst. Once that is settled, we are on the path toward acceptance. This is where we can place the answer to “Why?” in its proper compartment and move on, and eventually the sharp edges of that memory will no longer cause the same kind of prickly pain we initially experienced.

So, what are the persistent questions you are dealing with in your life? How are you dealing with them? Why are you still stuck? Who can you confide in? What are you afraid of? What will it take for you to move on? What is God asking you to do?  And above all, remember this:  YOU WILL GET BETTER. THINGS WILL CHANGE. We’ll explore this further in the next post.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 1: Post-Easter

Sno Ped Bridge Near Sunset 3-20-15Following the heartwarming hope of Easter Sunday may come the disturbing doubt of an ordinary Monday. Perhaps you have wondered about suffering and death—maybe wondered if God really cares or has a plan. And perhaps like Mary and Martha in the Bible who lost their brother Lazarus, you have experienced the death of a loved one and been deeply grieved. Grief is a process and it takes time to process our feelings of grief and loss—tempered with the comfort of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven.

The sudden loss of a loved one or other tragedy leaves us with questions, and we long for answers, for some resolution to the tension and emotional pain that we experience. While we believe our loved one is in a better place and can rejoice that for now his or her struggles of life are over, we have a difficult time imagining how our own world will be a better place without them. In essence, we are struggling with the questions of suffering that all human beings deal with.

Questions of suffering include a quest for details and information. Once we learned the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how surrounding a tragedy, we are left with life’s most persistent question:  Why?

Like trying to fit together the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle, our minds try to solve this puzzling question. Why, we ask? To solve a really perplexing puzzle takes time, and it takes time to process our grief and quest for the answer or reasons why. Perhaps a better “why question would be to ask, “Why do we sometimes expect our journey with Christ will only lead us on happy trails filled with warm feelings, good light and road signs every mile or so explaining the conditions ahead?”

Is it possible that the path of suffering might provide moments of mystery where our own faith could grow? Could those dark shadows cause us to cling ever closer to Jesus? Might our faith muscles stretch and develop through the twists and turns of an uphill climb when we don’t know exactly what lies around the next corner? Could the mystery of those moments cause us to speak with a little less certainty about our own ability and instead trust more fully in God’s? And is it possible that we are better for those mysterious moments because we can now encourage fellow travelers to keep climbing, keep pursuing, and keep moving forward because we have felt the hand of the Good Shepherd leading us through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death?

Inquiring minds need to know, yet there are times when no easy answer comes. Ask Jesus. His plea from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” was met with silence on earth. However, that was not the end of the story–even at that moment. Although unheard on earth, there was applause in heaven as they were preparing for the return of God’s only begotten Son.

“Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)

He understands the moments of mystery you face. And you don’t have to face them alone. I’m praying for those of you today who are suffering from a Post-Easter letdown based upon the reality of your present circumstances. Remember that where you are right now may only be a detour for your own provision and protection that you will later look back upon and understand more fully. Keep believing.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 4

 

Mt Si Meadowbrook Farm Path Double Rainbow Clouds 3-31-15What if God is using your disappointments and detours to help you discover your destiny? Like seeing a rainbow suddenly appear after being pelted by driving rain, we may discover our destiny after enduring a cloudburst or a seemingly endless season of life’s stormy weather. The rainbow was God’s symbol of hope to Noah following the storm to end all storms. Jesus and the cross become our symbols of hope during seasons of suffering.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Where are you looking for help? What symbolizes hope for you? Does your mind have a vision of hope to keep you secure when facing the tormenting passion of fear?  How do you deal with the fearful dread in your heart when the thunder roars, the rain pours, and your roof leaks?  What do you do when the worst-case scenario interrupts your plans with unemployment, cancer or broken relationships?  Do you start looking for people to blame, or do you start looking for hidden blessings, opportunities to receive God’s grace and opportunities for you to grow? What gives you hope and encouragement? The hopeful heart looks to Jesus. And the hopeful heart is not a trembling heart.

Think about how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday–His trust and obedience to His Father’s will was a stronghold for His mind and gave Him courage to act appropriately instead of jumping off the donkey and running to hide in some remote cave.  Facing the worst-case scenario of all time – agonizing death, cut off from His Father, bearing every horrible, disgusting sin the world has ever known – Jesus pressed on.  He rode into the city with a quiet confidence and dignity because He had knew that His destiny and hope for suffering mankind came by way of His suffering on the cross.  And the cross of Christ made all the difference for you and me:

The cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God could become a man and a man could come to God.[1]  ~   Malcolm Muggeridge

Remember, as long as we live, the road to our destiny is always under construction. We should not be surprised when there are detours and delays along with disappointments. The key is staying with Jesus through those dark nights of the soul. It is easy to fall away and lose hope. It requires faith to hope for and receive what we do not see.

What have you hoped for? Have disappointment or discouragement kept you stuck in the waiting room of disappointment? What is the next step Jesus is leading you to take? That step may be marked, “Detour,” but it could you to from that waiting room to your destiny.

[1]Malcolm Muggeridge (1903–1990) Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).