Daily it seems that these words cross my mind. Something else, going wrong, unexpected, tragic, discouraging. In those moments hope seems to fade. My response is to create my own reality. I tell myself that it won’t last, or it isn’t really THAT bad. It’s not biblical…well not until now.
Romans 8:19 “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”
This verse is sandwiched in a passage where Paul laments the damnable position of all mankind. He points out that even creation is suffering because of everything gone wrong. But he does not draw a wholly negative picture. There is the anticipation of a future glory. A day when all is as it was intended and should be.
In his commentary on this passage, William Barclay summarizes the situation like this:
“The Christian is involved in the human situation. Within he must battle with his own evil human nature; without he must live in a world of death and decay. Nonetheless, the Christian does not live only in the world; he also lives in Christ. He does not see only the world; he looks beyond it to God. He does not see only the consequences of man’s sin; he sees the power of God’s mercy and love. Therefore, the keynote of the Christian life is always hope and never despair. The Christian waits, not for death, but for life.” (emphasis added)
As a Christian, by faith I accept that God has redeemed me through Christ Jesus. This redemption is not complete until I am able to enter into God’s presence. And so while the world all around me seems to fall apart, I take heart in a different reality.* A reality that will bring hope from despair. A reality that is only found in Christ.
(*Qualifiers: 1. My life is difficult, but not falling apart…it just seems like it sometimes. 2. Denial of reality can lead to unhealthy views of oneself and situation. Denial must be balanced carefully by an honest assessment of whatever your situation might be. Are you contributing to the downward spiral by not owning up to your part of the problem(s)? Overall our attitude and outlook should be positive and hopeful. We know how it all ends and who wins.)
Yeah it’s not nearly as cool as “THE DARK NIGHT”…but man we sure could use it. The other day I posted about the movie The Dark Knightand there was some really good discussion that came out of it. Watching the movie triggered some deep emotions from me that seemed kind of weird on the surface but after processing it I have realized that it’s really not all that weird or unexpected. The reality is that I have been wrestling over these issues for some time.
So I’ve been posting everywhere how my heart is broken and that I am generally angry. It’s got some people a little freaked I suppose. Ok well, it probably does freak most people out, but I am really thankful for those who have the courage and take the time to engage me. The other day I hijacked a friends blog (she asked me to) and posted a comment that begins to push me toward a deeper realization and better understanding of life here on earth. My friend just returned from a trip to India where she spent time loving people who are literally outcast by their society. The subject of suffering was brought up and the question asked “Does God allow suffering?”. Here was my response to that question:
Here is where I am at on this issue, and I admit up front that I really don’t know much simply because I haven’t experienced much. I’ve seen some firsthand, but not much in terms of my own life has been spent suffering. I always feel like a newborn infant trying to comprehend some complex theory of physics…I don’t have the capacity and in some ways it’s not really my business.
I agree with you that suffering is a product of the free will that God has gifted the human race. In his desire to have a true relationship with humanity he required that we have the choice in having a relationship with him. (Though even this is a bit confusing because angels appearantly had a choice, look at what happened to Satan?) So evil and suffering are the result of humans chosing opposite of God’s will. God’s will being that all mankind be reconciled to him through his Son Jesus Christ. But this is where the beauty of God shines through. God sent His Son to suffer and to show that in suffering comes the greatest revelation of his love and his grace. As dark as things can get here on earth there is another reality. 1. God has rescued us from death and eternal darkness. 2. His presence is here for us to rely upon in those times. So it is not so much that God allows suffering, but more that God seeks to rescue and comfort those who suffer. We often get it backwards. This is where my heart really takes off. I am an agent of peace and joy sent and empowered by God through his Spirit to comfort the uncomfortable, to console the unconsolable, to do whatever I can, wherever I am, with whatever I have to alleviate suffering for the glory of God.
I know that there are alot of people who struggle with this issue and that this issue has caused many to completely lose their faith in God. I believe that it is because we get it backwards. We blame God for the suffering and evil in this world as if we as humans are not culpable. Truly God could have created the world and not allowed evil and suffering. But that would have required that we as humans have no choice, and choice is what makes us truly dangerous and powerful. I don’t know about you but I want to be dangerous and I want to be powerful. I want to be able to make choices that make a difference in this life and the next. And I don’t say that lightly because I recognize how much pain and suffering is caused even by my own choices ( just ask my family ;). )
So what dangerous choices are you faced with? Do you see yourself as an agent of mercy and grace?
Well, I must say that I am a bit surprised, but really happy. Gary came by the office around 2 this afternoon. He sat in my office and we chatted about his situation and what all he has done to try and get out of his cycle of financial difficulty. I put a little gas in his tank so he could get around this week and told him that I would try and arrange a job interview for him at a local inbound call center. Pray for Gary. Pray for me.
When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! James 1:9 (MSG)
Yesterday I had a phone message sitting on my desk…you know the old school kind that someone jots down on a piece of paper and you read it. It was from a lady we have helped with groceries and some money to help pay some bills. Usually these encounters burden me, but its different with Michelle and her family. You get a real sense that they need the help and they are very appreciative. So I was somewhat excited somewhat nervous about what they would need this time around. Well they were needing help moving. My heart sank a bit. It seems to me that moving only deepens a cycle of financial difficulties. But this time was different. She had the owner of an apartment complex contact her about living in an apartment offering free rent for the next month and a half. Then she contacted the Uhaul to arrange a truck and they offered her free use of a truck for 6 hours plus 2 utility dollies no charge. I was so pumped and quickly agreed to help her out thinking I could make a couple of phone calls and round up a few guys to move the family. Well afternoon came and I had only lined up myself, my wife and one other guy. This was not shaping up to be the ideal scenario. We could do it…it would just take awhile. A little later in the afternoon I called her back to set up the details and found her really excited. “Mr. Kenyon,” she said. “You won’t believe what has happened.” I braced myself. “A moving company contacted me and is going to send three guys out in the morning to help us move for $60.” Wow. She went on to say that God is just blessing her so much and we talked about all the awesome things that are happening for her and her family. So different from the other conversations we have had. The depressing stories of one hardship followed by another. And this morning I read the passage above. So today we cheer for Michelle and her family! We celebrate the blessings that God is pouring out.
The day before I was contacted by Gary. We’ve helped Gary out several times with gas and some shoes. After awhile you begin to sense that your help is not really helping. So I began to probe a little deeper into the issues that Gary was having. As I began to ask some questions he became evasive. His “pay as you go” cell phone was quickly running out of minutes he was needing to get off the phone. I hastily encouraged him to come by the office and meet with me so we could talk some more. He agreed and said he’d come by.
I hope that I get to cheer with Gary just like I did with Michelle.
Who are you cheering with?