Friday, May 15, 2015

When the Answer You Need is not the Answer You Get

     I've been dealing with a chronic pain that has made my life miserable at times over the last year.  It has often impeded my ability to do the things I want to do, and after five months of striving for effective treatments, today I got the answer: the situation is likely permanent and there isn't anything the doctors can do about it.

     I am keeping this in perspective - I can think of a ton of things that doctors tell patients every day that are way worse than my situation.  But there are going to be some challenges ahead, and while thinking about dealing with them, I thought about Paul, asking the Lord to remove his thorn.  God said, "My grace is sufficient."

     Well, I'm glad and grateful to know that I follow a God who is all-powerful, and despite what any doctor tells me, if He wants to remove this thorn, He will.  The scary part for me is if He says, "My grace is sufficient."  I know, in my mind, that His grace WILL be sufficient.  My heart, however, is not fully on board yet.  I can't see the details of how His grace will be sufficient.  But maybe that's not necessary.

     I listened to the car radio on the way home, and a song came on.  I didn't catch the name, or the artist, but the song said to listen to the Voice of Truth, and no other voices.  And that the troubles we have will be used to bring glory to God.

    The thought of my troubles being used for the glory of God had not occurred to me.   Will God fix me, despite the depressing prognosis, and bring glory to Himself in that way, like the blind man in John 9 -

As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."*

Or is God going to ask me to bring glory to Him by trusting Him, even if He decides to leave me with the thorn?  Time will tell.



*NIV, from BibleGateway.com

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Odds vs. My God

"You have a 90% chance of getting past this with no further problems."  Those words from my doctor were quite reassuring! I suddenly envisioned 100 sick people lined up in front of me, and then 90% of them getting up and moving back to their regular lives like nothing ever happened.  It felt reassuring... until I realized there were still 10% of those sick people there, still having problems, and each of them had probably felt pretty good about their odds as well.  It was a very shallow reassurance after that.

It was during a recent hospitalization that I desperately wrestled with odds, looking for that elusive peace about my situation.  Needless to say, I didn't find it.  Looking back, I realized that I'd never find peace among probabilities and statistics.  Though I wasn't looking in the right place, the One Who Gives Peace redirected my efforts.

Did Christ give me a divine assurance that I would have a complete recovery?  No.  Did He whisper in my ear that things would improve?  Not at all.  He simply asked if I'd trust Him through this, one baby step at a time.  Yes, I can do that. 

In our ordeals, we are not simply thrown to the wolves of life, some of us victorious and some not.  There's a perfect plan, tailored for each one of us with our ultimate victories in mind; this plan will include elation, devastation, and everything in between.  And there are blessings in it all - and speaking from my own personal experiences, the blessings during the low points are far greater, richer, and deeper than they've been in the good times. 

I'm not concerned with odds and probabilities at this point.  In return for redirecting my trust from statistics to He Who Controls It All, I got peace.  I don't need to know what's going to happen, how it's going to happen, or when it's going to happen, because I know He Who Has The Perfect Plan, and He will sustain me through it all, and use it to my good.

When the bottom falls out of life, there are three things of vital importance to remember:


1) God knows it all.  He sees things you cannot.  He's got the whole package of information about your trouble; you don't.

2) God is powerful enough to do anything.  He doesn't play the odds - He makes the odds.  And there is no situation in which He is helpless.  If He doesn't wave His awesome hand and make your situation go away, there's a reason.

3) God loves us far more than we can understand or comprehend.  Sometimes in looking back at our past troubles, we see how God's love was manifested in allowing those unpleasant circumstances; some times, we'll have to wait to see it.  But His love is present through all of it.


Considering those three points together, when the Lord of All Life asks us to trust Him in our given situations, we have to have confidence that He knows what He's doing, and that He'll never ask us to walk through it alone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Valleys and Mountain Peaks

I have learned more from my valleys I ever did from my mountain peaks.

I have learned that I can do a lot of things that I never thought I could do, as long as I'm not trying to do them apart from Christ.

I am learning the art of perseverance, and that it can't exist apart from faith and trust in God.

I am learning that more is accomplished in prayer than by any other means.

I am learning that I don't need the answers to all of life's questions ahead of time.

I am learning that my life and my spiritual journey affects other people's lives and spiritual journeys, and theirs, mine.  Some of the most profound moments in my faith life have come from people who will never know their impact.

I have learned that just because I can't see what's going on doesn't mean nothing is going on.

And most of all, I am learning to thank God in all things, *especially* in the valleys.  The deeper the valley, the more imperative it is to be thankful.  And the most important thing to be grateful for is God Himself, who will carry us through our trouble, and richly bless us on the other side of it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Year Without God

When I first heard a radio interview with the "pastor" who decided to go one year without God, I was disgusted from the start.  Pastors are supposed to respect and follow God's teaching - like "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16.

Every pastor I have ever known has not only desired to be obedient to God, but has put a relationship with Christ above everything else, as it should be.  I have to wonder what kind of pastor engages in willful disobedience against God, and would sacrifice what should be treasured.  That he has done all of this so publicly makes me wonder what the real motive was, and the sincerity of the faith he started with.

What came to mind when I heard this story was an old saying, "Feed What You Want to Grow." Conversely, Starve What You Want to Die.  This man deliberately killed his own faith.  I don't get it, but I guess he got what he wanted.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Did God Fail Me?

Lately I have realized how very quickly life can take a major turn, and without advance notice.  People prayed for me while I was sick, and I recovered.   But sometimes people pray their hearts out, and there is no recovery.   What does that mean?  If I, or anyone else, die before reaching a ripe old age, or ends up with a lesser quality of life than I planned, does that mean God failed me?  Did He not hear the prayers?  Does He not care?

I know of someone whose mother had a major health crisis and was desperately and gravely ill.  This person prayed and prayed and prayed.  His mother died.  He now refuses to acknowledge that there’s a God, and hates Christians.  Did God fail his mother?  Did God fail him?

If you look at God as a genie in a bottle, then I guess sooner or later you’re going to be disappointed.  God is not here to take direction from US.  We are here to take direction from HIM.  He’s not here to please us; we’re here to love, obey and please HIM.   He can get along fine without us, but we’re in trouble without HIM.   I think too often people put themselves at the center of their universe, and expect God to be orbiting around them, answering their prayers just exactly how and when they desire.  In reality it is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of it all who should be (and is) in the center of it all.  He knows best, and we don't always know His reasons.

Every single one of us is assigned a number of days (Job 14:5).  Some of us have many days; some, few.   Our numbers were assigned with a reason and a purpose.  To be mad at God because our days are up is ridiculous.  In the case of the person mentioned earlier, well, his mother was going to have to die at some point.  We all do.  Would there have been any number of days that would have been satisfactory to him?  

What does God owe us?  What do we deserve?  Well, as someone who has known God’s word and deliberately disobeyed (plenty of times, unfortunately), I thank God that I have not gotten what I deserve.  I don’t want what I deserve!  In all fairness, God should throw up his hands in disgust and say, “Fine.  Have it your way.  Good luck.  I’m tired of messing with you.”  Instead of getting what I deserve, I got mercy and grace, and will get the same as I go through the number of days I have left, whatever that may be.

So, God did not, and will not, fail me, no matter what the future holds.  And He won’t  fail you, either.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Obedience

I was thinking about the way that we react when God commands us to do something.  Specifically, I was looking at how *I* react when God tells me to do something, especially something I'd really rather not do.   Sometimes I'll question if I really understood God correctly, or I'll figure out some way that I can "kind of" obey, while still doing what I want to do.  Sometimes I ask God for an explanation before I can proceed.  Or I'll just put it in the back of my mind and let the distractions of every day life cover it up.  And I realized that, looking at the Bible, I have plenty of company.  For instance -

"Jonah, get up. Pack a bag and head to Ninevah, I have a big job for you."
"But God, they're nasty people."
"I know, that's why I'm sending you there.  You need to tell them all hell's going to break loose if they don't stop it."
(covering his ears and uttering "lalalalalalala"), "Sorry God, I can't hear you... besides, I've already got plans somewhere else."

All this because he didn't like the people of Ninevah, and he wanted to see them get what he thought they had coming.  A bad storm, a near-drowning, and three days in the belly of a fish got his attention.  And then he went ahead and did what God told him to do, something he should have just done in the first place.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ananias, from Acts 9.

"Ananias, get up.  Head over to Straight Street where Saul from Tarsus is hanging out."
"But God, he's killed a bunch of us, and is on a mission to kill some more of us."
"I know, that's why I'm sending you there."

Never did God assure Ananias that he wouldn't be harmed, only that this is what He wanted him to do.  Ananias got up and went, and did as God told him.  He didn't pretend not to hear, or find an excuse to throw obedience out the window.  And look at what happened.  We got the Apostle Paul and a good chunk of the New Testament.

And Ananias didn't have to learn the hard way.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shootings - My Take

The number of mass shootings in recent years is absolutely alarming. Whether it's at a mall, movie theater, at school or work, it's hard to feel completely safe, and even worse, hard to feel comfortable when your kids and grandkids are out of your protection.  People around the country are demanding tighter gun control, and more help for the mentally ill.  But will this ultimately solve the problem?

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, you just didn't hear widespread calls for gun laws and restrictions, yet I can't remember once during my childhood ever fearing being shot at school, or anywhere else for that matter.   Everyone has their feelings on tighter gun laws, myself included, but I do think that guns are not at the heart of the issue - the real problem is a lack of hope.  People without hope do desperate things.

Life sometimes deals us "hopeless" situations - but those who follow Christ know that there's no such thing as a hopeless situation or a hopeless person.  Even though I grew up in a home where Christ was not part of our lives, society in general provided me with enough general knowledge of Jesus Christ and Christian values that when the tough times came around and I knew I'd done all I could for myself, I still had somewhere else to turn.  Society is different today - "progressive" people shun Christians and Christian values.  My heart aches when I think of kids in tough situations, and they aren't getting the assurance of an Ultimate Love from their schools or their neighborhoods or their grandparents like I did.  And it's easy to see how children without hope grow into adults without hope.  And it's easy to see how adults without hope grab guns and kill people.

JMHO.