Making Sense of the Nonsense

birdGrief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day.   When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.

When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune and beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life.  This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:

My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.

Whenever you find that you are walking with Asaph down the path of misery, you need to recalibrate your compass.  Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  This is what Asaph did to reorient his direction in life:

When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself and quite beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).

In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need.  “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”

One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice

The Misery Index

close up of a heart shape with bandage on white background

Whether you call them “parting comments” or “footnotes,” Paul makes some interesting statements as he concludes his letter to the Thessalonians.  The first of these statements is, “Be at peace among yourselves (5:13).”  Paul is urging the members of this church to be at peace with fellow members of the church.

If you’re not at peace with yourself, it’s difficult to be at peace with another person; and if you’re not at peace with God, it is difficult to be at peace with yourself.

Paul also urges these people to “rejoice always (5:16).”   Joyfulness is an important component of life, and Paul linked it with love, peace, longsuffering, and kindness when he spoke of the fruit of the Spirit.

The greater your inner joy, the more likely you are to love people, to be kind, and to be longsuffering—Even Nehemiah knew that “the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10).”

The third statement that Paul makes emphasizes the importance of prayer:  “Pray without ceasing (5:17).”  Obviously you can’t pray continually, but you can go through the day in an attitude of prayer.  There can be miniscule moments of time when you praise God or give Him thanks for a blessing.  There will be times when you find yourself thinking of some person or a specific need, and you can offer a voiceless prayer that only God hears.

There’s another item that Paul urges these people to do:  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (5:18).”  To understand this verse, you need to comprehend the difference between “in all” and “for all.”  Paul didn’t say that you’re to give thanks for “all things,” but “in all things.

When you give thanks “in all things,” you’re embracing the hope you have in Jesus Christ; and, your focus is not so much on the here and now of your pain, but on the there and then of future blessings.

The path of trials and tragedies was a route that Paul often traveled. If you’re following in his footsteps, you might find some comfort in his practical theology for life:

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5

A Shelter For A Helter Skelter World

birdTo say the world can be a mess is not an understatement.  Life is lived at such a fast pace, you may have gone to bed last night feeling overwhelmed and got up this morning still in a daze.

When you’re seeking a refuge of safety and rest, Psalm 91 is a wonderful passage of Scripture:

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
    will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
 He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
    my God, I place all my trust in You.”
Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers,   He will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

You only have to look at the pages of Scripture to find examples of God intervening in the lives of His children.  Joseph, as an example,  lived through a series of hardships and trials.  At the end of his life he said people had planned things for evil, but God had planned them for good.

Like Joseph, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  The weight of the present heartache or trial can skew your perspective on the future; however, when you look from the present back through history, you can often see how your life has been more than just the victim of circumstances.

Benefit from the opportunity that you have.  Don’t refuse the refuge–find comfort in the shelter of God.

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

trustGodWhen people are confronted with the existence of evil, some will question the existence of God. When this happens, I encourage people to consider the nature of evil.  Evil and Good are value judgments, and as such, they must be measured against a morally perfect standard.  If some act deviates from this standard, it is deemed to be evil.

Early in his life, C.S. Lewis rejected the idea of God.  After a thorough investigation, he made an interesting statement:   “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call something crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”  Lewis also made the point that a portrait is a good or a bad likeness depending on how it compares with the “perfect” original.

Any time you feel intense physical or emotional pain, you may find yourself asking the question:  “Why?”  Randy Alcorn offers an excellent discussion of suffering and the sovereignty of God in his book If Good Is Good:  Why Do We Hurt?  

God is both loving and sovereign . . . Knowing this should give us great confidence that even when we don’t see any redemptive meaning in our suffering, God can see it—and one day we will too. We can trust that God has a purpose for whatever he permits. We are limited to time; God is not. From the perspective of a timeless God, the distant future—when justice is fully granted, and evil and suffering are gone—is as real as the present. What he knows he will ultimately accomplish through suffering, for his glory and our good, is not merely a possibility but a reality he can already see, in all its fullness ~Randy Alcorn

Immorality, pain, suffering, evil, and ethical failures are, according to some people reasons to question the presence of a loving God.  I strongly disagree with this assessment, and  I believe they help to prove the existence of God.  I have written about this in the past, and encourage you to read my post: Why God?

My words are neither nonsensical nor vacuous, they are the thoughts of one who has walked the path of suffering and loss on more than one occasion, and I still believe in the goodness of God.

 

Your Moment in Time

Moment_In_Time-150x150What started as a normal day soon turned tragic. The flash of light that reflected off the steel blade was the first sign that something was wrong, and the feel of warm blood as it flowed down his cheek was confirmation of his fears. He was maimed and disfigured for life.

The pain lasted for the briefest of moments and the bleeding stopped almost immediately. He was amazed as his hand felt the side of his head. The ear that had been cut off had reappeared just as quickly as it had disappeared.

His moment of agony lasted for just the second it took for the miracle to occur. The actions of Jesus were stitched in threads of vibrant mercy and Malchus stood dumbstruck as he considered the amazing grace he had just experienced.

Jesus knew He was about to be arrested and crucified, but He was still concerned for the needs of others—even those who intended to do Him harm. What Jesus did for Malchus (Luke 24) was principle put to practice. It was a turn the other cheek, forgive them 70 times 7, give them the coat off your back, walk the extra mile; and give a drink of water to the thirsty, moment.

What you do to alleviate the pain of others, reveals the true you. Who are you?

Why God?

In the last two blogs, I’ve discussed the presence of evil in the world.  There are times when people meet evil face to face and then question the existence of God:  How can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world today?

My response to this question is a question:  How do you know evil exists?  To determine what is evil and what is good, a person must have some standard or moral law by which evil and good are measured.  A moral law of this sort requires a moral law giver, and that, I believe, is the God of the Bible.

With God as my starting point, I believe He created a universe in which there was no evil and no suffering.  This includes Adam and Eve who were created as perfect beings with the ability to choose right and wrong.

This is where things take a turn for the worse.  Adam and Eve freely chose to engage in an act of disobedience, and sin entered the world.  Their act of rebellion gave birth to sin and evil.

God did not directly create evil.  He created Adam and Eve with the ability to choose good or to choose evil.  “God created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom.  God made evil possible; men make evil actual (Norm Geisler).”

A couple of days ago, I made the comment that I find myself praying for peace.  The underlying assumption of that prayer is that evil will be eliminated.  When will this happen?  I don’t know about you, but I want it to happen immediately.

More often than not, I find that I do not understand God’s timetable.  In my understanding of theology, I believe God is in the process of eliminating evil.  The Scriptures tell us there will be a future day of peace when even the lion and lamb will lay down beside each other.

As we wait for this day to arrive, we need to realize that we are a key component in restraining evil.  This statement can be understood by seeing the contrast between the following statements made by Jesus.

  • Men loved the darkness because their deeds were evil.
  • You are the light of the world.
  •  God is light an in Him is no darkness at all.

Here is a thought to keep you thinking.  When your light shines in the darkness, is it perceived as one of condemnation or compasssion?  Is it a light that shows the Way or a light that pushes away?