"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about all the people knee deep in lousy stuff. I have gotten many emails and texts in the past few weeks from people who need prayer to navigate their way through life. There is sickness, distress, family and job difficulties and some of these requests are swirling really close to home. I’m so happy they ask for prayer, and I’ve been praying my little tail off and absolutely; I trust, I believe and my faith is strong as a bolder but every now and again I just wanna say, “Hey, wait a dog-gone minute God, this is all too much!” I’m sure that comment during prayer is followed by a heavenly face-palm!
The big question I’ve been hearing from those folks struggling is, “If God loves us, why does this lousy stuff happen?” I would have to say that’s a completely fair question and I wish like heck I could type an answer to make it all better but here is the truth, A) God doesn’t MAKE bad stuff happen and he loves us even harder when it does and B) Sometimes there isn’t a simple answer to complicated things. With my heart a little heavy, I’ve spent some time prayin, and thinkin and here are some of the things that made me feel better.
There is a big difference in being involved and being in control. God is completely involved in our lives and the more we pray and grow in our relationship with him, the more involved he will be. Because of our free will, God does not control our lives. Some of the distress I’ve been asked to pray for is the result of someone doing something lousy with their free will and leaving others to suffer in the wake of poor choices. God cannot be in control of that but he can absolutely be involved in our lives as we navigate through it if we invite him to meet us there and lead us through. He won’t wave a magic wand and make it all disappear but he will give us the grace and the strength to endure the difficulties if we ask.
Bad stuff isn’t part of God’s plan. He doesn’t give people cancer or trap children in a cave because his “master plan” indicated it’s time for it. That is not how a loving Father operates. If a dad decided to go for a walk with his son, and along the way the son stepped in a gopher hole and hurt his ankle that would be a lousy thing. Lousy as it is, the dad didn’t make it happen. He was absolutely there but he didn’t plan it or want it to happen; he wasn’t in control of it, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he instantly became involved. He felt the hurt, he poured out compassion and comfort and he did everything possible to aid in his sons healing.
If God controlled everything, we might think life would be easier and long gone would be fear, suffering and pain. I suppose in some ways that makes sense but because of our sinful nature (thank you Adam, Eve and Satan) we want what we want and we aren’t always so good at trusting and following the rules, let alone being completely controlled, so this idea has some holes. God doesn’t force his love or his perfect will on us, it’s up to us to choose to love, trust, surrender and follow him. When we’re tempted to think God makes bad things happen it’s good to remember a few truths from scripture. Jesus heals the sick; he doesn’t bring about their illness. Often the healing isn’t physical but it is spiritual and the result of that healing can lead to our salvation. Jesus liberates the oppressed; he doesn’t prolong their oppression. Jesus sets the prisoner free; he doesn’t imprison. Jesus restores a broken creation; he doesn’t further cripple it through disease, suffering, and pain.
When I find myself feeling overwhelmed about the sadness or madness of a lousy situation, I have to reach for the three biggest truth of all. They’re stiff ones and sometimes they go down like vinegar but they are enormous truth spoken in even bigger love. The first; every situation no matter how sad or tragic or difficult, is a situation where God can bring about a greater good. The part that makes that really tough to wrap our heads and hearts around is sometimes we hurt too much to see the good and often the greater good is for someone else. The second; Scripture says, there will be trouble and it is only through suffering we can fully come to Christ. When I realize that, and stop to contemplate the suffering of both the Father and the Son; done for me…it really puts things in perspective. Finally, heaven is the reward, not earth. As humans, we cling to the familiar and fear the unknown. If we could begin to unwrap even a tiny corner of the delight, glory and absolute magnificence of eternal life we would run from this world so fast we’d be nothing but a streak!
The lousy stuff is never what we wish for and it’s never handed out as a punishment but there is love, healing, and even salvation when we truly let the Father get involved and walk with us through the lousy. The lousy stuff is where God shows his power, his compassion and his amazing ability to unite, support and draw people closer to each other and to heaven.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time asking God to be involved in your struggles or the struggles of someone you love. Trust him and then watch to see the way he works.
Blessings on your day!
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