Writing has been tougher than it used to be. The world’s been in a sad way. The news makes my heart ache. Give me all those babies without mamas! Give me a bunker underground where I can just hide from all the scary stuff! Give me earplugs so I don’t have to hear from all these crazies who want to lead our country.
Who am I to put any kind of words out there when they probably won’t fix anything anyways? I myself have felt some doubt. How do I write about faith and God and life when it’s all falling apart ‘out there?’
How do I defend Him…this good, all-knowing God… to vehement atheists when I can’t even explain what seems to be His absence?
Recently, I was out running (which is usually where I find the most clarity), and I had the thought that God is not surprised by everything that’s happening right now, either in our own personal lives or in the world.
This has always hurt me a little because if He knows what’s going on, why won’t He fix it? But suddenly, He flipped it in my mind. Suddenly, it’s not that He knows and isn’t doing anything. It’s that He knows, and He’s got a long-term plan.
That’s where our hope lies. I can’t imagine watching the news every day…facing the challenges I face as a parent, a wife, a friend…facing tragedy, loss and pain…facing questions and confusion…facing all of that without hope.
As we approach Christmas, this line of thinking has painted the way I see the Christmas story. As Joseph and Mary plodded towards Bethlehem on a donkey, Mary swollen with a baby who would be the Savior of all of mankind, the world was looking elsewhere for One who would save them. They were looking for a king to come galloping in on a stallion, a king with power and armies, a king to take over and make things right.
But God slipped in the backdoor. He didn’t want to come and just take over. He wanted to know what it was like to be us. To walk the cracked dirt of the earth facing heartbreak after heartbreak, joy and tears, triumph and loss, growth and pain…all of it. He humbled Himself and came as a baby. He had parents. He had to learn to walk, to talk, to navigate this world as a human and to show us what real love, relationships, and serving looked like.
Am I looking elsewhere for God too? Am I looking for something obvious and easy, something that’s a quick fix? Am I unwilling to believe Him when He says He is with me, a promise He repeats multiple times? Am I unwilling to put myself to the hard work of loving and relationships and serving just as He did?
What if I did what He asked? What if I humbled myself, asked him, “Ok, what work do you have for me?” and just did it?
Jesus said, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming.
They are going to throw you to the wolves and kill you, everyone hating you because you carry my name. And then, going from bad to worse, it will be dog-eat-dog, everyone at each other’s throat, everyone hating each other.
In the confusion, lying preachers will come forward and deceive a lot of people. For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.
Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news—the Message of the kingdom—will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come. –Matthew 24:6-14
He has laid it out. He basically explains to us what is happening and why. Where else can you find that? Nowhere. And if God can accurately explain to us what is happening and why, maybe we could trust Him enough to follow His prescriptions for how to navigate this age.
While we are desperate for Him to just fix it, He does give us ways to handle this crazy place called earth. He promises that if we follow Him, it will go well with our souls (souls…not necessarily circumstances), and He gives us direction in His word:
- LOVE. Love, love, love. Our only safety and defense is love. Forgiveness, grace, second chances, softness of heart. We won’t admit it, but none of us are physically safe ever. We don’t need to believe in God to know that. Anything can happen at any point on any day. Nothing is guaranteed. So why wouldn’t we want to invest in our hearts and souls and do all we can to protect love? It is the only thing that will last.
Do unto others as you would have them do to you. –Luke 6:31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
2. Endure. God is constantly telling us to stick it out, hang in there, get through it. He tells us that our faith and trust will only grow, and in the end, these things are of greater worth than gold. Don’t despair, and don’t give up.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:17-18
And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Jesus Christ returns. –Phil. 1:6
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to all who love Him. James 1:12
3. Rest in His presence. One thing God tells us frequently is to sit with Him. Talk to him. Learn to hear His voice in all things. Soak in His peace. And open yourself to what He might have for you.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will never be shaken. ~Psalm 62:1-2
Thus says the LORD: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.~Jeremiah 6:16
4. Keep your eye on the goal. Consider: what is your goal? Is it the American dream? Comfort and ease? Happiness? Simple survival? Or is it to obey God and make your life worth something greater than success or money? God tells us that He has good plans for us that are made even better by our love for the world.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-10
I have seen growth and good things come from tragedy. Does that mean I welcome tragedy? Absolutely not. But to believe in a God who has the ability to bring new life from ashes is what keeps me going. The more I look to Him in the good and the bad, the more He proves Himself to me. And that, to me, is of greater worth than whatever treasures this world has to offer.