Tears of Confusion

My oldest son was just shy of three years old when I discovered that he was gone. In the distance I saw him riding on his little red tractor. Gathering up my 18-month-old son, I began the chase. The problem was, I was seven months’ pregnant. With the added weight of my second son, I couldn’t run faster than my older son was scooting. The best I was able to do was to keep him in sight.

The race had gone on for about three blocks when I saw my older son heading for the freeway. There wasn’t much else to do, but put my 18-month-old on a corner, tell him to “stay,” and ask the UPS driver parked on the side of the road to watch  him  until I got back. Then, with less weight I went  after his brother. I remember how my younger son started to cry. I’m sure he felt that I was deserting him. What he didn’t know was how much he was in my thoughts, as I pursued his brother. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to leave him there. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want him left by himself, even for a few minutes. Nor, could he know how very worried I was about him. He didn’t know that my heart was aching for him.

“Where is God anyway?” It comes, that question, when life deals us a bitter blow. “Why? Why didn’t God stop the drunk driver who killed my friend. . . .Or the spread of cancer in my child . . . why didn’t God make my marriage work, when I prayed so hard?” “Why did my child get mixed up in drugs?” “We loved each other, why did my spouse die so young?” Would that there were easy answers to these difficult questions. The more I experience of life, the more convinced I am that there are no easy answers to life’s griefs, disappointments, and sorrows. I am equally convinced that God cares, that God is with us in each and every tragedy, that God does not leave us comfortless. Believing that and feeling that are, of course, two entirely different situations.

What we believe in faith is that some day we will understand this life with all of its unfairness. To say that it is God’s will a child dies of cancer, a drunk driver kills someone, a marriage fails or that anyone gets messed up in drugs seems to me blasphemy. It’s equally evident that God doesn’t protect us from life’s hurts. I once heard the theologian Henri Nouwen say, “The good news of the Gospel is not that God has come to take our pain away, but that God has come to be with us in it.” The apostle Paul says it another way, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

No, I don’t have the answers for “Why.”  But this I believe  – that even as my heart ached for my younger son with his tears of confusion, even so, God’s heart aches for each of us in ours.

Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

The question of suffering is deeply troubling. We want the very best for those who are precious to us. When a loved one hurts, we hurt. When they suffer, we suffer. Part of what makes us human is this connection of suffering love. So, we wonder how a good and loving God, can allow the grief and pain we see in our world. We don’t understand why God allows a September 11th or the shooting of little girls in a small Amish school.  Mudslides, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis all come with their own “Why.”

 

Especially, we wonder why God allows painful things to happen to ourselves and people we love.      If nothing else- we at least want to make some sense of our suffering.  A young woman from a congregation, that I had left weeks earlier, was murdered by a man who had just moved into her apartment building. As I searched and prayed for words of comfort and hope for the family, this passage of scripture began to fill my mind, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known..” I Corinthians 13:12

At the deepest level of faith, we trust that God will take our broken hearts, our deepest questions, our gut wrenching grief and weave them into our life in such a way, that some good will shine through. Today, we do not understand the “why” of suffering.  Till then we are comforted by God who chooses to be involved in our world, in our lives.

The apostle Paul’s affirmation in Romans encourages us. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

The mystery remains . . . as does God who is with us and from whom, nothing can separate us in Jesus Christ.

When the Heart Cries

When the Heart Cries

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These past weeks have brought us news of one tragedy after another. Tragedies, however they strike, leave us shattered. We ask the questions of why. We wonder how God can let such terrible things happen to people we love and care about. We wonder at the aftermath of a truck rolling into a crowd in Nice France and the devastation left behind. We worry about the country of Turkey and the consequences for an average person after an attempted coup. Closer to home, our cities are filled with unrest. A long hot summer looms ahead. Police fear for their lives after a second sniper attacks. Our system of law and justice becomes more fragile. In our personal lives heartaches rip the heart in two.

“Where is God anyway?” It comes, that question, when life deals us a bitter blow. “Why? Why didn’t God stop the drunk driver who killed my friend. . . .Or the spread of cancer in my child . . . why didn’t God make my marriage work, when I prayed so hard?” “Why did my child get mixed up in drugs?” “We loved each other, why did my spouse die so young?” Would that there were easy answers to these difficult questions. The more I experience of life, the more convinced I am that there are no easy answers to life’s griefs, disappointments, and sorrows. I am equally convinced that God cares, that God is with us in each and every tragedy, that God does not leave us comfortless. Believing that and feeling that are, of course, two entirely different situations.

My oldest son was just shy of three years old when I discovered that he was gone. In the distance I saw him riding on his little red tractor. Gathering up my 18-month-old son, I began the chase. The problem was, I was seven months’ pregnant. With the added weight of my second son, I couldn’t run faster than my older son was scooting. The best I was able to do was to keep him in sight. The race had gone on for about three blocks when I saw him heading for the freeway. There wasn’t much else to do, but put my 18-month-old son on a corner, tell him to “stay,” and with less baggage go after his brother. I remember how my younger son started to cry. I’m sure he felt that I was deserting him. What he didn’t know was how much he was in my thoughts, as I pursued his brother. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to leave him there. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want him left by himself, even for a few minutes. Nor, could he know how very worried I was about him. He didn’t know that my heart was aching for him.

What we believe in faith is that some day we will understand this life with all of its unfairness. To say that it is God’s will a child dies of cancer, a drunk driver kills someone, a marriage fails or that anyone gets messed up in drugs seems to me blasphemy. It’s equally evident that God doesn’t protect us from life’s hurts. I once heard the theologian Henri Nouwen say, “The good news of the Gospel is not that God has come to take our pain away, but that God has come to be with us in it.” The apostle Paul says it another way, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

No, I don’t have the answers for “Why.” But this I know, God sticks by us, in whatever place we find ourselves in. May that be your strength and your hope.

Where Is God?

Ellie Wiesel’s book, “Night” describes the execution of a young boy in the midst of the horrors of a Nazi Concentration Camp. Wiesel writes, “One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call, SS all round us, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel. The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. Three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. “Long live liberty!” cried the two adults. But the child was silent.”

“Where is God? Where is God?” someone behind me asked. At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over. There was total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting.” Wiesel describes how the two adults die quickly, but the boy is so light that he struggles for half an hour, dying in front of the rest of the camp. Behind him, Wiesel hears the same man ask, “Where is God now?” Then Wiesel writes, “And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is God?’. Here is God . . . God is hanging on the gallows.”

There are no adequate answers for the “why” of this kind of suffering and evil. There are no easy answers to rise of Islamic extremism leading to the slaughter of Christian students in a university in Garissa, Keyna, or the rampage of ISIS with its horrors left in its path. There are no easy answers for the suffering of cancer, or tornadoes which roll over a city. But the “Where is God” in the midst of suffering we do know. God has chosen to live among us, sharing in our daily journey, walking with us day by day. The mystery of suffering remains. Some day we will understand what we cannot now. Till then we have this hope given to us in Jesus Christ.

On Sunday we celebrated Easter, that moment when for all time God overcame the power of death. We have a risen Savior who lives among us. Through the centuries men and women, young and old have testified to the presence of the Living Lord in their lives. They tell of a grace which has been sufficient, for each need. People of faith have lived difficult lives courageously, vibrantly, even victoriously, for they knew they were never alone. However many times they were knocked down, God would be there to raise them above the place they fell. Christ offers this same gift today,coming as a friend wherever, whenever hearts are open to receive the gift.

We are an Easter people, confident that God can turn a life around . . . Certain that death and sin are overcome. We know that God who loves us, and has come in Jesus Christ, will have the last word. We are an Easter people, people of hope. We are followers of a risen Lord.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

Hoping in God in the Midst of Discouragement

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?” These words have often come to me in moments of discouragement. I don’t remember ever committing them to memory, though I must have learned the verse in some early Sunday School class. My memory is set in the old King James Version of the Bible. The quotation, which is found in both the 42nd and 43rd chapters of Psalms, ends the question with this statement, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise God, my help and my God.” Discouragement may be a temporary condition, but when we are down, it is simply hard to remember better moments. We forget about the path God opened for us in an earlier day. We fail to remember that God has prepared a way for us on the other side of despair in previous eras of our lives.

Discouragement is a natural condition of the human spirit which is explored in several books of the Bible. The book of Job examines the question of suffering through the eyes of Job, who has lost everything – almost. His children, his homes, his cattle, his health and his place in society. Job is in such distress he asks God why he had been allowed to be born, if it was only to face the depth of suffering and heartache that was his. So vocal was he, in his complaints to God, that friends accused him of blasphemy. But God doesn’t. God understands his pain, his sorrow and his loss. God knows his broken and suffering spirit. God holds Job in hands of love and compassion. Eventually, Job discovers that God will not leave him in his suffering. He will never understand the why of pain, but he will learn that God is with him in the midst of it. There will come a day when joy fills his heart again.

So it is in our times of discouragement. You may be wondering if you will ever see light in the dark place you have landed in. You may be questioning today, the why of a difficult situation. You may be agonizing over a friend or family member. Know this . . . On the other side of despair lives joy. For now the words of the psalmist give wisdom. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise God. My help and my God.” Psalm 42:11