Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of Bad Things and Good People

I have known about God for a pretty long time.  Over years and years of being raised and educated by people that feared Him, I invested a lot of time wrestling over aspects of His character and trying to glimpse just a bit more of His divine mystery.  For the most part, I felt that I had a decent handle on being able to articulate what I thought about Him (at least as well as anyone else my age could).  But there was always one question that made me wilt like a young seedling in the desert sun.  I was never quite able to come up with anything substantial to answer the age old question: "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?"  Every time I was approached with it, I retreated with my tail between my legs.  Here I was choosing to give my life to this God, who I claimed "so loved the world" and I couldn't provide an account for natural disasters, disease, death, and the like.  I felt like a fool.

But the recent months of my life have slowly but surely begun to forge a response to this question.  This question is an important one and the inner struggle it creates causes many to turn from Christianity because they don't want anything to do with such a God.  We believers need not shy away from the issue, but attack it head on and validate that our God does, indeed, love us and that He is worth submitting our lives to.  So out of relevant life circumstance, here are a few thoughts... 

To answer this question, there are a few unspoken assumptions we have to uncover. 

Assumption #1:  There is such thing as a "good" person, and such people are undeserving of pain, suffering, and/or heartache.

Problem with Assumption #1:  The term "good person" is about as ambiguous as it gets.  As far as I'm aware, there is no standard or cut-off to clearly delineate the bad apples from the good ones.  Anyone resting under that title would never claim to be perfect, but they would use the term as a form of self-righteousness to make themselves feel better than the guy who is on death row in Florida for 1st degree murder, robbery, and kicking a few puppies.  The Bible is pretty clear that we all fall short (Romans 3:23).  It doesn't matter if you miss the mark by an inch or a mile... we all fall short.  We seemed to have something wired in our DNA for us to think that because we're "good," we should be exempt from the "bad."  Matthew 5:45 says, "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."  That's just life.    

Assumption #2:  When God says that He loves us, that means that He desires for us to be fat, happy, healthy, and wealthy.       

Problem with Assumption #2:  Even if we can humble ourselves off of our high horses and accept the fact we're not as awesome as we once thought, a conflict still remains over what God really means when He says that He loves us.  To answer this, we have to dig deep down into the roots of our cultural brainwashing.  Every commercial, every ad, and everything marketed to us in our society screams that our comfort and pleasure are the top priorities.  Unfortunately, we unknowingly try to fit our notion of God into that box.  At the mention of the word "love," our minds tend to jump to the happy, fluffy stuff that reminds us of Valentine's Day.  There is no kind of Scriptural basis to support that definition of love, yet it is the one that we often superimpose on God.

To put this issue to rest, we have to pull our perspective back to the big picture.  It is not a matter of our momentary pleasure, but rather, it is one of redemption on the grand timeline of eternity.  Here is what it ultimately comes down to:  God's deepest desire is not our comfort; His primary concern is that our character be developed so that we will come to a greater understanding of the salvation He has made possible for us through His one and only son, Jesus Christ.  I don't claim to know a God who is up in heaven trying to keep a bunch of people happy who have sinned against Him in every which way possible.  I claim a God who sent Jesus to die for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).  Though He owes us absolutely nothing, He has given everything and will hold nothing back, including trials, so that we will have our eyes opened to how badly we need Him.  He is interested in the big picture.  He is finishing what He started through the good and the bad.

This is not to say that suffering doesn't sting.  It doesn't mean that, in our humanity, that we will never draw into question God's plan.  And it doesn't mean that we won't lose sight of the big picture in the midst of horrendous hurt and showers of tears.  I would be lying myself if I said that this battle with cancer hasn't been the most draining, most trying experience of my entire life.  But what joy it brings my heart to be able to say that I know my God better... because I have cancer.  I have a deeper and truer understanding of His love for me... because I have cancer.  Other people people are getting a glimpse of the big picture... because I have cancer.

Oh, how I wish this would have happened a lot sooner.  Not really, but you catch my drift.

Resting in the big picture,


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Special Announcement (For Me At Least)

Thought I would switch it up this time around and give you a video blog for something pretty cool that is in the works.  You decide.

Let me know what you think,


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story Ends Well

I've been thinking a lot about hope lately.  Can't really say that it was totally by choice.  When my life took an unexpected turn just over 5 months ago, I was forced to think about if what I said I believed really was true... and I have never been the same since that moment.  Like an anchor to a ship in stormy seas, the hope of heaven has kept me in place amidst one of life's greatest tempests.  That doesn't mean I haven't been shaken.  That doesn't mean I haven't doubted or wanted to give up at times.  But it does mean that I have not despaired, because this isn't the end of my story.

In this morning's sermon, Pastor Coffey preached about a living hope.  I Peter 1:3-7 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, through now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  Joe's summary of the passage was something to the effect of "the story ends well."  Upon hearing this, my heart leaped and I wanted to start cheering!  That is exactly what I have been trying to articulate in every blog entry leading up to this point; I've just rambled and fumbled around different ways of saying it.  In my understanding, this is what it is all about for those who claim to know Christ.  Jesus' resurrection and victory over death sealed the deal and now our future is set.  Safe.  Secure.  Guaranteed.  That is more than enough to completely upend your perspective and way of living.  And it is so contagious to this hopeless world that is desperately scratching and clawing for something to cling to.

God made this world very good, but we fell very far from His original intentions.  In this sad state, there is some pretty rough stuff that can happen.  The most tragic things that the world could possible throw at us like murder, disease, rape, death, or or all kinds of injustice are enough to derail some people for good.  But when you have living hope, you can still bless His name... because the story ends well.  When you have living hope, you can continue to find purpose in your life, despite unspeakable pain... because the story ends well.  When you have living hope, you continue to read, even if this particular chapter is gloomy... because the story ends well.      

We know that the story ends well because God has promised it in His word and because Jesus validated it through His death and resurrection.  Everybody loves a good story that is full of drama, plots twists, and victory, but it's hard when you're the main character.  Rest in the assurance that God is a brilliant author.  He is writing a completely unique masterpiece in and through your life that will result in His praise and glory.  I only pray that when all of this takes place, my story was one in which hope emanated from every single chapter.

This particular chapter in my life has been a difficult one to soldier through; it's entitled "Hodgkin's Lymphoma."  But I'm excited to keep reading because I looked ahead to the last chapter... it's called "Jesus Wins."

Excited to Keep Reading,


Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Bad News Comes...

Had to re-post this.  It's another in-your-face reminder of some great truth from Charles Spurgeon.

"He is not afraid of bad news."  (Psalm 112:7)

Christian, you ought not to be afraid of the arrival of bad news; because if you are distressed by such, you are no different from other men.  They do not have your God to run to; they have never proved His faithfulness as you have done, and it is no wonder if they are bowed down with alarm and cowed with fear.  But you profess to be of another spirit; you have been born again to a living hope, and your heart lives in heaven and not on earthly things.  If you are seen to be distracted as other men, what is the value of that grace that you profess to have received?  Where is the dignity of that new nature that you claim to possess? 

Again, if you should be filled with alarm like others, you would no doubt be led into the sins so common to them under trying circumstances.  The ungodly, when they are overtaken by bad news, rebel against God; they murmur and maintain that God has dealt harshly with them.  Will you fall into that same sin?  Will you provoke the Lord as they do?

Moreover, unconverted men often run to wrong means in order to escape from difficulties, and you will be sure to do the same if your mind yields to the present pressure.  Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.  Your wisest course is to do what Moses did at the Red Sea:  "Stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord."  For if you give way to fear when you hear bad news, you will be unable to meet the trouble with that calm composure that prepares for duty and sustains in adversity.  How can you glorify God if you play the coward?  Saints have often sung God's high praises in the fires, but when you act as if there were no one to help, will your doubting and despondency magnify the Most High?  Then take courage and, relying in sure confidence upon the faithfulness of your covenant God, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

Trying to be brave,


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Flickers of Light

Although I've never been stuck in a cave, I've seen enough "Man vs. Wild" type shows to know the joy that sweeps over a hiker stuck in a cave when he sees little slivers of light cut through the blackness.  The light is hope.  It is the hint that the end that is near.  And it quickly blots out the previous and current struggles that brought you to the present place in time. 

Today was one such experience for me.  The CT scan that I had last week yielded that I would need more chemotherapy, but we didn't know how much.  Upon meeting with the doctor today, things became much clearer as he gave us an end to look forward to.  The remainder of my treatment schedule should look like this...

-  2 more months of chemo (3 treatments after today)
-  3 week break to recover
-  3 weeks of radiation
-  Anticipation of being wrapped up by the end of November

Today was a tough treatment day.  I sought to christen this fall season with a Spiced Pumpkin Latte from Starbucks, but that didn't stay down too long and I was dead tired.  This experience has been the toughest thing I have ever done, but typing out that remainder of the treatment schedule puts a fresh burst of wind in my sails, even though there is another 3 months left to go.  I can see the finish line in the distance and you can bet that I'll be in a full out sprint physically, emotionally, and spiritually until I finish.

There is short time on the clock and I don't plan on wasting it.

Making the most of what's left,