Not so simple when a plain reading of plain words seems to guarantee one outcome and life delivers another.
Not so simple when pain obliterates hope and tears blind my eyes to a future that’s anything other than dark.
But is the problem with God and His promises or me and my expectations?
Before my lifestorm I could have worked up a lovely devotional on God’s promises and given good reasons why we should not doubt them. But God’s promises were no longer devotional material; they were real-life issues. I knew I could not go that class and tell those who gathered there how God keeps his promises, but I could assure them I was learning that he does. Even as I questioned his promises because of the pain that wouldn’t go away, I knew I was learning that the problem is not with God’s promises but with our bringing twentieth-century expectations and personal wish-fulfillment to those promises. The problem lies with our expectations of what God should do and how he should do it when life hurts. I was learning that I had to quit just looking at the promises of God and look to the God of the promises.
Verdell Davis, Riches Stored In Secret Places
I’ve written before about how easy it is to put God in a Box.
So often I interact with Scripture based on false assumptions, wishful thinking and my own idea of how God should work in the world. I want a God I can understand or (if I’m honest!) manipulate or cajole into doing what makes me most satisfied and most comfortable. I pick and choose among the promises and tend to focus on the ones that seem to guarantee health, wealth and happiness and I gloss over the ones that plainly describe the painful process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.
I cannot answer all the questions my heart can conjure up and I don’t think God will answer them for me this side of Heaven.
But God doesn’t lie.
His promises stand.
How and when He chooses to fulfill them is not for me to say.
I am learning to lean into His faithful love, trust His heart and live in the mysterious space between what I understand and what I find incomprehensible.
There is so much going on right now in our country and our world that hurts my heart.
I could get on my soapbox and pontificate about what policies should be or what politicians should do but my tiny voice wouldn’t make a difference on the grander stage.
My world is pretty small in comparison to social influencers and the ones who want to be.
Even still, what I do and what I say each day matters.
It matters to my family and my neighbors.
It matters to the folks with whom I share social media space, the road and the grocery aisle.
So I make it a habit to extend and receive grace.
I extend it when someone else’s experience informs an opinion different than my own. I extend it when someone posts a meme or article with which I disagree. I extend it when I scroll past what I consider offensive-just ignore it and go on-instead of “taking them to task”.
I receive it when my friends do the same.
It’s not my job to police everyone else on the planet.
It IS my job to live according to my profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Grace-unmerited favor-poured out abundantly on me and available for me to pour out on others.
I try hard not to imply that MY child loss experience is representative of EVERY child loss experience.
Because, as we all know, every parent’s journey (even parents of the same child) is utterly, incontrovertibly unique.
My son was killed suddenly in an accident. Other parents I know have stories of prolonged illness. Some feared it coming as his or her child struggled with addiction and dangerous choices. And still others bear the added burden of suicide in child loss.
Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity. It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received. It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.
This current worldwide crisis has both inspired me to write and constrained me from writing.
There is so much to say but I’m not sure most folks would understand.
Suddenly everyone is living a life they would not have chosen and for most, a life they couldn’t have imagined. But eventually most will resume the life they once had.
Things will return to normal. Kids in school, parents working, social distancing a thing of the past.
But some will never again know the life they had before this virus made its way across the globe. Someone or several someones they love will be snatched from the here and now and transferred to the hereafter.
So what if I’m not rescued?
What if my family isn’t spared?
What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
Will I still believe?
Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?
That was precisely the question before Jerusalem’s Jewish citizens on Palm Sunday and the week that followed. Jesus entered the city to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”.
The faithful lined the streets and believed the Messiah had come to rescue them from the tyrannical rule and reign of not only irreligious Gentiles but corrupt leaders within the Hebrew hierarchy.
It didn’t take long for them to give up hope and call for His crucifixion.
He didn’t live up to their expectations. He didn’t act according to their timetable. He didn’t rescue them from persecution and suffering.
So they discarded Him.
Six years ago I woke to Palm Sunday wondering why my family wasn’t spared,why my son wasn’t rescued, why death had crossed our threshold and taken up residence in our home.
I had to decide if Jesus was Lord of all or if He was Lord at all.
I came face to face with the fact that God doesn’t need my permission to run the world according to His will. He doesn’t require my consent to do (or not do) anything.
But a God that needs my approval is no God at all.
I went to church that Palm Sunday, lifted my hands and voice in spite of my broken heart because I knew Jesus had not abandoned us.
Some people insist on reading the end of a book first.
They want to know if the characters they may grow to love end up well and happy.
Me? I start at the front and work my way through letting things unfold as the author intended.
I will admit though there are times when I’d kinda sorta like to have a heads up in real life.
Of course there’s no crystal ball, lines in my palm or deck of cards (in spite of Madam What’s-Her-Name’s claim) that can see into the future.
But there is One who KNOWS every little thing the future holds and Who holds that future in His hands.
From the beginning I told you what would happen in the end. A long time ago I told you things that have not yet happened. When I plan something, it happens. I do the things I want to do.
Isaiah 46:10 ICB
When Dominic left us suddenly, unexpectedly and instantly in a motorcycle accident, it was a shocking surprise to our hearts. But as I wrote in the service program for his funeral, it wasNOsurprise to God.
I don’t believe for one minute that my loving Heavenly Father put His finger on my son and declared that night it was his “time” to die. I DO believe that my omniscient and omnipotent Lord, who is outside time and sees the end from the beginning, KNEW that Dominic would drive too fast, lose control and enter Heaven at 1:10 am on April 12, 2014.
I believe that while He could have miraculously saved my son, He chose not to and Dominic suffered the natural consequences of a series of physical and biological forces that operate without His supernatural intervention every single day in this world.
I am confident that God worked His purposes in and through Dominic all the days of his life and I am certain God has been and continues to work His purposes in me and through me even in child loss.
My heart is often disturbed and even frightened by what’s going on around me.
In these especially unsettled times, if I focus on what I don’t know, what I can’t predict and the limitations of the humans in charge, I will melt into despair.
So I remind myself that God’s purposes will stand. His rule and reign is sure. Nothing-NOTHING-can stand separate me from His love, His grace and His mercy.
Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 AMP
One of the oldest “proofs” non-believers like to toss at those who follow Jesus is this: If God is all-knowing AND all-powerful, then why do bad things still happen? How might you answer that question? Have you ever wrestled with it yourself? Here’s a link to my thoughts on the matter: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/06/10/did-god-take-my-child/
While God may rarely give an individual foreknowledge, He gave Israel prophet after prophet to tell them what He was going to do. How often did they take His warnings to heart? How often do we?
In the passage from Isaiah above, God declares His purposes and plans will stand. That comforts my heart and echoes Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Write down three other verses (using a concordance) that reinforce this biblical principle about the character and purposes of God. Make them personal-how do those verses confirm hope in your own heart?
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” is a powerful concept! Unlike the times in which we live where human leaders say and do one thing one day and say and do another the next, we can rest firm and secure that what God has declared in Christ is absolutely, positively rock solid! “Every promise of God in Christ is ‘yes’ and ‘amen'”! (2 Corinthians 1:20). What promises of God in Christ bring you the most comfort? Write a list and post it where you can see it.
If you have children or grandchildren at home, how might you help their hearts cling to the truth that no matter what, God is in control? How might your own confident, consistent love and support model our Heavenly Father’s unfailing love toward us?
These times are trying my soul. It feels like everything is out of control and there’s no sure way through this valley of confusion and potential disaster. Help my heart take hold of the truth that NONE of this is a surprise to You.
Your purpose will stand. Your plan will unfold. No one and nothing can prevent it.
Make Your Presence real to me today. Open my eyes to the ways You continue to prove Yourself faithful. Sing courage to my soul when I’m afraid. Remind me by Your Spirit of every promise.
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the assurance that no matter what, my eternal security is assured.