Saturday, May 30, 2015 happens

A friend of mine is going through a very trying time lately.

There are the family tensions that sometimes occur when a new generation makes choices the older one wouldn't; that is to be expected at times. 

But this is more. 

Two family members from opposite generations (a grown child and an aged parent) are both in hospital for various reasons. Both are fighting for their lives; one has had surgery and the other is facing it. It leaves my friend (and most anyone) grappling with the same questions Job faced - if God is good, why am I suffering? Why do horrible things happen to people who are putting God first? 

I've heard the platitudes flying thick and fast, and here's the thing about platitudes: they're only true to a certain point ... and they do not allow for people to experience the pain of what they are going through. 

It's harder to say nothing and just hug a person than it is to resort to pithy, sometimes sappy statements that are aimed at fixing the person's feelings. The problem with that is this: people feel what they feel. They NEED to feel what they feel. Trying to take that away from people is counterproductive.

Especially unhelpful is the tendency to use Scripture in that way. I can't count the number of times people have quoted Romans 8:28 to me... trying to tell me that everything will work out fine because God will take the bad and make it turn out good. And while there is a sense in which this can be true (and might I say 'not necessarily' because what has happened, has happened) it is not the full intent of the passage, because it is often quoted without verse 29: "For those whom God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son..." The two verses taken together tell us that the "good" that God causes all things to work together for is actually not the "good" that we think, but rather, it is being transformed into the image of Jesus. 

Photo "Father And Daughter" by
David Castillo Dominici at
And it doesn't say that God is causing the bad thing that has happened. It says that IN all things, good and bad (as we interpret them) God weaves together and causes the Good (of being transformed into Jesus' likeness) to happen in our lives. This is different from the 'everything happens for a reason' sentiment ... which is another of those two-dimensional sayings I've heard from the time I was very young. 

A "reason" implies intention. God does not INTEND for tragedies to happen. 

They. just. happen. 

However, He can and will use anything ... ANYTHING ... to achieve His goal - to love us into looking more and more like our co-regent, Jesus.  Why? because He knows better than anyone that the only way for us to be supremely happy is to live the way that Jesus did, in total dependence on His Spirit, feeling the full gamut of human emotion, yes, and knowing that He is leading us even when we don't "sense" it.

When we go through hard times, when we face tragedy, our first inclination is to hide our faces, to run away, to curl into a fetal position and rock, to cover our eyes or our ears and shut down. But He calls - and His call is like a trusted parent - or friend, if that works better for some folks - pulling our hands away from our faces and encouraging us to look into His eyes, to remember that "He's got this." He so longs for us to remember that He cares, that He feels our pain, that He understands our grief, that He knows what it is to be rejected. 

He really does. His arms are open wide, inviting us to come nearer.

When we, in the midst of our anguish, respond to that invitation and choose to look into His eyes, His presence transforms us - little by little. His love and light infuse us with comfort and peace. He strengthens us when we feel the weakest and most vulnerable. He catches us when we fall. There is no judgment, no reprimand; He just says, "Here, let Me hold you up. Let Me carry that for you. Let Me handle that; it's too heavy. Rest here in My arms."  

There is no shame in that. There is no need to feel like we are "less than" ... when we are in need of help, it is available to us. It is ALWAYS available. 

Yes, " happens."  But that is okay, because "" didn't take Him by surprise. 

And He's not going anywhere. 
Count on it.

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