When Life Seems Just Too – Hard.

 

4.13.

It’s cold out there. Not so much the weather, (though here in the northern United States it has been brisk lately) – no, out there. In the real world.

In this place we call home. In this place we travel through to our final destination. This place that gives us glimpses of incredible light all mixed up…

In the suffering. 

In the silence. 

This has been a week of manys, after months of nones. Many deaths, many life threatening illnesses, many end of life concerns, many disappointments. Babies have died, children are struggling for life, women are having past traumas rise up to haunt them, men are living the fears of not enough for their families – and disasters… Lots of natural and man-made disasters. Another earthquake just today.

Mothers are tired. Fathers are weary. Children are scared.

I listen to them. They tell me.  I hear it. The voice of pain.

And I weep. And wish for a time of nones. No pain, no suffering. Not for me but for them.

It’s megaphone time waiting for God to shout into the pain and obliterate it. He spoke the world into being …

He spoke. 

It is not always God’s plan to heal. If it was, it would happen. Simple.

Some would say he’s not involved in the day by day. Others say He wills who lives or dies. To others it is about faith. Some say it’s always Satan. Others like me say it’s a mystery – a result of the fall, of brokenness, of living in the now-but-not-yet as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. It’s none of the above and an all of the above.

We are hushed listening for the groaning creation to return as shouts of joy.

Our faith is not greater than God’s grace and mercy. Our will does not trumps His. That would be a really small God. He is not some petty human measuring our faith on a scale to see if we have enough weight to pay the bill. Or if our theology is lacking. Or maybe our frailty causes us to fear.

God is. He says a mustard seed is all we need to see the mountains move. 

It’s a mystery – a dichotomy of universal proportions that theologians have struggled with for centuries – millenniums really, only we didn’t call them such back in the days of Job. Job thought he had it right until he realized he had it wrong.

Job met God in the moments that he least expected to know Him. 

Job met Him when life was simply too hard. He met him in the reality of where we are and where we long to be.

There in the in-between-times of what is and what will be. There He is.  Job met him in the cold.

In the silence. 

Spring always, eventually, shows up. Flowers shoot up from fertile ground that rested after the darkness of soon? Dormant and cold through long winters, they are now restless and weary with when?

New growth always comes. 

It is the kind of growth that survives the harsh cold of winter and the blazes of forest fires.

It is strong. 

It knows how to buckle down during the tough times and wait for the raging flames to pass by. It knows that the snow will melt and the sun will indeed shine again. It knows.

We know. 

We know Who we believe in and we know what lies beneath the barren and the burnt.  The soil is fertile. Even when we can’t see below the hard packed snow of cold isolation, we know.

God always answers our prayers. He always brings new life from our mustard seeds. Maybe not in ways we can predict, or even in ways we prefer – but always in ways that are filled with His goodness.

When life seems just too hard – there is God.  He is always under our feet. His grace is lifting us up and His love will guide us into new growth. It may not feel it but it is.

He is.

Sometimes He seems veiled by all the darkness that this world throws at us. We just can’t recognize the face before us. We see it, we squint our eyes, we cock our hears, we may even feel it, but it’s just out of focus. It’s like the scene in the movie Hook where Robin Williams plays an adult Peter Pan. He has gone to rescue his kids, but the older out of shape Peter Panning just can’t believe in himself, nor can others believe in him. Until one little boy takes the time to look close – really close – and recognize Peter in the face of the one who is before him.

Sometimes we just don’t recognize Him. We don’t hear His whisper through the voices, we don’t see His face through the sea of disappointments and doubts.

I sit in the Presence of the One who loves me and I remember how much He loves them too. The one whose baby just died. The one whose child is fighting for breath. The one who struggles with nightmares of what if. They are my sisters on the journey through the now-but-not-yet of this world and we follow the One. 

We follow the One who leads us gently, cradling us in Arms of Mercy. We feel His Breath blowing gently, warming our souls. We touch His Face and feel the contours of His Love. 

There You are, God. 

And like Job, we Know

 

 

When Love Becomes Real: The “Greater” Works

 

They taught “Always remember we don’t live in this world. What we see here is not real. There are two dimensions – the world and the spiritual realm and we live in the spiritual realm.” What a disturbing way to begin a journey of faith, trying to grasp that everything we see is not real.  Focusing on prayer as a mean to get from God what He has already given us freely.

field

 Embracing an ideology  formed by that kind of self-centered theology makes it very easy to avert our eyes from the reality of suffering and the necessity of social action.

Thank you that I never fully embraced it all and You kept my heart moving toward You. 

Even when I didn’t recognize the right path. 

It was a kind of thinking that still surrounds me. A Story that negates the fact that Jesus never promoted an easy believism and a get out of jail free card – a minimalist attitude of “pray this prayer to be saved from hell, but a message of Kingdom living.

Radical loving.

Dying to self.

Living reality while Breathing Divine.

“We were told to raise righteous children to raise righteous children. If each family was to give birth to seven children and they have seven more righteous children, think about how large the Kingdom will become? That’s forty nine righteous in one generation. The most effective evangelism can’t do that!”

Really? I had the seven children. Eight as a matter of fact. 

That message never sat right with me. I never had peace always trying to make my thoughts about their words line up with my heart.  “Satan” I was told.

What about those who don’t come from “righteous” families? Are they just left to perish? I didn’t come from a “righteous family?”  

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge if peaceable, full of God’s love, and without self. Quoting the Bible is information, living the Bible is knowledge. 

Here I am Lord.

I wasted so many years with those Pharisaical doctrines that taught us to wait. We were in a “time of preparation,” a period  of increasing our faith for “greater works.” A mandated time to make ourselves Holy because you are Holy. To “exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.” A time when people died due the hardness of hearts. 

But You had called me to Love. By love. Into Love.

You make me Holy.

Not of myself, but of Your presence in me. Not of any image of my own works, but by total, helpless surrender to You. 

Your image. Your work. Your yoke.

That is “the greater works” – we have Your Holy Presence living in us. Enabling us. Embracing us. Holding us through the darkness and the light. Creating us in  Your image and for Your glory. 

We see the incremental changes in the painful times. The troubling times. I may not see the physical dead raised to life again, but I know I will always witness marvelous spiritual life brought back from the cold, hard, decaying tombs of death.

You were there the other day Lord when I shared that piece of my testimony and he replied there was “no such thing as a Christian cult.”  He shook his head when I told him I was a committed disciples of yours, “born again,” “saved”  – but he only shook his head again, my “salvation” couldn’t have been genuine.

There it was – in me – the greater works – the work of love.

My heart didn’t race, no PTS, no negative reaction, no need to defend, no desire to correct – I didn’t miss a beat as I kept moving forward in the course I was teaching. I loved you then. I trust you now.  I know you love me best.

Like Job, you were always with me by the hearing of the Word, but now I know You. 

After his words were spoken – there wasn’t any questioning of who I was, or what was said. No mind battles, no feeling of distance from You or from Your creation.  No judgement towards him. Instead, an empathy for those who think they earn your favor by what they do, as they judge the hearts of others. I know that hole.  I won’t judge the heart of people who consider it growth to move into a smaller house of who You are.

You are a Mansion with too many rooms to explore. I will let them lie where they choose and move on to my house of splendor. 

The greater works of Christ are the ones that are lived out radically in service to Him by love. The raising of the dead and the healing of the sick is not greater than the lives that are transformed to be genuine disciples who are secure in their identity. Living out the gospel as a people not threatened by what anyone says or does.

The ones crazy enough to know we can make a difference in the world like You did.

Hearts that are healed and set free to be loved by you despite what crumbles around them or within them.  A people who live in the Presence of God at all times. 

That is the greatest work – the work that will witness your will being done as it is in Heaven- where Peace rules, overseen by the Prince. The proclaiming of our daily bread as enough, because our Living water never ends. 

Jesus vision for His church was never for wealthy megachurches bringing people in for a physical healing, promises of prosperity or blessing for this life as proof of the gospel.

The greater works in the book of Acts all took place outside in the community, in the world as a living witness of  Kingdom of God. It was rescuing the orphans left to die outside the gates, caring for widows, dividing up equally to those who had more need. 

Our ministry as disciples of Christ while we live in our home with our wee ones, at work, at church, or in foreign fields is not something we do for God, but something God does through us in the mundane, the suffering, the hard, the never ending moments. 

In the glorious transformation of our lives. 

Our greatest works and His greatest masterpiece.

I’d much rather live in the reality of Christ.