Thursday, January 28, 2021

God and Suffering

 I was reading a book that attempted to explain why good people sometimes suffer.  It was a good lesson to me that if a Christian is looking to read something enlightening about God (besides the Bible), reading a book that is written by a non-Christian is not going to be helpful.

The basic premise of the book is that our God is NOT all powerful, and He struggles against evil like the rest of us.  But - we can take hope and comfort that God can sympathize with us just the same.  Hmmm.  Not sure how a god with no power can provide any sort of hope whatsoever.  Besides, I struggle with the notion of a God who can create the world and everything in it being powerless over it, among other things. 

The other striking thing about this book is that it summarized various books and passages in the Bible.  I don't claim to be a Bible scholar.  But in reading it through on my 4th time now, I have a reasonable idea of what's in it.  These summaries provided in the book took me by surprise - nowhere did I recall what these summaries claimed, so I got out my Bible and took a look again.  And, guess what?  Nowhere did I see anything even similar to what the author was asserting.  How a person could read these verses and come up with the conclusions that the author did was mind blowing.  Take home message:  Never, ever rely on someone telling you what the Bible says.  Read it yourself, and you'll know.  

There are three things to remember:

1) God IS all-powerful. 
2) God IS all-knowing.
3) God loves you dearly, so much that He came to earth to take the punishment for your sin, so you wouldn't need to.

In the Bible, God says we don't think like He does.  We'd all be God if we could.  There's much to this universe and to this existence of ours that we are not going to understand.  But we believe in the One who does understand.

There are many reasons we suffer on earth.  It shapes us - He holds us tightly through it, if we let Him. We come out of it differently than we went into it.  Sin is part of earthly life because Satan is here.  We have free will to be sinful if we wish, and unapologetic (and unforgiven) if we choose that as well.  One person's sin hurts others - that's a fact.  We don't sin in a vacuum.  Sometimes the suffering we do gets our attention, and refocuses us away from something harmful.  I don't believe that God necessarily causes our suffering (it's part of allowing us free will) but He'll help us through it, stop it when it is time, sustain us through it, and bless us despite it.  Yes, God IS omnipotent, loves us tremendously, and allows us to suffer, all at the same time.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Don't Look Down

"Don't look down... Keep your eyes on Me
Just Walk on the Water... Walk on the Water with Me..."

I heard these lyrics on the radio while running errands this morning, and while I don't know the song nor the singer, they were so poignant and significant to me.  It's been a hard several months for us, culminating in a tremendous amount of stress over some tough situations.  High anxiety, sleepless nights, upset stomach and sick with worry, I finally came to realize that these a significant amount of this anxiety all started with one negative thought, which rumination would feed like a starving animal until the situation was even more out of control.  Don't get me wrong, a fair amount of stress was to be expected, but my own internal reaction to it made it so much harder to bear, and overshadowed any remembrance that my God would neither leave nor forsake me, and life still held a tremendous number of blessings.

The song lyrics I heard this morning hit a spot in my soul.  The Apostle Peter was doing fine while keeping his eyes on the Lord, but when he let his fear of his circumstances take over, he sunk.  He saw that he *might* sink, not that he *was* staying afloat.   And that fear changed everything for him.  That "I'm walking on the water and I might sink" turned into "I'm sinking!"  When we have big, bad events in our lives, we need to hunker down with our Bibles and our God all the more, see past the scary stuff and see the ways He's keeping us afloat. He won't leave us.  But we need to keep our minds, eyes, hearts and thoughts on Him and His sustaining power.  And THAT is real.

In Charles Stanley's "Handbook for Christian Living," he has an entire section on "Thoughts" and their impact on every part of our lives if we don't take them under control.  Ruminating on bad things isn't helpful, nor does it paint a realistic picture.  Bad thoughts out of control overshadow everything else, including the blessings in our lives.  Allowing negative thoughts to grow into things of epic proportions warps our perception of reality.  And it is possible to get these thoughts under control, but certainly difficult when many of us have not ever exercised that discipline.

This is not the same as sticking one's head in the sand, or "pretending our troubles away."  We can face our realities accurately, remembering that Christ will never leave nor forsake us.  Oftentimes we can't see it, but our intense difficulties in life on this sinful earth can bring good and they can change us for the better.  Our reactions to them can bring glory to the Lord, and they can draw us closer to Him.  But not if we've ruminated them out of control.

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."  (Proverbs 4:23)










Friday, May 31, 2019

Friends

When Jesus was healing people inside a house, a paralyzed man's friends couldn't fight the crowd to get him close.  So they took him to the roof, cut a hole in it, and lowered him down to Jesus.  I can only hope for friends who will do the same for me when I’m paralyzed by my sins and can’t help myself.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

If you feel like a failure...

If you feel like a failure at times, you're in good company.  The apostle Peter himself repeatedly had a fair amount of trouble getting it right.  He denied the Lord three times, and was even warned in advance he was going to do it, and he *still* couldn't manage to stop himself!  Peter had numerous "fails" and he was still the rock on which the church was built.  He was afraid.  He was weak.  His faith faltered.  But he kept going.  You keep going too.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

And God Closed Their Eyes

I cringe a bit every time I read a passage of the Bible that refers to God closing someone's eyes or hardening their hearts to the things of Him. How can a God of justice prevent someone from believing, and then condemn them for their unbelief?

Isaiah 44:18-19, referring to idol worshipers and their wooden idols -

They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
No one stops to think,
    no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
    I even baked bread over its coals,
    I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
    Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”


Matthew 13:15

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

Luke 16:27-31
The story of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar who lived outside the gates of the rich man's home.  Both died. The rich man was sent to Hades, and Lazarus to heaven.  The rich man sees Lazarus across the chasm and speaks:

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”



It occurred to me that maybe I've had it backwards all this time.  Instead of God closing their minds and then they couldn't understand, perhaps the unbelief came first - a choice made, a destiny chosen - and then God closed their eyes, their minds, and their hearts to the things of Him.  We have all we need - God's Word - to make that first choice of belief of unbelief.  So, yes, we have a God of justice.  If you reject Him, you don't get the what He offers - not in this life, and not in the next life.  But if you repent, you'll be forgiven and restored and your eyes will be opened.  And that's the good news.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

What is God trying to teach me today?

I saw an old Facebook posting I'd made years ago.  I wrote, "So what's God trying to teach me with a day like today? Keep my head where it belongs, stop trying to fix the stuff that's not mine to fix, and let Him deal with the things outside of my control? " 

It certainly would have been handy to remember that consistently in the years that followed!

Tasks half-done or poorly done because of distractions might have been avoided if I had kept my mind on the project in front of me.   And remembering that every task done is an offering to God would certainly have resulted in better efforts, and probably better outcomes as well.

Some of us are "fixers" by nature.  If someone is having trouble, our first inclination is to jump in there and fix it for them.  That's me.  But we don't always know what's best.  When we fix someone else's situation, we not only take full responsibility for the outcomes, but we deprive them of the joy and confidence that comes from fixing their own situations.  We can and should help, but taking over the situation blurs boundaries that are necessary for the good of everyone.  Taking responsibility for everyone else's problems puts a huge load on us - a load that we were not designed to carry - and cripples those we are intending to help.  Many of us know the story of the butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon.  A man watching the process decided to help it rather than watch it struggle.  He did not know that the process was a necessary one to develop its wings and body properly.  As a result of the man's "help," the butterfly was never able to fly.   We need to help each other as appropriate, but there's a difference between helping and fixing.

Certainly one of the most frustrating things in life is trying to control things that are outside of our control.  What an exercise in futility!   We can diligently save our money, but a string of unfortunate events can wipe it all out very quickly.  We can work hard to make good decisions, but no decision is foolproof.  So much of life is outside of our control - but there is nothing that is outside of God's control.  Doing the best we can, and then placing it in God's hands and leaving it there is the only course of action that provides any peace whatsoever.  We need to accept that the situation may or may not go as we had hoped and planned for.  But at the same time, holding on to the knowledge that God knows what we do not and provides what we cannot, builds faith and trust, both of which are the most precious commodities we can accumulate in our time here on earth.   Even when - especially when - the bottom falls out.  He promises never to leave nor forsake us.

So what is God trying to teach me today?  Keep my head where it belongs, stop trying to fix stuff that's not mine to fix, and let Him deal with the things outside of my control.  Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fear


This post is courtesy of guest-blogger Brock, of Coach Brock's corner.

 Fear

The fear I hear most is the unknown.
Jesus said trust me and don't be afraid .
I know all fears are useless.
Faith is priceless.
When I go fishing or hunting or running,
All my fears go away.
Jesus is with me When ever I do these things.
It is not how many fish or pheasants I get
Or how far I run,
It is the quietness I seek you see.
I forget all my fears
Whenever I do these things .
I know Jesus is always with me .

                            By Brock