Wow, isn't this the question we all want to understand? Whether you believe there is a God or not, at one point in everyones life, this question gets asked...
I have to say I've had this question come up a lot since this summer. And in the last week it's been all around me.
I want to tell you a story.
(I'm longwinded so it will probably end up as one of those "book" size blog posts. Maybe you need a cup of coffee first... :)
So I've been a "Christian" all my life. I was blessed to be raised in a home where my parents taught us the bible, prayed with us and shared about God's love for us. I grew up going to church, being involved in the church and loving the stories about Jesus as far back as I can remember.
I think a lot of you also have a similar background maybe... But exactly when does your PARENTS faith become your own? When do you as a child or teenager or young adult say "Yes, I believe what I've been told, this is MY faith, MY God, MY Savior."
I think as every person grows up they are forming their views on this question based on their experiences in life. What their parents tell them, what they see going on in their little world, what they hear from their friends, in school, etc. Then as you grow up your world is expanded. You see things that you don't understand, you learn about History and see present day events. Tragedy. Suffering. Pain. Those are the emotions that make you question LIFE. What is this life all about? Why do these bad things happen? Why do people I love die, why do we have to go through hard times? Why am I HERE? Do we just live and die and that's it?
Let me tell you first a little history on my own life. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I remember a little "family meeting" on my parents bed. Why? Why is it so vivid in my mind that it was on their bed and there was crying and I was scared. Because it rocked my world. My dad hadn't been feeling well for over a year but the doctors couldn't figure out what it was. Until that day. So the family meeting was to tell us that Dad had a brain tumor. What? I didn't understand what that even was? Was he going to be ok? Why was mom crying? Was I going to loose my dad? Well, they told us he was going to have surgery to try and remove the tumor but it was wrapped around his optic nerve so they just didn't know what would be the result.
Fast forward to the day of the surgery. I had to stay with my cousin Doreen b/c they didn't want me at the hospital. I spent the night there. I remember feeling so out of place and not sure what to do. I was scared and not sure what the future held. But we got a call in the evening that my dad was ok. He made it through the surgery! Little did I know at the time a few things... First, they had to STOP the surgery because his heart stopped. He basically did die, for a few minutes. I also didn't know that they had told my dad (in private, my mom didn't know this until years later) that he most likely WAS NOT going to live! That if he did, he would be a VEGTABLE. But he didn't tell us that. He didn't tell my mom that! But God knew. My dad was told to get everything in order b/c the chances were very slim that he would survive. But you know what... God had a different PLAN. He could have taken him home that day. But he didn't. My dad had a peace about it and my mom was so scared, but trusted the Lord and we had SO MANY PEOPLE praying for us! It was truly amazing to SEE the outpouring of love from everywhere. But the biggest WOW in this was something we didn't even think about...
The doctor who performed the surgery told my mom that he felt THE HAND OF GOD helping him! WOW... gives me chills just thinking about it. You know why? Because this doctor said he did NOT believe in God. But in that surgery room, where he was trying to get a brain tumor from a believing man and had to stop becuase he was literally dying, he felt the hand of GOD on his hand, helping him! Amazing.
It was unbelievable. But my dad did not make a complete recovery. He has had headaches most every day since that surgery many years ago. He lost sight in one eye. He lost a lot of memory. He's in a nursing home now because his body started shutting down after my brother and I were grown. Kind of interesting to me since I know my moms prayer was that he would survive and be able to provide for his children... But you know what? My dad to this day is PRAISING GOD for bringing him through that. He didn't complain! He PRAISED the LORD in all of it! It's just incredible to me that he could be THANKFUL for it. He went back to work a few months later and he worked to provide for his family. We grew up not being able to do things other families did. We couldn't go places that were too hot or too cold. He had to nap a LOT. He wasn't around to play catch with us. But he was there. My mom told us later that she prayed that he would LIVE and that he would be able to be there for his kids, provide for his family and that's all she wanted. You know what, the Lord answered that prayer! Why did the Lord work a miracle in my dad's life and other's lost theirs? Maybe life would have been better for my dad if he didn't make it? No pain every day... Honestly, we didn't have the greatest time growing up, it was difficult. But we had a dad. And the Lord showed us a lot through this. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today without this experience. And my kids wouldn't... and the list of history going forward wouldn't. There was a PLAN and this was part of it. And my dad taught us strength, and grace and how to go through tough times still PRAISING the Lord! Yes, praising the Lord FOR the brain tumor! Truly amazing.
So why did this happen to us? Why do BAD things happen?
Fast forward to the present.
Last week I went to a movie that Kirk Cameron produced called Unstoppable. It asked this exact question. It was a powerful movie and really got to the heart of this question. See Kirk works with terminally ill kids and sees death a lot. He was an Athiest growing up on the famous television show that he starred in, Growing Pains. He had power, money, a big ego and pride in his position. In that time of fame he became a Christian through a friend bringing him to church one day. He was changed and he then used his fame and money to help people and share with others what the bible says about these tough questions. So this movie he made deals with this question. He wanted to examine his faith, try to understand this question that is one of the biggest questions we ask as a human race. This journey he went on to find the answer really brings us back to the beginning of time.
And it brought back memories in me to a conversation I had this summer in Italy...
But a little back story first, because I wonder why we are placed in certain places at specific times.
Why has God allowed my family to go to Italy so many times? I didn't know that answer until just recently. It costs a lot to go there. We don't have piles of money sitting somewhere. We've struggled with money in our married life. We've had times we couldn't spend $20 a WEEK! My husband always use to say that our budget was NO budget...Don't spend any money! hahaha We even had a specific time when we needed I think it was $867 for a bill and we DID NOT HAVE THE MONEY and we didn't know what to do. We were scared...but we prayed. And guess what... the Lord provided a TAX REFUND of almost the EXACT amount. Just a few days later. Yes, true story... that really happened. And it was a turning point in my FAITH. It was when I let go of the worry about our financial situation and trusted in the Lord fully. I didn't have a husband that was going to have a 9-5 job with a paycheck every 2 weeks. I had to stop worrying that we would be able to pay our bills. And I did. It doesn't mean we were "home free" and money started rolling in! It doesn't mean that we didn't spend money on things we shouldn't have. NO. But it did mean that I KNEW the Lord would provide for us if we were faithfull. And he has. There have still been times of struggle, but I TRUST that he will provide. These trips to Italy? We've saved for. My girls have saved their hard earned money for. Victoria made a POWER POINT PRESENTATION one year on how we could afford to go back! We clean my husbands offices each weekend and that money has gone toward these trips. Every year we don't think we are going to go back and we do! By the grace of God, he sends us back there every year and now more then once a year because of my Creative Retreats! So I know there has been a reason for all of this.
But to provide for us to go to Europe... to Italy for the last 5 years?
I wouldn't say that just prayer made that happen or because we were faithfull, that we got to go. What I truly believe is that there is a bigger plan at work! That God has a plan and that those relationships with people there are IN His plan. Like the driver who I was talking to...
So back to the conversation I had this summer with him.
It happened without me even knowing it. Lance and I were driving back from a wine tour with a driver who has picked us up from the airport several times and driven us around Lake Como since we don't rent a car when we are there because you don't need a car in Bellagio. But whenever we need to go somewhere else, we have the car company the hotel works with take us places. So I'm talking to this young driver and we start talking about "religion". Now if you read my blog, you may have read my post a while back with the title "Are you Religious" and that post sort of has to do with this conversation as well. NO, I'm not Religious, so feel free to read that post some time. But Lance had fallen asleep and I was talking to this young man as he asked me many questions that he has struggled with. The ultimate question being the one this blog post is about!
What I said made since to him and I think he was really thinking about it for a while. You see I told him that we can't understand everything, but that we can TRUST that there IS a God and that he does LOVE us. That there is PROOF. That there is sin and death in this world because of OUR CHOICE. Yes, it started with Adam and Eve, but we could just as easily be Adam or Eve. Whose to say we wouldn't have done the same thing? But God LOVED us and had a plan for us even still. Its called FREE WILL.
I was talking to the driver about this and it just came to my mind at that moment. The Lord did not create us to be ROBOTS. When he created us, he gave us the CHOICE to LOVE HIM. Because if he would have made us to love him automatically, to have NO choice, to HAVE to do what he says... that would be like a human race of robots right?
I found this blog that speaks about this. I want to share the link to it because it's a great website with so much information. But I'm also going to copy and paste it here because this person can say it SO much better than me and I REALLY want you to take the time to read it! So go get another cup of coffee... hahaha
Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?
This is from Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel.
The following message was delivered on July 22 by Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel, just days after the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Lee has graciously given us permission to post it here on Bible Gateway.
It was the worst mass shooting in American history – 70 people shot by a gunman, 12 of them killed, while they were watching the midnight showing of a new movie just 21 miles from where we’re sitting. There are no words to describe the anguish being felt by those who are suffering today; our heart and prayers have – and will – go out to them. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain. And many people are asking the question, “Why? Why did God allow this?”
This has been a heart-rending summer for Colorado. First came the wildfires, which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors – and prompted many of them to ask the question, “Why?”
And those two tragic events are on top of the everyday pain and suffering being experienced in individual lives – maybe including yours. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. And perhaps you’ve been asking the question, “Why? Why me? Why now?”
That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Several years ago, I commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Incidentally, I did find an interesting statistical quirk – people who are married were much more likely to want to know why there’s so much suffering. I’m just sayin’.
But if you’ve never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, you will when they strike you with full force or they come to a loved one. And Jesus said they are coming. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as just being illusions, Jesus was honest. He told us the truth. He said inJohn 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might – he said it is going to happen.
But why? If you ask me point-blank, “Why did God allow the gunman to spray the Aurora movie theater with gunfire just two days ago?”, the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – “I do not know.”
I cannot stand in the shoes of God and give a complete answer to that question. I don’t have God’s mind. I don’t see with God’s eyes. First Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
So when you ask about specific individual events and want to know why this particular thing happened, we won’t get the full answer in this world. Someday we’ll see with clarity, but for now things are foggy. We can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. And frankly, the people suffering from the Aurora tragedy don’t need a big theological treatise right now; any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What they desperately need now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. And I’m so grateful that so many churches and ministries of this community are helping them experience that.
But for us, let’s focus on the big, overarching issue of why God generally allows suffering in our lives – your life and mine. Friends, this is important: even though we can’t understand everything about it, we can understand some things. Let me give you an analogy.
Once Leslie and I were driving from Chicago to Door County, Wisconsin, which is that thumb-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. We were driving up the highway in the dark, when it started raining heavily and we hit dense fog. I could barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road. I couldn’t stop because I was afraid someone might come along and rear-end us. It was frightening!
But then a truck appeared in front of us and we could clearly see his taillights through the fog. He apparently had fog lamps in front, because he was traveling at a confident and deliberate pace, and I knew if we could just follow those taillights, we’d be headed in the right direction.
And the same is true in understanding why there is tragedy and suffering in our lives and in our world. We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help satisfy our hearts and souls.
What are those points of light? Let me go through five of them that I’ve personally found helpful whenever I’ve been prompted to ask the question, “Why?” The first point of light: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
But if God is not the author of tragedy or evil or death, where did they come from? Well, God has existed from eternity past as the Father, Son and Spirit, together in a relationship of perfect love. So love is the highest value in the universe. And when God decided to create human beings, he wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why? Because love always involves a choice.
If we were programmed to say, “I love you,” it wouldn’t really be love. When my daughter was little, she had a doll with a string in the back, and when you pulled it the doll said, “I love you.” Did that doll love my daughter? Of course not. It was programmed to say those words. To really experience love, that doll would need to have been able to choose to love or not to love. Again – real love always involves a choice.
So in order for us to experience love, God bestowed on us free will. But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from Him. And that has resulted in the introduction of two kinds of evil into the world: moral evil and natural evil.
Moral evil is the immorality and pain and suffering and tragedy that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive.Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So much of the world’s suffering results from the sinful action or inaction of ourselves and others. For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed.
In other words: look at your hand. You can choose to use that hand to hold a gun and shoot someone, or you can use it to feed hungry people. It’s your choice. But it’s unfair to shoot someone and then blame God for the existence of evil and suffering. Like that old cartoon said: “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”
The second kind of evil is called natural evil. These are things like wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes that cause suffering for people. But these, too, are the indirect result of sin being allowed into the world. As one author explained: “When we humans told God to shove off, He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain and death became part of the human experience.”
The Bible says it’s because of sin that nature was corrupted and “thorns and thistles” entered the world. Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” In other words, nature longs for redemption to come and for things to be set right. That’s the source of disorder and chaos.
Let’s make this crystal clear once more: God did not create evil and suffering. Now, it’s true that he did create the potential for evil to enter the world, because that was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and love. But it was human beings, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into reality.
Some people ask, “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?” And no doubt he did. But look at it this way: many of you are parents. Even before you had children, couldn’t you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course — but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning.
Now, the analogy is far from perfect, but think about God. He undoubtedly knew we’d rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him and have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him — and it was all worth it for that, even though it would cost His own Son great pain and suffering to achieve their redemption.
So, first, it helps me to remember, as I ponder the mystery of pain and evil, that God did not create them. The second point of light is this: Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
He does this by fulfilling His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following Him.
The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph, who went through terrible suffering, being sold into slavery by his brothers, unfairly accused of a crime and falsely imprisoned. Finally, after a dozen years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.
This is what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” And if you’re committed to God, He promises that He can and will take whatever pain you’re experiencing and draw something good from it.
You might say, “No, he can’t in my circumstance. The harm was too great, the damage was too extreme, the depth of my suffering has been too much. No, in my case there’s no way God can cause any good to emerge.”
But if you doubt God’s promise, listen to what a wise man said to me when I was researching my book The Case for Faith: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide, or the death of God on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?
He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him – He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we trust and follow Him.
Now, the third point of light: The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
A lot of times you’ll hear people say: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?” And the answer is that because He hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He won’t do it. You know, I wrote my first novel last year. What if someone read only half of it and then slammed it down and said, “Well, Lee did a terrible job with that book. There are too many loose ends with the plot. He didn’t resolve all the issues with the characters.” I’d say, “Hey – you only read half the book!”
And the Bible says that the story of this world isn’t over yet. It says the day will come when sickness and pain will be eradicated and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve committed. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet.
So what’s holding God up? One answer is that some of you may be. He’s actually delaying the consummation of history in anticipation that some of you will still put your trust in Him and spend eternity in heaven. He’s delaying everything out of His love for you. SecondPeter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”To me, that’s evidence of a loving God, that He would care that much for you.
Point of Light #4: Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.
I certainly don’t want to minimize pain and suffering, but it helps if we take a long-term perspective. Look at this verse, and remember they were written by the apostle Paul, who suffered through beatings and stonings and shipwrecks and imprisonments and rejection and hunger and thirst and homelessness and far more pain that most of us will ever have to endure. These are his words:
Second Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles” — wait a second: light and momentary troubles? Five different times his back was shredded when he was flogged 39 lashes with a whip; three times he was beaten to a bloody pulp by rods. But he says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Paul also wrote Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Think of it this way. Let’s say that on the first day of 2012, you had an awful, terrible day. You had an emergency root canal at the dentist and the ran out of pain-killers. You crashed your car and had no insurance. Your stock portfolio took a nosedive. Your spouse got sick. A friend betrayed you. From start to finish, it was like the title of that children’s book: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
But then every other day of the year was just incredibly terrific. Your relationship with God is close and real and intimate. A friend wins the lottery and gives you $100 million. You get promoted at work to your dream job. Time magazine puts your photo on its cover as “The Person of the Year.” You have your first child and he’s healthy and strong. Your marriage is idyllic, your health is fabulous, you have a six-month vacation in Tahiti.
Then next New Year’s Day someone asks, “So, how was your 2012?” You’d say, “It was great; it was wonderful!” And they’d say, “But didn’t it start out bad? Didn’t you go through a lot of trouble that first day?”
You’d think back and say, “You’re right. That was a bad day, no denying it. It was difficult at the time. It was hard. It was painful. But when I look at the totality of the year, when I put everything in context, it’s been a great year. The 364 terrific days far outweigh the one bad day. That day just sort of fades away.”
And maybe that’s a good analogy for heaven. Listen to me – that is not to deny the reality of your pain in this life. It might be terrible. It might be chronic. My wife Leslie has a medical condition that puts her in pain every single day. Maybe you’re suffering from a physical ailment or heartache at this very moment. But in heaven, after 354,484,545 days of pure bliss — and with an infinite more to come — if someone asked, “So, how has your existence been?”, you’d instantly react by saying, “It has been absolutely wonderful! Words can’t describe the joy and the delight and the fulfillment!”
And if they said, “But didn’t you have a tough time before you got here,” you’d probably think back and say, “Well, yes, it’s true that those days were painful, I can’t deny that. They were difficult, they were bad. But when I put them into context, in light of all God’s outpouring of goodness to me, those bad days aren’t even worth comparing with the eternity of blessings and joy that I’m experiencing.”
It’s like the story that British church leader Galvin Reid tells about meeting a young man who had fallen down a flight of stairs as a baby and shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life — and yet he made the astounding comment that he thinks God is fair. Reid asked him, “How old are you?” The boy said, “Seventeen.” Reid asked, “How many years have you spend in hospitals?” The boy said, “Thirteen years.” The pastor said with astonishment, “And you think that is fair?” And the boy replied: “Well, God has all eternity to make it up to me.”
And He will. God promises a time when there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more pain and suffering, when we will be reunited with God in perfect harmony, forever. Let the words of First Corinthians 2:9 soak into your soul: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” That’s absolutely breath-taking, isn’t it?
Finally, Point of Light #5: We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.
We’ve all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
As one philosopher said: “I believe all suffering is at least potential good, an opportunity for good. It’s up to our free choice to actualize that potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it, because that’s up to us, it’s up to our free will.”
We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to Him. But what happens if we run to Him?
I started this talk with part of what Jesus said in John 16:33. Now let me give you the entire verse: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
In other words, He offers us the two very things we need when we’re hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How?Because he has conquered the world! Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!
So let me finish the story of Leslie and I driving through the fog in Wisconsin. We were following the taillights of that truck when the fog slowly began to lift, the rain began to let up and we entered a town with some lights – things were becoming clearer, we could see better, and as we rounded a curve, silhouetted against the night sky, guess what we saw? We saw the steeple of a church and the cross of Christ. After driving through the confusion of the fog for so long, that image struck me with poignancy I’ll never forget. Because it was through that cross that Jesus conquered the world for us.
As that wise man once said to me: God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you?They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.
And then the wise man told me this: it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.
So when tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with the present, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.
As I’ve been saying, all of us will go through pain and suffering. But let me end by going back to this specific tragedy that took place two days ago in Aurora. For all the things it leaves us confused about, one of the truths it clearly illustrates is that life is so fragile and short. These people were going to a movie! They had no clue that this might be their last moments in this world. Friends, in this sin-scarred world, we never know when death will come knocking. Often, we don’t get any warning when a heart attack strikes, or when a drunk driver crosses the centerline, or when a wildfire sweeps through a canyon, or when an airplane loses power. And so the question I’m compelled to ask you is this – “Are you ready?”
One of the first verses I memorized as a Christian is 1 John 5:13: “These things I’ve written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
God doesn’t want you wondering. He doesn’t want you steeped in anxiety over whether you’re headed for heaven. His infallible, inerrant Word says you can know for sure.
Don’t rely on the fact that you come to church or you’ve gone through some sort of religious ritual in the past. The Bible is clear that we can be religious but not be in a relationship with God. Religious activities and affiliations never saved anyone. Salvation comes from knowing Christ personally and receiving His provision for YOUR sin and YOUR future. It comes from making him YOUR Savior, by asking Him to forgive YOUR every sin, and by asking Him to lead YOUR life.
But it doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t come by attending a great church, or being baptized, or taking communion, or hanging out with a bunch of Christians. It comes from deciding in your heart that you want to turn from your sin, to stop trusting in your own resources, and to accept the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus purchased on the cross and is offering you as a free gift. THAT is how you gain God’s peace and confidence.
So settle it now! Resolve this today, at this moment, so that if tragedy were to strike, your eternity with God would be secure. I don’t know all the ways God is going to draw some good from this Aurora situation, but wouldn’t it be something if He were starting right now, with you personally, and using this message to bring you into His kingdom at this very moment? Let the pain of that tragedy open your heart to Christ. Let’s take what was intended for evil and watch God start creating something good from it.
Pray with me right now to receive Christ – so that you can know for sure that even if the very worst thing were to happen to you after you leave the auditorium today, it will immediately be followed by the very best thing of all.
Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the unique Son of God. I confess to You that I’m a sinner. In repentance and faith, I reach out right now and receive the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that You graciously purchased on the cross when You died as my substitute to pay for all of my sins. Please, Lord Jesus, lead my life – because from this moment on, I am Yours. I pray this in Your name. Amen.
Wow, He said is so much better than I could! I hope you took the time to read that.
So getting back to why we have been blessed to travel to Italy so many times...
Talking to that young driver, I WISH I could have said all these things the guy said above, but I'm realizing that it's ok. I shared my faith, I was OPEN with this young man and I have peace knowing the Lord was speaking through me... (because I had NO idea what I should say to him to answer some of his deep questions! :) But I was AVAILABLE. And it's becoming clear to me as I ask the question, "Why have we been blessed to be able to go to Italy so many times to the SAME place?"
Because the Lord has a bigger plan for our lives. For ALL of our lives. Because we are open to sharing our Faith with others... and the frienships that we have with the people there are IMPORTANT. Victoria has a heart to share the LOVE of GOD with people in Italy? Why? Well I believe it's because the Lord has allowed us to go there so many times and he's given her this heart of love for them. She's actually applying for the college in Italy TODAY. She may be leaving next February to live there! It's incredible and I'm so excited for her! I'm also a bit sad if I'm honest about it, but I KNOW without any doubt that the Lord is in control of her life! There's a REASON my girls have made friends there, that they want to go back and see those people every year. (and LIVE there) That we care about them. And It's AMAZING to see the hand of God in this. I have no doubt that he uses people to share his LOVE with others. I've seen it in this young driver who just THIS week has made a change in his life for the Lord! It's been incredible to pray and watch the Lord WORK in peoples lives... So we need to be open to Him. He wants all of us to get outside of our comfort zone. And LIVE for HIM! It's AMAZING what He does when WE get out of the way and let Him guide our lives! His plan is WAY better then any plan we can think up!
Last thing and I then I promise to end this HUGE "book"...
Like I said in the beginning of this post, my blog title/question has been all around me lately. Friends are experiencing pain right now, people we know are questioning this...
In fact, one of my daughters friends' brother got in a very horrible accident this weekend. The family is at his bedside right now. It's heart breaking. As a mother, I keep thinking that I NEVER want to get that call... That my baby is hurt. But can I tell you what this mother is saying? This is from her FB page last night:
"Again, I am so humbled by the outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and prayers for our dear Ryan! It is interesting the methods our Lord chooses to bring His people together and amazing how His people glorify Him as they cry out in unison with one voice. Thank you for praying on behalf of my son and family; we are ever so grateful!"
AMAZING. This family has said they have PEACE during this time! That they can feel the LOVE of God and the love of his people praying for their son. I ask that you would take a minute to pray for Ryan! He still needs LOTS of prayer. They are waking him up today to do a brain scan and see what trauma there is to the brain. But isn't it incredible that we can feel the Lord's PEACE AND LOVE, even in the middle of the storm! In the midst of the BAD THINGS... God is THERE! Right there with us. All we need to do is ASK and Call on His name.
It reminded me of a song from Casting Crowns called "Praise You in the Storm"
What a beautiful song! They are such a wondreful, inspirational group. And here's an inspirational radio station that you can get online, wherever you live: Air 1.com Go check them out and listen to some of the songs they play. They also have an area where you can ask them questions or ask for prayer.
So I will end this post with this...
I hope that you are OPEN today. Open to His love. Open to being available to help others and open to having His peace fill you up, even when the storms of life come. Because as Kirk Cameron says in his movie, Unstoppable:
"Life is stonger than death, good is stronger than evil and FAITH is stronger than doubt."
I pray that you are blessed today with His LOVE and PEACE. Know that I am open to sharing with you or praying for you if you have any need.
Have a GREAT day,
P.S. My dad is in his 70's still having pain every day, but still praising the Lord in his little tiny room in a nursing home to anyone who will listen. :)
Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."