May Newsletter

“In the midst of life we are in death.” So proclaims the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in the burial service. It is a way of stating the obvious- not one of us will escape the sentence of physical death we have all been under since Eden (at least until Jesus comes). Life is fragile, and on any given day there are dozens of circumstances that might snuff it out. Most people try not to dwell on the possibility of death- until something brings us up short. An accident. A diagnosis with poor prognosis. A terrorist attack. All are unpredictable and all can take our breath away in a rush of fear.
As Christians, we often figure that we ought to have some advantage- some protection, perhaps, when it comes to bad things happening to us and to our loved ones. Shortly before 9/11, I spoke to an elder saint in Ohio about bad things happening to good people. He told me that if one followed Jesus well and trusted God, nothing bad would ever happen to your family… While there is a certain logic in his statement, I cannot agree. Talk to Job. Talk to the apostles. Even Jesus confirmed it: “In this life you will have tribulation…” When I began to realize that God does not promise us “a rose garden,” at least not in this life, I felt a little cheated. What good is faith in God if He isn’t going to protect me from bad things? Well, I have come to see this question in a different light, and I think it is important that we get past this as believers. We begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we quote Jesus in context:
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In Me you will have peace… Take heart…! We take heart not because nothing bad will ever happen, but because He is with us if and when it does…
Steve Brown is fond of saying, “God didn’t remain in heaven unmoved by the tragedy and pain of the world. He came to suffer as we suffer. He did not come to keep us from being lonely and afraid, He came to be lonely and afraid, just like us. He did not come to keep us from dying, He came to die, as we must die.” When you add to this that we will one day rise and live forever with the God who loves us, we begin to see the fullness of God’s plan, and that it is a good plan!
I was very grateful to George Jr. last Sunday for the reminder of how honest and emotional the Psalms are. Psalm 6:6-7 is an example: “I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow…” The Psalmists knew they could pour out their emotions to God and He would not be angry; He would hear them. The following passage is like a modern-day psalm. It may seem a bit strange at first, but I commend it to you as a good example of how we can relate to God in times of distress, and how, in turn, He relates to us:
A university student whom Frank Lake had been counseling wrote to him of how this finally dawned on her. Late one night, she was sitting alone in a chapel, railing at God for allowing so much pain and suffering in her life and the lives of others: “I was livid with His apathy. Didn’t He know what His carelessness had done to us? For the first time in my life I dared to demand an explanation. When none came, I was angrier than I ever remember being. I turned my eyes on to the plain wooden cross and I remembered Calvary. I stood in the crowd which crucified him, hating and despising him. With my own hands I drove the nails into his hands and his feet, and with bursting energy I flogged him and spat with nauseated loathing. Now He should know what it felt like-to live in the creation He had made. Every breath brought from me the words: ‘Now You know!
Now You know!’ And then I saw something which made my heart stand still. I saw His face, and on it twisted every familiar agony of my own soul. ‘Now You know’ became an awed whisper as I, motionless, watched His agony. ‘Yes, now I know’ was the passionate and pain-filled reply. ‘Why else should I come?’ Stunned, I watched His eyes search desperately for the tiniest flicker of love in mine, and as we faced one another in the bleak and the cold, forsaken by God, frightened and derelict, we loved one another and our pain became silent in the calm.
Nothing can bind us closer than common dereliction for nowhere else is companionship so longed for. From that moment on I was tied on to Christ, knowing the rope would hold if I fell in the climb as He led me slowly and firmly out of hell, sometimes out of sight ahead of me, then dear and firm and calm as I scrambled up to His side.”
Hope this helps, and I would love to talk about this or anything you may be struggling with just now. Please call, text or stop by anytime!
In His love,
Pastor Mark