It’s frustrating having a blog sometimes. I want to write but then when I actually sit down to do it, I end up staring at a blank screen. The words just don’t come. I feel like I have a thousand ideas floating around in my head but actually getting them down is another thing altogether. I keep a notebook that has list upon list of blogging ideas. I have a book full of blog prompts. So what’s the problem? I remembered just recently that it has been a while since I visited my Drafts folder so decided I would go there and get refreshed on what there might be to “finish” there. I came across this unfinished post. Embarrassingly, I wrote Part one almost four years ago (!) and never got back to finishing Part 2. So here, almost four years later is Part 2. Better late than never!! Here is the link to Part One .
In Abiding in the Light, part 1, I mentioned that I was listening to a sermon series on The Gospel of John. It was such a great teaching series that I wanted to share with you what I learned. The pastor was explaining how many of us choose to “step into the light of Christ,” but many of us don’t stay there or “abide in the light of Christ.” He says the stepping into the light of Christ is actually not the hard part. It’s STAYING in the light of Christ that is hard. He asks the question of how we are to abide in the light of Christ when “the unexpected” occurs in our world and threatens to shove us out of the light. The unexpected may be anything that causes pain or suffering. It might be a death, a divorce, or a doctor handing us or a loved one a difficult diagnosis.
If you read Part 1 of this series, you know that 2013 was a hard year for me—a year full of trials and losses. That year, I lost a dear childhood friend and a much beloved pet cat among other things. I felt I was “shoved out of the light” just as this pastor speaks about. The further I read in John’s gospel, the more I found myself moving back towards that light. That’s the honest to God truth and the best way I know to explain what reading and studying this Gospel was like for me.
In Chapter 9 of The Gospel of John, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. The disciples ask Jesus, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?” Jesus tells them it was neither. It wasn’t his sins and it wasn’t his parents’ sin. Jesus goes on to explain to the disciples that when life doesn’t make any sense, God is still at work in our lives.
God created the universe and everything in it. He created the sky, the moon, the sun, the stars, the land, the seas, the animals, the plants, and man and woman. And when He was done, He was very pleased. When He was all done, He said, “It is good.”
There was perfect order to God’s creation and there was harmony.
But then sin entered and that sin and rebellion drove a wedge between us and God and it messed up God’s created order.
We live in a very broken world, and that is why tragedies, pain, and suffering happen to us. Our world doesn’t work properly and is broken because we as a human race have decided to take things in our own hands and do things our own way. We rebel. God doesn’t like it anymore than we do. Every person on this earth will perish one day. The pastor used as an example that all of us are walking one step closer to the cliff of our mortality. Everyday we get closer to the edge of that cliff and many of us are walking in a fog, meaning we are oblivious that we will eventually get to the end. We have the mindset that we will always have more days on this earth. But in truth, none of us are promised a tomorrow. Nobody envisions dying young. Most people imagine living to a ripe old age and dying peacefully in their sleep surrounded by loved ones. But it doesn’t always happen like that. Take my friend Laurie for example. She got up one day, kissed her husband goodbye as she always did before they both went off to work. She got off work, went to the grocery store, then while on her way home, ran off the road and hit a tree and was killed. And just like that, her days were over. I had last seen her 3 weeks before her death and the last thing she said to me was, “Gail, let’s meet for lunch one day soon.” My reply? “Okay, we’ll do that!” She got in her car and left and it was the last time I would ever see her alive. I remember that day feeling an urge to hug her as she turned to get into her car (probably a prompt from the Holy Spirit) but for some reason I didn’t act on that urge and I will live the rest of my lifelong days regretting that and wondering why I didn’t hug my friend. And we never did meet for that lunch. I regret that too.
Sometimes things happen in life that make the fog lift a little and we begin to see the edge of our cliff a little more clearly. It might be a cancer diagnosis that makes us see through the fog. It might be the death of a loved one (Laurie’s death sure lifted the fog for me), or it might be a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake or tsunami. We’ve all experienced a global pandemic for about a year now, and I think that pandemic has helped lift the fog for a great many people, both young and old.
Jesus basically tells us in John 9 to stay in the light because we never know when our day will come.
You’ve heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You’ve probably asked it yourself. I sure have. The pastor explains that the unexamined premise behind this question is the assumption that God owes us all a comfortable life. But he doesn’t. And that’s a hard truth to hear.
Sometimes we place certain idols at the center of our lives where God should be. These idols might be our spouses, our children, our careers, our money, or our health. These things all make inferior gods but we’ve placed them in the very center of our lives and we feel God “owes” them to us. They’re false idols. If these things get taken away from us unexpectedly, then our world falls apart and we become despondent. We replace God with these false idols by putting them at the center of our lives, where God should be. We feel God owes them to us but he doesn’t. They’re blessings in our lives. I must admit, I felt so convicted when I came to this part in the bible study. I am guilty of putting my husband and kids at the center of my life where God should be. Most of my prayers are prayers to protect them from harm and to keep them safe. I’m guilty of laying in bed and worrying about their safety and especially about their safety in an automobile. Maybe that’s due to the fact that I’ve had two very close friends who have died in traumatic car crashes from hitting trees and I worry about it happening again to someone I love. I tell myself I’m not so sure I could survive if they were to perish in that way. If we build our whole world around these false idols, then we are susceptible to despair if they are taken from us by death or estrangement.
God is who we should have at the center of our lives, not false idols.
Romans 3 says, “Nobody is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks God, no
one is good, not even one.”
Many people ask themselves after a tragedy if God causes bad things to happen to us as a way of punishing us for our sins. God is not up in Heaven giving out pay-back for each of our individual sins. He’s not up there on any particular day saying, “Well, okay, let’s see… Gail has sinned and messed up four times today, so okay, I’m going to cause a big ole sinkhole to form in her yard, then I’m going to have her trip and fall down the basement steps, and I’m going to cause her good friend to crash into a tree, and then, oh, yes, I’ll cause her cat to die from cancer, and that should even us up!” It just doesn’t work that way!
To think that, is to misunderstand the true meaning of the Gospel.
The Gospel says that all of our punishment fell upon Jesus on the cross. All. of. it. Yes, there is pain and suffering in the world, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about our pain and suffering. God doesn’t punish us for our sins through personal pain and suffering because Jesus already paid for our sins on the cross. We want God to remove our pain and suffering and we often pray for him to do this very thing, when what we should be praying for is for him to walk with us through it.
God will always do what is right even though it might not make sense to us. His ways are not our ways. He will always make things right because He is a just and righteous God.
God desires to refine our hearts and to prepare our hearts to live with him for a life of eternity with the holy God. He’s more interested in refining our character for eternity with Him than He is in preventing us from having a life free of pain. He’s refining us and removing our impurities.
Satan will always disillusion us by trying to tell us that God doesn’t care. Don’t buy into that lie. We’re all the casualties of our sins but God says He will make it right. And He will. There will be pain and suffering in our lives but God will walk us through it. He will never leave us.
It’s been almost eight years since I lost my friend in that tragic car crash. Time has helped to heal me somewhat and I no longer feel anger towards God over her death. I guess you can say I’ve come to accept it. God has never left my side throughout my grief. He’s continued to walk by my side and the times I needed him to carry me, he did. A part of me will still always wonder WHY she hit that tree but I don’t dwell on that like I used to because I know it doesn’t matter. I focus on the happy memories I have of her and the blessings her friendship brought to my life and I feel very thankful for those blessings and fondest of memories. I know deep in my heart that God didn’t take her a minute too soon or a minute too late. It was all part of his perfect timing.