One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that God Almighty has a plan for our lives, a plan that surpasses all our expectations and earthly ideas of good. His plan is better is than our plan, we claim to believe.
The challenge with this belief, however, is that “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” So God allows us to have experiences that may make no sense in our line of thinking. God may allow a person to be tortured, raped, murdered, or experience chronic and devastating loss, and still claim that “all things work together for good for those who love Him and called according to His purpose.” God allows some to be greatly blessed in this life in a material way, while others (who He loves equally) rely daily on Him for bread and basic survival. Some are allowed to have large, healthy families, while others suffer due to infertility or the deaths of their children. Some live in peace throughout their lives, while others are constantly under the threat of war. But God makes the outrageous claim that His love is greater than “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.”
Our faith in God calls us to believe past our circumstances, good or bad, and see the perfect love of the heart of God, the perfect love that “casts out all fear.” Our faith calls us to believe that one day, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” and that all tears and sadness and death will be done, and what will be left for the faithful will be a heavenly inheritance in Jesus, causing us to be equal heirs with him in God’s mighty blessings of love into eternity. This won’t happen through our goodness, but His. Jesus will replace our frailty and mortality with eternal life everlasting. Bad will disappear, and only goodness, joy, and light will remain.
To the skeptical nonbeliever, this kind of faith seems like a worthless endeavor. After all, if access to the almighty god of the universe doesn’t guarantee safety in this life, then what is the point? If you can look up to the heavens and beg and cry out for things from god, and he, still claiming to love you, can answer, “no,” then what kind of god can you really be serving?
Indeed, if God was not real, we would truly be fools among men. We would be sheep to the slaughter, because our beliefs would lead us continually into ruin. The heroes of our faith died, empty-handed, at the hands of the very people to whom they were trying to reach out.
If God was not real, Christianity would have died out with its martyrs. We would be a footnote in history, because no one would have followed these ridiculous leaders for long.
Instead, something else happened entirely. Something miraculous. For every martyr killed, the people around them started believing. Instead of despair, the sufferers experienced joy, hope, and an increase, not a decrease, in faith. Strangely enough, the message of Jesus Christ flourishes, not reduces, in times of persecution. When governments try to squelch it, it goes underground and grows there. It cannot be killed, and when antichrists try, their very efforts to reduce it are what help it grow the strongest. The martyr’s give us increased faith and hope in our heavenly inheritance, “where moth and rust cannot destroy.”
It is no coincidence that God so often uses the vehicle of death and destruction to drive home His message. After all, Jesus’s death was what allowed his resurrection. The cross should have been the end of the story. Instead, it was just the beginning of his heavenly reign. So we too grow closest to Him and gain His power to influence the world when we also suffer to the point of death. We, too, like Christians before us, sing “Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?”
It confounds conventional logic. In our story, we start off dead in our sin and end up alive in Christ! We are oppo-zombies!
So what is the point of my ramblings today about the mysteries of God’s goodness and love, and how He uses death and destruction to create live and healing in this sort of unconventional reverse ordering of the universe?
Well, I suppose these truths are on my mind because recently, I found out I am facing a crossroads in my career. It was not a crossroads I chose, it is something that is happening to me. If you have read through my blog, you will see that in the past, I had some very profound and painful professional experiences. I went through a lot of turmoil and soul searching, and had to grow up quite a bit regarding what I expected from the industry I’m in and from myself. I prayed through a difficult, 5 year season and God’s answer to me (which did not feel very loving!) during that season was “I will move you when I move you, and no sooner.” At the end of the 5 year season, I made some professional changes that greatly increased the quality of my life. Opportunities came my way that allowed us (my family and I) to prosper. I looked no further than when I was, because I was happy and my situation met all my expectations. God finally gave me a place to settle in and get comfortable.
And now, after two years, God is taking it away. It’s happening fast and definitively. I have new opportunities on the horizon, but it has been challenging for me to muster up any energy for them. I am having trouble letting go of the good that God put in my life. In my mind’s eye, I see the life I lead, a bright, colorful ball, sitting in my hand- I want to squeeze it tight, but I feel it changing form and dissolving and lifting up out of my grasp. I can’t have it back, no matter what. It’s slipping away.
So, I am faced with a choice. I can cling to that dissolving ball and try to clutch at it and hold onto it and look back at it and even be frustrated and angry at God for taking it away and go inward. Or, I can relax, open my hand, let it slip out completely, and keep my hand open for the new life he wants to place in it. This requires believing that what God has next for me is even better. I am letting go of the good to embrace the great. I am walking in faith that no matter what shape the next season of my life takes, it’s the best shape it can be. It’s the best life I could lead, because it’s the one given to me by God.
The cry of my heart must be, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
And by God’s grace, this will be my prayer. For “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it,” and “no temptation has seized you except what it common to man.” My tiny trial and uncertainty of the future is simply a tiny fleck of sand washing up on the shores of heaven. In this I take great comfort.
“Oh, Father, who is in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”