Monday, May 20, 2013

The Magic Band-Aid

"God works in mysterious ways."
"Everything happens for a reason."

     I have really, truly come to dislike these phrases. I am sure that when people use these phrases they are genuinely trying to offer help, support, or comfort. But all I hear is "I don't know how to rationalize this situation into my view of a kind and merciful God so here is a phrase that still makes me sound religious and full of faith." I know, I know that is super harsh (see previous post about needing to work on grace and compassion). But that is my initial reaction. Why do we feel the need to provide an answer to life's pan in a short, easy to remember phrase?

     I started thinking about this for two reasons. First, I have been told these phrases numerous times over the past months by some of my work acquaintances. Second, I am reading through 1 Kings in my Bible reading plan and the events described in chapter 13 really hit me. In this chapter, a man of God (His name isn't given. He is just call a "man of God.") comes to king Jeraboam and gives a prophecy of destruction  He says he was told by God to deliver the message, return to his land a way other than the way he came, and to not eat or drink anything from the land he journeyed to. Then he sets out for Judah a different way than he came. Meanwhile, an "old prophet" (again, no name given) hears what happened and goes to find the man of God. The prophet tells the man of God that the Lord said it would be alright if he came and ate at the prophet's house. After the man of God ate, the prophet says that the man of God will die on his way home because he disobeyed the Lord. Sure enough, a lion kills the man of God on his way home and the old prophet buries and mourns him.


     The old prophet lies and goes seemingly unpunished and the man of God dies for believing him. Where is the justice? How is that fair?

     Then I have to ask myself, "Whose justice am I desiring? Mine or the Lord's?" Obviously, the answer is my own. I want life to be fair as I see it (which would mean that good things would happen to me and bad things would happen to people who wronged me). Thankfully, God's justice is perfect.

     So, again, I have to sit my heart down and remind myself of some Biblical truths.

1. Physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to an individual. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a real and eternal Hell in which those who have not placed their faith in the Messiah will suffer. For those who have placed faith in the Messiah, death is a gift. It is to be immediately present with the Lord and completely removed from sin. Are the prophet and the man of God both in Heaven? Only the Lord can judge their hearts, but physical death is not the worst thing that can happen.

2. God has the right to demand the life of a sinful individual at any point in time. All people are sinful and the payment we deserve is both physical and spiritual death (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23). So God, as the righteous judge, has the right to take my life at any moment because I am sinful. Death is what I deserve. I was not guaranteed 80 years of life and a peaceful death in my sleep. I broke God's law, so I have earned death.

3. God is gracious. Not only was God gracious by providing a way to have eternal life through Jesus Christ, but any time we have on earth is because of God's grace. We don't deserve it. So can I say to God, "You haven't been gracious enough to my sister. She is only 22, so You can't take her." No, I can't.

     So, yes, "God works in mysterious ways" because "who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?" (1 Cor. 2:16). Yes, "Everything happens for a reason" because "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). But I wonder how much comfort the man of God's family would have felt if they had been told one of these trite phrases after their family member had died. Would the have said, "At last!! I understand!" Doubtful. So may we all stop looking for the miraculous one-liner that will solve everything. May I stop trying to find the magic band-aid to give to my sister when she text me because she is upset that she will never get married or have children! I need to learn to genuinely "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2), to "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15), and to allow myself to be vulnerable so that others can assist. Grief is uncomfortable. Grief is difficult. Grief is ugly. But God is a God of comfort. He will redeem the situations I cannot fix.

     So now I have a question for you, how have other people comforted you in the difficult times of your life?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6

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