Pain in Tuscon
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night.
The very public pain inflicted by one disturbed individual on so many in Tucson this past week is another opportunity to question the goodness of God and the nature of life in a world which God created and sustains. Most often the questioner is an atheist, a skeptic, a seeker, or one described in the Bible as an infant “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Eph. 4:14) But then our observation and experience tells us that doubt is not unknown to those who do believe in the loving-kindness, justice, and goodness of God; the living God who is there. When pain and anguish for any reason pierces the threshold of our own dwelling, doubt follows, fighting for a foothold in the heart. It is not so much the fact that the Bible has withheld information from us that this world would be anything other than a spiritual and physical battlefield saturated with death, destruction, wounding; ambushes, retreats, and defeats sprinkled among the triumphs. It is more that we believed promises of protection, prosperity, blessing, and peace with our own “understanding of what it should look like for me and mine despite a fallen world. When our understanding is shaken by the entrance of pain, doubt will often rear its ugly head. It is not that God’s promises are not effectual for us in this life; we could not live without them, nor even see our way to heaven. But they must be viewed and understood in light of the purpose of this life and the ultimate goal of eternity.
In the early 1980’s a journalist asked the novelist Saul Bellow this question: “Mr. Bellow, you are a writer, and we are writers. What’s the difference between us? Bellow quickly answered, “As journalists, you are concerned with news of the day. As a novelist, I am concerned with news of eternity. I am afraid we are too much drawn to living life in the nature of the journalists. We see our life as “news of the day, not with the perspective of “news of eternity. People who cannot hear musical pitch and then recreate the same sound are sometimes called tone deaf. That is partially me. Many believers because of our sinful nature are too prone to be God-deaf or God’s Word-deaf and in the critical moment cannot remember His words. We too often prove with our thoughts, words, and actions that we do not know His Word nor see life through its lens. The promises of God for all practical purposes are sought after and valued for “the day, not “eternity. Abraham, the “father of what it means to live by faith, did not put his stake in this world, but was “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11: 9-10) If we live any differently, we will be rudely awakened when we discover the truth; “this world is not my home.
The one who lives as though this world is his home and the home of his treasure, will be blown around by every wind of tragedy, devastation, and sudden cataclysm that rocks his life, and will question “Why did God let this happen? Well, God did let it happen and in other cases brought it to pass, always with the perspective of eternity. He is well acquainted with pain and tragedy, suffering and tears, massacre and death, accidents and planned terror; He knows it not just because He is omniscient, but because He lived it in the flesh. God in the person of Jesus Christ was tempted and tested in every way that we are, yet without sin. In fact, He was crushed for our sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is more than able to empathize with your circumstance, no matter the immediate source of your anguish and doubt.
There is an ordained time for this fallen world and there is an ordained time for your life. This is not heaven and was never intended to be. It is a spiritual and physical battlefield in which your pathway is now being forged leading to one of two destinations: heaven or hell. We may not fully grasp the plan and purposes of God in building faith in us, but that is what trust in Him is all about.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
(1st verse of African-American Spiritual of unknown author or date)
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