The Story

In the beginning was a Story.
Story
At first, the Story existed only in the form of an Idea. Then the Author began to tell the Story little by little, within the confines of time.
Creation
As the Story unfolded, there emerged within smaller shadow-Stories, told over shorter spans of time.
These smaller shadow-Stories reflected the same greater Story, yet were given the gift of being allowed to help their Author to write their Story. The shadow-Stories were allowed to choose their own responses to whatever occurred to them while they existed within the greater Story.
Some of the shadow-Stories chose to reflect the greater Story more perfectly than others, to become a more complete shadow, yet all contained the great Story within themselves to some degree.
Stealing
Helping
Many of the smaller shadow-Stories authored even smaller echoes of the greater Story. These echo-Stories were smaller in size, and not all of their authors were aware of their own Author, yet many of the echo-Stories became even more filled with power than were their authors.
The echo-Stories were told to many of the shadow-Stories and, because they were filled with power, were able to stir within the shadow-Stories the Idea that had existed in the beginning.
In the middle of the greater Story, the Author placed Himself.
Christ
He authored Himself to be one of the shadow-Stories, yet He was the most perfect reflection of the great Story. Within this smaller Author-Story was the complete Idea, perfectly written out for all to read.
The smaller Author-Story was the Idea in Word, the most perfect of all the Stories. The other shadow-Stories could look to Him and discover the sort of Story they were written to be.
Within the smaller Author-Story, the other shadow-Stories are able to catch a glimpse of the end of the greater Story. In catching a glimpse of the end, the shadow-Stories are enabled to help write their own Story more perfectly.
For while they do not yet know what each piece of the great Story will bring, the shadow-Stories can know what the end of the Story will bring.
And the wisest of the shadow-Stories will help to write their own Story with the end of the greater Story in mind.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
“I see,” she said.  “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door!  I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”  “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”  ~ The Last Battle 
The Last Battle

Art credits: The Creation by James Tissot; Christ with Martha and Mary by Henryk Siemiradzki

Goodness and Freedom

Is there such a thing as good?
Fall Colors
Light through Crocus
Not the sort of good that is only good because it results in some desired, practical outcome, but the sort of good that is good in itself.  Inherently good, intrinsically good.
Wildflowers
Fall leaf
It would be arrogant to think that such a question could be fully addressed in this small place, but perhaps this space is sufficiently large at least to begin the wonderings.
This is a question containing quite a breadth of meaning, so it is worthwhile to ask it again: is there anything that is good in itself, apart from any practical value it might have?
What would it look like if the answer was no? What would our world look like if we believed that there was nothing that was good apart from its practical value? (I hasten to insert, however, that belief of some truth is not quite the same as truth itself.)
If there is no such thing as good, then that which is good becomes the same as whatever thing that I want.
Fighting
When all that says “It is good” has been debunked, what says “I want” remains. ~ C.S. Lewis in Abolition of Man
If good is the same as I want, then we become nothing but bundles of desires chasing after what will satisfy.

American Flag

Freedom.
We in the United States love the idea of freedom, yet even that idea has changed over the years.
Freedom, for most of the time that the major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) have existed, meant the freedom to choose what is good; it involved responsibility and even the idea of self-denial.
If you asked most Westerners today, even those belonging to Christ, freedom means being able to do what pleases me.  It means doing whatever I want.
Trying to steal the scooter
Sword fighting
Trying to steal the trike
Those belonging to Christ might add “as long as I do not hurt others”.
Yet even that caveat seems to apply only to short-term harm and not to anything long-term such as caring for our earth and being committed to justice.
Look at our world and see the belief that there is nothing that is purely good, that freedom means the ability to follow my own desires.
Look at Christ, however, and see that if good does exist than freedom is the freedom to choose that good rather than being controlled by what is not good.  Freedom means responsibility and self-denial.  If there are things that are purely good, than those things should always be chosen for themselves and not for any practical value they might confer.
Sunset over pond
Sunset
Autumn tree
Lily
Many of those who pursue freedom are not truly free at all.  They are controlled by their own passions and desires, forced to spend their lives chasing after what will satisfy, yet never finding it.
Those who freely choose to be controlled by Christ, however, are choosing to control their desires and to harness their passions in pursuit of that which is good.  They will be satisfied.
Once again, Christ turns the wisdom of this world upside down and gives the good gift of true freedom to those who voluntarily offer their own freedom to Him.
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

For My Friend

I lost a friend this week.
steph
Showers.Nursery 105
She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.
She has suffered for too many years, enduring pain and sorrow, kidney transplants and countless hours of dialysis. Ever since her second transplant failed, her agonies had seemed even worse.
Yet through it all, her heart remained fully God’s. She was selfless, compassionate towards others while she was the one in pain. Even when the limitations of her body sent her emotions spiraling, she still knew and would declare unequivocally that emotions can play you false and that Love was true regardless of how you feel.
When I got the word that God had taken her home, my first emotion was relief. Relief on her behalf that she is finally free at last. Free from her physical body that so limited her spirit.
Yet as I think about this initial reaction of mine, I wonder why I don’t feel this way with everyone.  Surely, as Paul said, to depart and be with Christ is better by far, so why did I feel such sadness when Kristina died, when my Papa died?
Sewell_118
Analise, Natalie and Papa
Surely I don’t want to bring anyone back here to this earth, to this broken world. Surely I don’t want to carry them away from God, away from being free from pain and sorrow.
I search my own heart and finally realize that what I really want is to join them.
I am not sad that they are not here, rather I am jealous that I am not there.
It is not a desire for everyone to stay here with me but a longing for everyone here to be there. With God.
What I really want is for God to come back now. I want Him to make everything right again. Perfect. New.
The Church often gives confusing messages when it comes to death.
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We seem to bounce back and forth between the medical view that death is an enemy to be conquered by medical technology and the Ars moriendi view that death is a friend to be embraced because it moves us from the hated physical into the desired spiritual.
It seems to me, rather, that the Christian view, the view that comes from watching how Jesus Himself died, is that death is an enemy, but one that has already been defeated.
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This allows for the reality of the sadness that we all feel when someone we love dies and at the same time acknowledges our hope for the future, our hope in the power of Jesus’ resurrection and in His grace that will let us share in that resurrection…that physical resurrection.
I am saddened by death. I hate death’s power to destroy and bring loss.
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And I long for the day when God will make our world and our bodies new again, perfect and free from pain, sorrow, and death.
Luca_Giordano_-_Resurrection_-_WGA09020
And so, as I mourn the loss of my friend, I embrace my weeping.
I weep for myself, for my brokenness and for the years in which she will not play a part in my story, and I weep with a profound yearning for Someday when all of our stories will finally reach
Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Last Battle

Art credits: The Resurrection painting by Luca Giordano; final quote and illustration from The Last Battle written by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes

A Lasting Character

I was writing last week about discipleship, about how we form our character. N.T. Wright says that we form our character by a long, slow change of deep, heart-level habits. Hard work up front to make small deliberate choices. These choices feel awkward and unnatural at first, but they allow the Holy Spirit to form our character.  This week, I want to write about why our character matters so much. 


Of course, if you believe that after we die is that we leave this earth and rest and relax with Jesus for all of eternity, then there is not much reason to develop our character. If, however, you believe (as I believe the Bible teaches) that God will give creation a complete makeover so that it is filled with the glory of God and that we will be given new bodies to live with delight and power in God’s new world, well, then the development of our character becomes very important indeed.


Jesus talks often of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, implying that it is already here. That the transformation of our world and of ourselves has already begun in Jesus! This is huge. This is why what I do, what my character is, matters: because my character, the virtues that I practice and choose, every moment of every day, is permanent. It does not only last for this life, but for all of eternity. 

Let me repeat the C.S. Lewis quote from last week:

every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.

We are preparing ourselves for the day we become truly human.

As I have written about before, here and here, our ultimate goal is a dual one: to be stewards of God’s rule and care of creation and to reflect creation’s praise and worship back to God. This is achieved by having a character of holiness brought about by the Holy Spirit and our choices (Romans 8.12-17) and by prayer, as the Spirit helps us intercede for the whole world (Romans 8.26-27). 




We begin this now, and it is the permanence of virtue, lasting not just for this age but into the age to come, that makes character worthwhile to work at. These virtues will last: In I Corinthians 13 it says:

…where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Some things will not last, but others will. 

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~ I Corinthians 15.58

This is why working at forming our character, working at developing virtues, is worthwhile. Because this is what will last. This is what prepares us for all of eternity.

Virtue is…part of the life of the future breaking in to the present. That is why it is both hard and glorious work. ~ N.T. Wright

One last reason why building our character is so important: When the Christian community, the Church, is truly striving after virtues (faith, hope and love) and working hard to produce fruit of the Spirit, it has a huge apologetic value. It shows the watching world a new way of being human. A Church that looks like this is a missionary body which puts forward the purpose of God to the world. 



Discipleship is hard. It is well worth the effort and sacrifice! So I will try to keep making those small, daily choices, those choices that now seem so awkward and false. Will you keep going too? It will get easier.


And someday, who knows? You might be mistaken for a native of God’s kingdom.


art credit: New Earth photograph by “King David”

Character for God’s Country

Discipleship is hard.



Sometimes I think that it should be easier. If the Holy Spirit was truly in control of my heart, I would be much more able to obey Jesus. If the Holy Spirit had changed my heart, I should want to live by God’s will at all times. It should be easy. Sometimes, because it isn’t easy when I think that it should be, I pretend. I put on a holy face and pretend that obeying is easy.



Sometimes it is difficult to know what to do as a Christ-follower. What, exactly, is it that we are supposed to do between our decision to follow Jesus and our death when we go to live with Him? Is it only that we are supposed to walk around telling people about Him? 

These are hard things. Too many Christ-followers, too many churches struggle with these ideas.




Recently, as I have been thinking about these sorts of things, I have been reading After You Believe by N.T. Wright. He is writing about the formation of character, what that means and how it is formed, and is also writing about how forming our character is the answer to many of my thoughts.

Wright describes our moral transformation as “a long, slow change of deep, heart-level habits”. Hard work up front to make small deliberate choices. These choices feel awkward and unnatural at first, but they allow the Holy Spirit to form our character.




This only follows what humanity seems to have always known, from Aristotle to modern neuroscience. That the very small, daily choices that you make forms who you are, it physically changes your brain. Some think that if they act before they “mean it”, they are being hypocritical. Rather, as we struggle to follow Christ, authenticity will follow. If you wait to practice virtue, to make character-choices, until you mean it, you will wait a very long time and will mess up a lot of lives in the process. 




Wright compares this idea of character formation to learning a second language. At first, it is awkward, uncomfortable, unnatural. Yet the more you work at it, the more you practice, the easier it gets. The goal? To be at home in the place where that language is spoken, to enable you to function here and now as a competent citizen of that country. The biggest compliment you could receive is to be mistaken for a native.




Isn’t that what we want? To be at home in a world that has been made perfect, that has been filled with the glory of God? To be mistaken for a native of God’s kingdom?

The habits of character is all about learning in advance the language of God’s new world. C.S. Lewis says that 

every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.

To be clear, the Bible is emphatic that we cannot form a Christ-like character on our own. We cannot work hard enough and practice long enough in our own strength to be able to become perfect. Instead, we are like members of a really awful choir. When we welcome God as our new choir director, we suddenly can hear our out of tune singing and ragged rhythms and we find a new desire to learn how to sing in tune. We can’t sing in tune immediately, simply because we have a new choir director, but the Holy Spirit gives us direction and guidance to help us acquire the right habits to replace the wrong ones. 

                                  


None of this would even be possible without the death of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us. We wouldn’t have even known that we sang horribly had we not accepted the rescuing grace of our Director.

Why, though? Why does this all matter so much? I think I’ll leave that until next week. 


art credit: bust of Aristotle, original by Lysippos; Cantoria by Luca della Robbia

Catch!

“Catch, Mommy!”



whizz! The little, Nerf football comes whirling a bit too close to my head, but I somehow manage to snag it.

“Good throw, Baby!”



My eldest loves to play catch with me. When I throw something that she is not able to catch, however, she usually informs me, “Mommy, you didn’t throw that very well”.



I was feeling a little too irritated by this yesterday when God gently reminded me that this is what I do to Him.

When something happens during my day that doesn’t suit me, I say “God, You didn’t do that very well.”



When I look at myself in the mirror and notice the bags under my eyes, the blemish on my face, or the stretch marks on my stomach, I say “God, You didn’t make this very well.”



How ridiculously arrogant I am!

Why can I not see that God does everything perfectly? Why can I not trust that all that He makes is beautiful?

Perhaps for the same reason that my eldest can’t tell that I am throwing the ball perfectly…well, decently at least.



I am too focused on myself to be able to see God for Who He is.

When I am completely honest with myself, I am selfish and arrogant. I truly wish that God would conform to my standards of beauty and goodness. I desire for my body, my family, my life to all look a certain way.

When I do this, however, I settle for too little, my desires, as C.S. Lewis puts it in The Weight of Glory, are too weak:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

God, please teach me to look at You instead of at myself. Please help me to keep my eyes focused You instead of at the things and people around me. Help me to not be satisfied with my own weak desires for mud pies but to crave more of You instead.

Perhaps then I can better learn how to catch what God gently tosses my way.

Joy and Gratitude, Sorrow and Longing

Easter.


Spring.


New life.



On Easter morning, my eldest ran into the living room where we had left Jesus on the cross the night before, eyes wide with hope of resurrection. “Daddy, look! Jesus left us flowers that God made!”



Hope and joy at the end of sorrow and pain. This is Easter.

On Easter morning, gathered with our Family, we sing

The greatest day in history

Death is beaten, You have rescued me

Sing it out, Jesus is alive!

Endless joy, perfect peace, 

Earthly pain finally will cease

Celebrate Jesus is alive!

Oh, happy day, happy day…

My heart swells and overflows with emotions that at first glance seem to be at odds. For some time now, I often feel both joy and gratitude, sorrow and longing. 



On Easter morning, the joy is easy. Jesus is alive!

Sorrow and longing, though, those are things that are more difficult. Yet they are real and, although hard, they are what should be.

My sorrow is over our first Easter without Kristina



As we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and as our family celebrates a new season of birth from my youngest brother and his wife, we miss Kristina with a physical ache. As I plan a baby shower, I can’t help but think of how Kristina would have been at her finest, crafting beautiful invitations by hand. 

We acknowledge that all of this, this pain and death and sadness, is not how it was supposed to be. None of this existed before we rebelled against God. 



And so I sorrow.

My longing is for that day of redemption and transformation. The day when earthly pain will cease and death will be banished for all time. I desperately wish to be gathered into Jesus’ arms and told that all is now well. 



And so I long.

Sorrow and longing. At second thought, they are what we should feel. After all,

Our kind, heavenly Father has provided many wonderful inns for us along our journey, but He takes special care to see that we never mistake any of them for home. ~ C.S. Lewis

May I return for a moment to gratitude?

On Easter morning, as we worshiped together, we sang

You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.

My heart cries out “Why?”

Why do You love me that much? 



You went to the cross to allow me to become a daughter of God. Wasn’t that more than enough? Why would You now also work so very hard to make beautiful things out of the dust that I am? Why would You pour so much into molding me into someone who looks like You?

There is much deep theology in this. Perhaps I will explore these things later.

For now, I will fall on my knees in gratitude for such deep love.



On Easter morning and beyond, I will let my heart swell with sorrow and longing, joy and gratitude, knowing that Jesus is alive.


art credit: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by Benjamin West; heaven picture; cross picture by Asta Rastauskiene

What Do You Want?

I love to read.



Many of my family and friends have funny stories of me reading books in odd places while I was growing up. 

And maybe a few stories from after I had grown up.

 

I love words and books. Fiction and non-fiction, modern mystery and classic literature, books about God and books about art and books about technology and books about history and books about…



The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote “It’s the words that sing, they soar and descend…I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down.”

This is me.

I’ve been discovering lately, though, that this is not always a good thing.

As much good as can come from reading, my books can also take me away from God.

I read to learn but I also read to relax, to be refreshed, to be fulfilled.

Don’t fret, my fellow bibliophiles. I’m not about to tell you to burn all of your books in the name of Jesus.



The trouble comes when I begin to think that I need my books, that I deserve my time to read…and then get angry with whoever stands in the way of that.

When I turn to books to satisfy myself, to fill myself up, when I begin to have arguments with myself over whether to spend time with God or go read my books, that is when my warning lights begin to flash.




When I desire my books more than I desire God, then my books have become an idol.

I know that I am not alone in this. We all have something that tries to take the place of God. 

What is it that you cling to? A parent, child or friend? Food or drink? Money, your home, a car, new clothes?

It is hard to understand why clinging to good things can be bad. How could my love for my child possibly be a bad thing? 

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, when talking about Mother-love, says this 

No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

Isn’t that true about anything here on this earth, that only in their relation to God are they holy or unholy?



My love for reading can be holy or unholy depending on its relation to God.

Why is it that we think we need something other than God to fill us up, to make us satisfied?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~ Psalm 42

Sometimes we feel empty because we are clinging to something other than God. 

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Sometimes we have to let go before God can fill us up.

Letting go is scary. It takes courage, trust.

Can I tell you something? Something that I know beyond a doubt?

God will not let you down.  He really is enough.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

You will not feel a lack of anything when you are truly desiring God above all else in your life. His love, His mercy, His company, His spirit…He is our breath, our life, our food, our drink.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

We don’t need other people, we don’t need other things. God is gracious and gives us people and things to surround us, but we don’t need them to be satisfied or content, we don’t need them to give us comfort or protection.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 

God is enough.

Ask Him to help you search your heart. What is it that you desire more than God? 

Ask Him to help you to desire Him above all else. Out of His infinite grace, that is a prayer that He will always answer!

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

photo credit for final photo: SP Veres

Follow the Signs

May we continue our conversation from last week?


Reality is hard.

Our family has become steeped in pain and loss.


Many others suffer far greater tragedies.

Reconciling the hurt with the heart of God is hard.

It is tempting to add a veneer of softness, to speak in cliches that turn raw, ripped-open pain into a lie.

Sometimes this is even encouraged among those of us who follow Christ.

Yet to do this denies that we are real, that our hearts can be ripped in two, that our pain and loss can suffocate and almost overwhelm us.


To do this denies that Christ is real, that His body and heart were also ripped apart.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All through the Bible, God seems to not place much importance at all on whether we are free from pain or suffering. 

Abel. Abraham. Joseph. Moses. Uriah the prophet. John the BaptistJesus’ cousin. All of the apostles…Jesus’ closest friends.

Understanding why Kristina had to die is hard.


I might never know the reason.

God’s purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is…Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)

Can I trust in the heart of God?



In C.S. Lewis’ story of Narnia, The Silver Chair, two children (Jill and Scrubb) and one Marsh-wiggle (Puddleglum) are given by Aslan (the Christ-figure) four signs with which to find the lost prince of Narnia. They completely muff the first three signs which leads to their imprisonment with a madman who is chained to (you guessed it!) a silver chair. The fourth and last sign is that someone “will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan”. The madman entreats the three travelers to free him, which is where I will pick up our story:

“Once and for all,” said the prisoner, “I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you –” 

“Oh!” said the three travelers as though they had been hurt. “It’s the sign,” said Puddleglum. “It was the words of the sign,” said Scrubb more cautiously. “Oh, what are we to do?” said Jill.


It was a dreadful question. What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone – even a lunatic – who asked it in his name? … They had muffed three already; they daren’t muff the fourth.


“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.


“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.


“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.


“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell (Jill) what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”

That doesn’t let us off following the sign.

We aren’t guaranteed that anything here on earth will turn out okay. I wish we did have that promise. 

Instead, if we have nothing else (and we do have so much else!), if we can turn to and trust nothing else, we have the cross.

After his wife of only four years had died of cancer, C. S. Lewis said 

If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her…But is it ever allowed? It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, “You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared.”

And so I find that perhaps, after all, it does not matter why. It does not matter from whence came the hard thing. 


If God ever had to prove anything, at the cross He proved His love, His promise to work for the best of all He created.

It is not a bad thing to seek for the why’s and how’s and from where’s. God is able to handle our questions, our fears.

Yet if we never get any answers, if we never know the reasons, if we never understand, we who have chosen to follow Christ, who have allowed Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we who have embraced His sacrifice of love…

We aren’t let off following the signs. 

Art Credits: Photograph of Cross wooden statue by Asta Rastauskiene
; Marsh-wiggle picture (I was not able to find the original); Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses  

Thanks also to my wonderful Dad who gave me some of the ideas in this essay.

This is Hard.

Grief is hard.

While the rest of us can return to our lives and, for at least a few hours, forget, my brother is faced with his new reality every moment of every day.



The loss of his beloved, now a single daddy…

Reality is hard.

I want to know God and part of knowing Him must involve reconciling what I see around me to what I know of Him through His Words.



The seeking results in ideas and wonderings that reverberate through my heart.

You have walked with me through many of my searchings in the darkness. Will you join me for a few more?

Does God send suffering? Does He send pain?

Some would recoil at the idea. 

But why? We see pain result in good all the time in our world. Go to any hospital and look around.

I talk with my youngest brother about this.



He of the scientific bent points out that many things that sometimes have “tragic” results are very important to the existence of the earth, even to our own existence: without wildfires, ecosystems would collapse; without seismic and volcanic activity, our earth could not refresh itself; hurricanes aid island ecosytems; the gene mutations that sometimes produce cancer prevent us from all being clones.

The Bible seems to suggest that God does, at least sometimes, send bad things:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life…But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. ~ II Corinthians 1

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” ~ John 9

Perhaps, though, whether or not He sends them doesn’t matter. 

Bad things happen.


If God doesn’t send them, He certainly has the power to stop them. Yet He chooses to allow them to happen.

Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t. Either way, we’re for it. (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)

Either way we are left trying to reconcile these things with the God that we know to be good.

We are left trying to reconcile the hurt with His heart.

There are tears everywhere and God catches them, puts them into His bottle.

God is always good and we are always loved. Loved enough to be shaped into goodness of Christ Himself. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)

This reconciliation is hard.

How have you done this? How have you reconciled these hard things with the character of our God?

Will you join me next week as I search through these ideas even more?