This post is comprised of excerpts from recent speaking notes, edited for submission in Peter Pollock’s One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. The word this week is Future. Visit Peter’s site to read more entries on this topic.
Are you a flipper? When you’re reading a scary or suspenseful story, do you flip ahead to find out what happens? With books, we have this luxury. We can read the ending first, or skip the parts that make us uncomfortable, or if we really don’t like the way things are shaping up, we can toss that book aside and pick up another.
Have you ever wished life could be that way?
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And every person has a story. In one sense, it begins at birth, but really, it began long before that in the heart of the Author. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God writes our stories before we’re born. The whole thing, beginning, middle, and end. We live it, unfolding with day-to-day choices and challenges, but nothing that happens in our lives takes Him by surprise. This is a mystery, yes, but it is also true.
We live in a broken world. Our lives are touched by suffering, disease, betrayal, bereavement, loneliness, and grief. When we find ourselves in the midst of deep pain, our natural response is to ask, “Why?” If God is in control, why doesn’t He fix this mess? Why do good people get sick and die? Why are innocent children abandoned or abused? How could all this apparent chaos be part of His plan?
We live in a broken world, but we live here by the purposeful design of a redeeming God. Matthew chapter 10 tells us that God is so near and knows us so well, He even numbers the hairs on our heads. It also says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” His eye is on the sparrow. We love that image, but I think we inadvertently miss an important aspect of the promise. The verse doesn’t say that sparrows won’t fall. Only that God is there — aware and in control — when they do.
So, what are we to do when our Father wills that hairs do fall from our heads or that sparrows drop from the sky? What do we do when the rug of false security is pulled out from under our feet?
Everyone has a story. You have one, and I do, too. Some of the chapters in my story read like a fairy tale frolic in flowery meadows, and some are like walking barefoot over shards of glass. If it had been up to me, I would have left those painful chapters out, but as I look back over my life, I realize they truly are gifts. Good gifts from a good God who never calls us to suffer without purpose.
If you drop a pebble in water, ripples are set in motion. But let’s say it’s not a pebble. Let’s say it’s a priceless jewel. Something you dearly love. Something irreplaceable. You’ve spent your life trying to protect it, and now, due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s gone. You stare in disbelief at the spot where it went down, a multitude of “if only’s” swirling in your head, wishing you could press rewind or wake up and realize it’s all just a horrible nightmare. But you can’t, and it isn’t. At this point, you have a choice. You can keep staring at the spot where your treasure sank, or you can watch the ripples to see what God is doing.
When we suffer, we have a choice. Mourn our loss or watch the ripples. Yes, we will go through a grief process. God created us, He knows our frame, and He understands that. But we can still choose the “why?” or the “thank You” even in the midst of our grief.
Jesus suffered and died to draw near to each one of us. He rose from the dead to deliver us from death’s power. He sees our hearts, He knows our pain, and He longs to redeem it. We can come exactly as we are to receive His mercy. Indeed, we can’t come any other way. He already knows our stories. He wrote them.
No matter what’s happening in our lives right now, we don’t have to flip ahead to live with joy and peace. And we don’t have to fear the future. Today can be the start of a brand new chapter of trusting the Author’s heart — letting go of the “why?” and living in the “Thank You.”
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
He knows. And that means I don’t have to.