On suffering…

Probably one of the biggest struggles In a life of faith has to do with why God allows suffering. Some ask the question this way: why do bad things happen to good people?

This year at Catalyst, Matt Chandler took this subject on. It is a powerful thing to hear a man who has battled brain cancer speak on suffering. He knows of what he speaks.

One of the theories – that doesn’t solve the problem of suffering, but at least gives an understanding of the role of suffering in the life of faith – is that God uses our suffering to teach us what we could not otherwise learn. It is through that lens that Matt Chandler spoke.

He said, “It is not unloving of God to wound you now so that you might have eternity with him. It IS unloving of God to save you from pain now and allow you to spend eternity apart from him.”

If what is at stake is eternity spent with God, then suffering becomes less of a horror. I would rather walk through the valley now and know that I am a citizen of Heaven, and when I die eternity in the presence of a loving God awaits me, than avoid suffering now and lose out on eternity with God.

Matt Chandler also said this: “God is going to do surgery to cut out some of what is killing us that we don’t even know is killing us…Jesus does not drive an ambulance, he is not going to show up when it is already too late.”

I found this profoundly comforting.

So let me leave you with this quote from the Apostle Paul, who knew a little bit about suffering:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Romans 8:18

A little phrase…

Catalyst is a big conference. Thirteen thousand attendees. Twenty countries represented. I lost count of the number of laptops in the sound pit.

In just two days a massive amount of information is thrown at those of us who have gathered to take it in. One of my friends calls it “drinking from the fire hose” and he’s not wrong. There is so much to take in, that it is impossible to catch it all.

But even in the midst of all of that, each time I am there, I find I am struck by one little phrase that one of the speakers throws out. Often it’s not the main point of their talk. It’s just something that, for one reason or another rings in my ears and rolls around in my brain.

This year that little phrase comes from Matt Chandler. He said, “God works in the mess.”

And I thought – Thank God! Because life IS messy. It is unpredictable. None of us know what tomorrow will bring.

And that might be overwhelming.

Except that God works in the mess. And that means, no matter how messy the day, or the conversation or the meeting or the issue, God is at work in it.

David wrote these words in the midst of being hunted and living in caves to keep his enemies from finding him:

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands
Psalm 31:14-15a

He wrote this, I believe, because he understood this little phrase: God works in the mess.

In my mailbox…

#FMSPhotoaday Sept 4th: In my mailbox:

Sometimes I really hate checking the mailbox. At my house, a whole lot of the time, all I get is advertisements. That’s not fun. I’ve gone to paperless billing on virtually all my accounts, so I rarely get bills in the mail. That’s not NOT fun. What is actually fun is when you receive something nice in the mail. I shop online (when there is a good coupon or something I need that I can buy for cheap on eBay), so once every six or eight weeks so something that I ordered suddenly appears in the mail.

Those days are always the best mail days. Well, it just so happens there was a good coupon for Old Navy on Friday and that my order arrived in the mail today. A happy surprise on a rather gloomy day.

I think one of the things that I am going to appreciate about this Photoaday project is the way that it is making me think of things that might normally escape my notice. Little things that I need to be thankful for like a great moment between my Dad and my chosen-nephew. Or the clothes that arrived today (most of which actually fit, yippee! The purple jeans will fit in another few weeks, I swear). How blessed am I  that I can click a few buttons and have clothing arrive at my front door a few days later?

I was listening to a Matt Chandler book this summer and he was saying how we ought to go around thankful for everything. Not just the little things like clothing arriving at the front door and the fact that said clothing fits. But the things that none of us ever think about – the fact that our houses didn’t fall down on our heads today, or that we woke up with breath in our lungs, or that all the airplanes didn’t suddenly fall out of the sky. These are things we take for granted, but they are things that show us how good God is (since God is the one who came up with the rules of physics and life and aerodynamics…at least, He’s the one that those of us with faith credit for all that stuff).

That concept stuck with me, and though I won’t for a second pretend I’ve perfected the art of being thankful for the (seemingly) mundane. I will say that I’m working on it.

So let me take a moment to say “Thanks God”. Thanks that I am breathing, and so are the two dogs and a cat that share my house. Thanks for the fact that my parents arrived back to their home safely after driving all over Nova Scotia, Vermont, and Maine for the past three weeks. Thanks for the clothes that arrived at my door today, and the money that paid for them, and the calling that allowed me to earn that money. Thanks. For the big things and the little things and the mundane things. I can’t say it enough. Thanks.