Monday, May 25, 2009
The Battle to Not Be Offended at God . . .
I am on our local volunteer fire department as both a firefighter and a chaplain. We fight structure fires, respond to vehicle accidents, fight wildland fires which are our largest threat in this area (the picture shows a fire we trained fighting at the Wildland Fire School in 2007), and respond to medical calls. Because I live on the edge of the response area I don't make nearly as many calls as most of the guys on the department, but between pastoring for 9 years, and being on our fire department for 12 years, I have seen and offered counsel for some really hard things.
Last night some guys from the volunteer fire department I am a member of were on a very hard call involving a young child. Things like this---which every human being inevitably comes face to face with---are a tragic, stark, and all to frequent reminder that in this fallen world we don't win all the battles, and I think it is in times like this that the rubber meets the road in our walk of faith, and in our attitude and expectancy toward God.
I know a man who is filled with joy at the love of God and, who, if he sees less than 15 miracles a week in his ministry, considers it a boring week. Yet, he has a daughter suffering from a horrible disease. What a temptation to become angry and bitter toward God, or to start down the road of not pressing in toward (and expecting) greater and greater victory.
I have met a lady who loves the Lord maybe more than anyone I know and who sees the impossible bow daily in her ministry in Mozambique with blind eyes opening and deaf ears hearing and even the dead rising, and yet has endured tremendous hardship both personally and in her ministry.
A pastor I have heard speak, and whose teachings and walk I admire tremendously, has seen cancer literally fall off of people before his eyes, and yet he lost his dad to an agonizing death from cancer. Another pastor I have heard speak and whose writings I have drawn on tremendously is filled with joy for the Lord despite having lost both a wife and a daughter way too young.
Times like these are such a challenge to our faith. We find ourselves challenged to not be angry or offended at God, or to not blame God for things that are so clearly not seen in Jesus, who was the express image of the Father. We find ourselves challenged to still consider God "good" in a way that simply is good as any child would see and define good. God tells us to pursue good, and avoid bad, so clearly He expects us to know the difference. I feel like sometimes we spend way too much time trying to find a way to call things good that are bad, and trying to pin things on God that are clearly of the devil and a result of a fallen world. God's heart and will have been revealed to us at both ends of the Bible---in the initial creation and the garden, and in the picture of heaven in Revelation. Both are good and free of pain and sickness and sorrow. Jesus even teaches us to pray that the Father's will would be done here, on earth, the way it is done in heaven. In the middle of the Bible, between Genesis and Revelations, comes Jesus who heals all who come to Him, who shows love, who, as Acts 10:38 says, goes about doing good and setting free and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Then He says, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."
In times like these we find ourselves challenged to maintain an expectancy in any given situation that there will be victory, and that what the world calls impossible will bow. We must remember that our God, our position in Christ, and the heart of the Father have not changed despite the pain we see and feel around us. Finally, in times like these we struggle to not become bitter. We must remember to guard our heart and tongue, to speak from a place of faith, to not dance with thoughts about life, ourselves, God, etc., that don't come from God, and to meditate upon those things lovely and pure and praiseworthy. We have, as our consolation, the model of so many heroes in the Bible who also struggled at times in their battle to stay strong in faith and expectancy. We can see in them that the battles to remain in expectant faith are real, we just can't afford to remain in them for too long. We must fix our eyes on the heart of the Father, and not on what is around us.