prayingSOME of the problems in our lives do not get solved. They keep returning, and our hearts break again and again. The pain does not lessen with the repetition, but we do learn from it. I have two dear friends who are facing just such a recurring heartbreak, and each time they emerge with more courage. The sorrow carves out room for more faith and confidence in God’s minute by minute involvement.
Often, because I love these people, I have wanted desperately to come up with an answer for them—an explanation—a theory which would bring instant peace. But there is none, and I have refused the temptation because I am sick of glib responses and sense the danger of spreading the darkness in a pat answer flipped out when trouble strikes—the pat retorts of the “answer fingers.”
I began my Christian life being just such an “answer finger” because I heard other people doing it—other Christians whose lives I respected. My own encounter with Jesus Christ had so changed life for me that for a long time I thought I was supposed to be able to convince everyone who came to talk that they could and would be changed too if only they would do so and. so and such and such. Because I had written two or three books, many people were suddenly asking me questions, and I felt somehow I would be failing   God if I didn’t dig for some kind of quick answer, Most of my compulsion, of Course, was due to immaturity, but it seems strange to me now, with the perspective of the years, that speed was also a part of it. My speaking schedule was too crowded; I rushed from airport to railroad station. There wasn’t much time—certainly no time to think. Just hurry up and find something to say, or find a strong last line for your letter to that worried woman so she’d feel instant relief. I did want with all my heart to provide an answer, so I tried.
It’s good to be almost free  of this—to have been getting freer of it for more than a decade—because now I know I am on safe ground only when I direct attention to Jesus Christ Himself.
I am on safe ground only when I direct attention to Jesus Christ Himself.
I repeated that sentence for a reason: the reason for writing this book in the first place—a one-tracked book which says only one thing:
Beware of trying to operate on a pat answer, even if it is couched in the so-called “liberated” language of today, making it appear new.
I do feel God’s people are becoming more and enlightened and open to fresh ideas, and
I’m in favor of any approach that will stir up the mind to think in the presence of the Eternal God. But just because an unusual presentation of some truth about God makes it sound new doesn’t mean that its content is new, for truth about God is as old as God, and He is the beginning. We don’t need new truth; we need to begin to act on what Jesus Christ has always been.
We don’t need to employ contemporary jargon in order to bring enlightenment. Enlightenment came when Jesus came! Enlightenment is here now in His Spirit—more real than the sunlight flooding my yard and breaking into’ the woods around my house. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” We don’t need new light; we need to begin to act on the fact of the Light already with us, around us, and in us in the presence of Jesus Christ.
When tragedy strikes us, this great Light swings back and forth illuminating the One Answer: our desperate need for a new kind of involvement with Jesus Christ, who has always been truth.
No matter how long you’ve known Him, there is still more ahead for you. No matter how long I’ve known Him, there is more for me. More and more and more. And when do we need that more as we need it in the hour of trouble, of heart ache, of despair? This ever-freshening involvement seems best described as a kind of wordless involvement—an inner-knowing. An inner kind of person-to-person “being together” where you and I can weep, cry out, struggle, even rebel— with Christ.
I mean it when I contend that if it helps you to believe that God sent your tragedy in order to perfect you, to “burn out your dross,” cling to that. But will you be open enough to consider for a moment that there might be more than the action of God lighting a fire, you suffering in the flames, and you emerging pure gold? Isn’t it more creative, more like the Creator Himself, to help us shift the emphasis away from ourselves— to Him?
Let me try to explain. Jesus Christ came and lived among us and suffered and died for more reasons than we will ever be able to comprehend as long as we are earthbound. But He did come as a Redeemer, so isn’t it more like Him to act in a redemptive way in our times of heartbreak? Did  Job say, I  know that my disciplinarian liveth?”
God   wants us free of our imperfections; He wants this more than we want it. But if He suffered for us, is it like Him to force us to repeat what He already endured in order to make us more like Him? If it is true that “by His stripes we are healed,” do you really believe Christ sends human suffering only to “perfect us”? Were His hours on the cross not enough? How much more like Him it is for God to act lovingly, tenderly, redemptively in the midst of our suffering—taking the blow for us.
I repeat, if it is of more comfort to you to believe that He sent your heartache in order to purify you, keep that comfort. I write here for those of us who don’t get enough solace from that. I submit this for those of us who might be quieted, in some measure at least, by the shifted emphasis, by looking at it this way: The accident occurred; the loved one is gone. The telephone rang; the cherished dream is broken. Jesus knows it all—knew before we knew. He is here, waiting to be the Redeemer in this too. Not to make us feel fine in a few minutes; not to put the dream back together or negate the accident— but to begin the moment we are ready to make creative, redemptive use of what has happened. To begin, just as soon as we are able and willing, to give us ways in which to use the sorrow so that not one groan or tear will be wasted.
If  I am thus involved with Him in the redemptive process, I do not have time to demand an answer as to why the dream smashed; why the accident occurred; why that loved one fell ill; why the aged person is not set free. You see, there is a great difference between being peaceful and being passive. And the God of love is never passive; He is always on the move. He never wastes a moment brooding over either His troubles with us or our troubles with life or ourselves. He is always in motion because He is love, and just as soon as we are willing, He wants to set us in motion in love toward someone else in deed.
“I sometimes feel I can’t bear the sight of those familiar hospital corridors after the weeks I spent there when my husband was dying of cancer,” a friend said last year. “But I’m going! I don’t feel able to go. All I really want to do is stay home and cry, but I’m going to be a Gray Lady. I’m sure God has told me to get up and go, whether I feel ready or not.”
She went, and this woman has had an extra touch of redemptive love for other women walking those same corridors because she has been where they are now. God gave her the strength to begin the minute she was willing, and together they have been in motion in love ever since.
This love activity can begin during the first hours of grief or any kind of human despair. Even when we are resting on our beds (or trying to) from the peculiarly painful exhaustion which accompanies despair, Jesus begins the activity toward us—in love. He is always ready, and gradually we will be able to realize His healing movement toward us, if we’ve glimpsed Him as He really is.
There is no real two-way involvement in any relationship without motion, but for our part, the only activity necessary when the blow first falls is that inner-turning to Him for help. No words need pass between God and us in this kind of involvement. I deal in words, and yet I have lived through times when none were possible. None. Do we always have to be saying something? Do we talk too much—even to God? I think so. Do we expect too much “talk” from Him? Yes. His promise was that He would be with us: “Lo, I am with you always “ Not, “Lo, I will be always talking to you, comforting you, perfecting you, explaining to you.”
I will be with you.
He will answer our needs, but not necessarily with words. This wordless, silent, active kind of involvement with the One who created us does change things—in you—in me.
Perhaps we don’t even notice the changes, and this is good. There is always the danger of over- subjectivity with the other emphasis: that God sent the heartache in order to perfect us. He is always busy about the task of perfecting us as we plod through our difficult times. I have grown in mine, and I’m sure you have. But I, for one, would probably grow far less quickly if my attention focused on: “What is He going to do to ‘perfect’ me?’ I’ve found that He does His best work in us when we’re too occupied with loving to notice ourselves one way or another.
It seems to me that Jesus was deliberately making this shift in emphasis in His remark after healing the young man “blind from his birth.” You remember, the disciples had asked Him:
“Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (These were Jesus’ disciples, don’t forget—with their emphasis in the unanswerable place too!) Jesus’ reply is memorable and loaded with meaning: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
Surely, Jesus, who knew that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” did not mean that these parents and their son were sinless creatures. He seemed to be attempting to shock His own disciples into putting their question another way—or forgetting it altogether. To me, Jesus was saying, in effect “No one’s sin has anything to do with what happened to this boy’s sight or with what I’m about to do. He is simply blind, and I am going to heal him, and then you can all see with your own eyes that God is working.”
He is simply blind. The accident simply happened. The dream simply crashed. But Jesus is there—ready to reveal what God can do—in the midst of it. To me, the whole of God punishing through human affliction was knocked flat by that one statement which shifted the emphasis entirely.
On the semi-tropical island where I live, in summer the woods become choked with a great variety of undergrowth—weeds, seedling trees, and vines. When winter comes, the lush, tangled undergrowth begins to die back. It is as though Nature “clears the woods.” In my own small patch of undeveloped land, I can see great oaks and hickories standing out in full light after their long warm months in the shadowy “glooms.” All summer I rather miss this view of the big frees, and then they are there for me again: towering landmarks in the winter sun which is tree to pour its beams all the way down onto the forest floor so that the roots of the wildflowers and the grapevines will be warmed, readied for spring. I like the freed light streaming into the shadows. I respond to the sight of the huge, certain trees again. Odd perhaps, but for all the years I’ve lived here, this “clearing” of the undergrowth quiets me in side—make me feel ready

Related News