I’m awestruck by God’s grace and mercy, and I love to talk about it.
But not this week. This week I’m witnessing lots of suffering, and I don’t like it.
A friend is having tests run for things I don’t want to consider. A young man in our church had a tree fall on him; he’s alive but in ICU with terrible injuries. I visited my mom in the nursing home, and she barely spoke as I fed her—Alzheimer’s. Widows and widowers face loneliness and fear. Children are orphaned. Friends lose jobs. Death surprises a young mom and dad. And, the leaves keep falling off the trees reminding me of that oft-felt sense of futility we all experience when we have to re-do what we did yesterday.
These are the times when I face the challenge to believe the impossible. Will I dare to believe that the Almighty still loves? It’s kind of hard when it’s raining smelly black tar, and there’s no umbrella big enough to keep it from sticking to everyone around me. Will I see the shimmer of glory at the bottom of the dark hole and know that God waits in the distance with grace sufficient for the gravity of each day? For myself? For others? Will I trust that there is purpose (that I don’t always see or understand) in each ounce of suffering, and try to see the resplendent in the face of my dying mother or a young mom who has lost her child? Will I worship anyway?
Will I scream “NO!” to the pummeling questions: Did mercy cease when the tree fell? Did Love’s essence become cruel when a cyclone struck? Is it foolish to hope? Will it always be this way?
I admit it, I feel guilty staring into the face of glory and worshipping when someone else is struggling to lift his eyes because of grief. How do I grieve with a friend and stand in awe and hope? How do I applaud God for a sunset and weep over shed blood at the same time? How do I maintain wonder when I simply want to cry?
I experience disappointment here because I want more than this fallen world has to offer. God placed the scent of Eden and the hope of heaven in my heart. I want healing and beauty, love and peace, joy and relief, restored relationships and the death of death. I also want to eat ice cream (lots and lots of ice cream) and not get fat or sick and to love others in my own quirky way without the fear of rejection. I want to snow ski without the risk of injury, and I want to play six different instruments that I have no time to learn to play. I want all the good stuff—and none of the bad. The fragrance of glory remains in the air and makes me sniff frantically like a coon dog sporadically catching the whiff of something wonderful to chase. I bay loudly and leap down the hole in search of more.
A pastor preached this week from one simple verse, John 16:33. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (NASB) This verse is at the tail end of a chapter and a half of warnings about the difficulties of this life. But the hard verses are smack in the middle of chapters 14, 15, and 17, which are about wonderful things like union with Christ, abiding in him, having a home in heaven, never being alone, and the Holy Spirit being sent to help us, just to name a few. Christ sandwiches “trouble” between “glory” on either side. He wants me to remember His glory and His promises as I fall down the hole. He wants me to sniff it out and follow.
I glance out the window to take my eyes from the screen. Brilliant, blue sky peeps through the leaves that are soon going to litter the ground, again. But I see. Yes, God is at the bottom of the hole and with me on the way down. He is present in scintillating glory in our tomorrows as well as each “today,” and I will fight to believe the impossible but real riches of grace as I continue to fall down the hole in search of more.
…The Mad Hatter