Friday, November 6, 2015

What God Left Out

It occurred to me recently that for everything we are told in the Bible, there is much that we are not told as well.  Now I know, with certainty, that the Word of God is perfect and complete, and that God has ordained every word that it is written in it.  The Bible lacks nothing, and yet there is much that it does not say.

The key is that as believers, we must look at what is "left out" as intentional as what is put in.  Because the Lord has ordained each word, we know that He has a purpose for those things He has not included.  Take for example Paul's "thorn in the flesh" referenced in 2 Corinthians.  In this passage, Paul does not specify what the issue is.  He tells us just that it is something that weakens him, something he has prayed to asked God to remove, and something God has decided will remain.  This issue Paul has is something that God has chosen to use to teach Paul about the sufficiency of His grace.  And we will never know what "it" is on this side of heaven.

Sure, we can speculate, and I am sure that we do.  I imagine that there may be theologians who think they know exactly to what Paul is referring.  But the fact of the matter is that they cannot know, and that is because God does not want them to.  If He wanted us to know, He would have told us, and that is the whole point.  There are things that God doesn't tell us, and He has a reason why.

In the case of Paul's thorn in the flesh, there could be many reasons why God left that detail out.  What I am guessing is that it is better for the believers who would follow and read Paul's account not to know--not to have a specific thought or idea in mind about what Paul suffered with so that the principle and truth of the matter would stand out more clearly.  What is that principle?  That in my weakness, Christ is strong and His grace is sufficient for me, no matter what my weakness is.  

Let's say Paul actually stated what his "thorn" was.  Maybe it was a physical challenge, or even a temptation in the flesh that he wrestled with.  The point is that if we knew what that weakness was for him, then in our finite minds, we would not be able to apply the broader truth.  "Sure, God's grace is sufficient for Paul's problem, but mine is different, mine is worse.  I don't know if God will cover me with grace like He covered Paul."  You don't imagine that type of thinking is possible?  Of course it is.  We do it already, even given the full knowledge of the truth of God.  And God knows that.

God knows us.  He knows the way we are, and He loves us...with all of our weaknesses and "issues," His grace and His love covers us.  And that is why He left some things out.  He knows what we need to know and what we don't.  His truth is perfect and complete, including all the things He didn't say.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roller Coasters

Let me begin by stating right up front that I hate roller coasters.  Really hate them.  Always have, always will.  I have been on a few in my lifetime, but I have never enjoyed one, not once.  Okay, to be totally honest, I am scared to death of them.  And at this point of my life, there is no reason I can think of that would convince me to subject myself to the experience again.  So there it is.  I admit it with no shame.

And yet, despite my clearly very strong feelings about roller coasters, I feel compelled today to write about them.  Why? You might ask.  It is because of Yvette.  Yes, Yvette, my crazy, hilarious, joyful, amazing, beautiful and godly friend.  She is the reason my thoughts have turned to roller coasters today.

Mind you, Yvette and I have never been on a roller coaster together.  In fact, I don't think we have even been to an amusement park at the same time, and honestly, I have no idea whether Yvette even likes roller coasters, although I imagine that it is a good possibility that she does.  It would fit her to be a roller coaster rider.

So again, we come back to the question of why I am thinking about roller coasters when I hate them, and why Yvette is responsible for my roller coaster pondering when we have no roller coaster connection.  Well, there is a good reason.  This past week, Yvette's world has been rocked by some very serious and scary medical situations.  In a very short time, so much has happened, and is still happening, and she is left reeling in the wake of it all. There are still many questions to be answered and frightening steps in the road ahead.  Yvette is my dear friend, and it hurts to watch her and her family go through this.  And so, on one of the days of this crazy, swirling mess that she has been in, when I was thinking about her and all that she is going through, my mind turned to roller coasters.

Yvette's situation got me to thinking about how much life is truly like a roller coaster.  And even as I write that, I realize how cliche it sounds.  And I promise, I hate cliches almost as much as I hate roller coasters!  But the metaphor so strongly gripped my mind and my heart that I had to follow it through to see what I could learn from it, even if it is cliche.

Some of the parallels are embarrassingly obvious--the ups and downs, and twists and turns of life are just like the proverbial roller coaster ride.  But it is true; life really is like that.  Life is rarely a straight, level, consistent path.  If there is one thing we can count on in life it is change.  Things always change, sometimes for good and sometimes not so much.  We have some seasons where everything is moving up and forward in a positive direction; but what goes up must come down, and down we eventually go.  And then all along the way, we are rolling, twisting and turning down the paths that this life gives us.  We just hold on for the ride, never knowing what is up ahead.  At times it is exhilarating, other times dizzying, and then there are the times that are downright scary.  That's the point of the ride that Yvette is on right now, the scary part.

But there is more to the roller coaster metaphor than the surface parallels.  There's more truth in the details and in the larger design.  Even though I don't have tons of experience actually riding roller coasters, I have been on a few and know how they work.  It all starts when you climb into the roller coaster car.  You get in, get all strapped, and hold on for the ride (or for dear life, if it is me).  Depending on the type of roller coaster, you might have a harness that goes over your head and straps over your chest.  Almost always, you will have a lap belt, and then there is the bar that you grip in front of you.  Even though the ride might get rough ahead, you know you are safe and protected.

Most times, there are also others with you in the car.  You might have your best friend in the seat right next to you, to scream together through the wild ride.  Other friends and family might fill the seats and cars behind you.  A roller coaster is the kind of thing you do together with others, so through all those ups and down, when it's fun and when it's scary, you're not alone; there are others with you along for the ride.

And then there is the grand design, and even more importantly, the designer.  Roller coasters really would be scary to everyone (not just me) if we didn't trust in the construction of the grand design of that structure.  Without knowing much about it, we trust in the engineering that is behind it, believing that we are safe and sound when riding it.  And while we are on that ride, we find comfort in knowing that there is an operator behind the switchboard running the ride.  There is someone there who is watching, guarding, starting, and stopping while we ride.   It is not a random, out of control experience.  It is designed and orchestrated by someone we cannot see, but we trust with our lives.

It is this part of the metaphor that brings me the most comfort.  Life is like a roller coaster.  But I am not as afraid of life as I am of roller coasters.  Why?  Because of the Designer.  In this crazy life of ups and downs, twists and turns, we are are not on a random, out of control ride.  We are on a track that has been specifically designed for each one of us individually, and the entire ride is orchestrated by One who loves us more than we can imagine.  He watches, He guides, He starts and He stops.  He is behind the "switchboard," in control of every part of our life experience.  When we know Him, and surrender our lives to Him, we are strapped in and secure, so that no matter how rough the ride might get, we will not be tossed out from the ride. We can trust Him with our lives, and we are grateful for those He gives us to go along for the journey.

So even though I still don't like them and never plan to ride one again, I thank God for roller coasters!  Thank God for the truth they reveal about His beautiful design and control of our lives.  Sometimes it will get rough; that is where my friend is now, but He is still there and will bring her...and me, and you...safely through the ride He has for us.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:9-10