I could see the logic.
I mean, there are awful things going on in the world… and there are Christians who are suffering… dying… everywhere.
Where had I gotten the idea that the Bible taught I would always be kept safe from trouble?
When I started to search the scriptures again, it painted an honest and accurate picture of men and women who believed and trusted God, and yet suffered pain and loss, and sometimes even death. The scriptures were full of dirges and laments; songs of passionate questioning, pain, and deep sorrows.
Why had I believed that these songs would not someday be mine to sing?
I was being childish.
Who did I think I was to be entitled to a pain-free-life?
I had wanted to only follow a safe God… a God who would always protect me from all hurt, in all circumstances. I decided I would listen more carefully to some of the teachers I had followed. Sure, they taught the Word of God, but I was beginning to see that they predominantly taught only one type of Truth. Yes, there is victory and prosperity for those who obey, trust, and believe… but sometimes, there is also sickness, suffering, sorrow, and loss.
As I began to honestly look at the stories of Joseph and Job; Isaiah and Jeremiah; the disciples of the early church, and the Apostle Paul in particular, my eyes beheld the worst kind of suffering. I had been taught that Paul was one of the greatest Christians that ever lived, and yet he suffered terribly for his faith. (And, who could have done more than he had?) Why had I believed that if I just, did enough… prayed enough… believed enough… declared enough—God would protect me from all harm? Wasn’t all my doing a sort of idoltry? Rub the magic lamp, or say a sincere prayer, and the genie will pop out and do my bidding?
Wasn’t I really idolizing my own comfort; hoping for a way, or a formula, to manipulate God into giving me the comfortable and safe life that I wanted?
What selfish foolishness.
My eyes were open alright, and I was beginning to see, but I didn’t like what I saw.
(No, not one bit!)
I began to wonder if maybe, I really deserved all the bad stuff that had happened?
(Now I was really depressed.)
Oh, My dear child, how I see you struggling to walk in freedom, but dear one, your jailers are not the condemnation of those around you. That is why you still struggle so.
The one who keeps you bound—is YOU!
Let Me explain.
You grew up in terrible slavery. So did your parents, and their parents, etc., etc. Generations of “brick-makers” just like the children of long ago, enslaved to the Egyptians, making bricks. But you are no longer in Egypt child, yet you still have the voice of the evil taskmaster in your head. Instead of shouting, “Clay! Straw! Water!” he whispers, “Try harder! Do more! Perform!” and so you obey, and do, do, do… to the point of exhaustion.
But honey, I set you FREE.
What does My Word say?
English: World English Bible - WEB
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God’s law, but with the flesh, the sin’s law.
Remember the song…
“So now there is no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1Romans 8:1
English: World English Bible - WEB
8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
I am a movie lover. Or, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, “I am a story-lover.”
Movies, books, it doesn’t matter—I LOVE a great story.
Or, so they think.
I was watching a great movie over the holidays called, The Shadowlands. It’s the love story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. Lewis is an Oxford professor, published and successful writer, a sought-after lecturer, living at the heights of his career. Smugly sure of his beliefs, sounding off to others with lofty phrases about God and His ways, until… everything crashes. Everything he believes about God gets shattered by brutal reality. Suddenly he finds himself out in The Shadow Lands with a God he does not recognize and does not want to know. He’s caught in the grip of darkness and pain with no miracle or escape on his horizon.
Enter Joy with his answer!
Not an answer he wants to hear but the answer he needs. She tells him that “The pain now is part of the joy then.” She is speaking of heaven but I started thinking about her statement.
Isn’t that the answer for all of us who find ourselves stumbling through the dark pages of our own story? We imagine and plan a storyline that doesn’t involve pain or disappointment. We want to write happily ever after’s only. No dark disappointments, please. I’ll take bliss and certainty every time.
But aren’t the dark pages an essential part of the greatest stories?
What if that’s an essential part that turns a good story into a GREAT story? Isn’t it at least possible?
And, if God is the one writing the story of our lives, isn’t the temporary part of our journey through the shadowlands, the last place where we should give up? What about the end of the story?
What about the end of yours?
Isn’t the pain we experience now, out in the murky-middle, part of the joy to yet be revealed at the end?
David was chased and threatened by Saul, hiding in caves. Joseph was hated and sold by his brothers, ending up cooling his heels in a dungeon. Joshua was faithful and believing, yet made to wander for forty long years with all the carping-complaining unbelieving. Gideon was at the bottom of a deep hole wondering how did this happen to God’s “chosen” ones?
All of them—destined for great endings—yet walking through The Shadowlands of their own stories.
Perhaps it’s NOT the end of yours either.
Each day, you and God together are still writing pages to your manuscript, yes? My point?
If you’re walking through the Shadow Lands of your story it’s not finished yet.
Don’t give up now.
No great story ends in the murky-middle.
Yours won’t either.
The shadow Lands is not a destination, it’s just one part of the journey. The pain now will be an integral part of the joy at the finish.
So? Simple. Your story’s not finished yet.
God has not stopped writing your pages.
If He’s not finished—neither are you.