Hope Actualized

My daughter Grace is our guest blogger this week. As you read her words, reflect on the hope that Christ brings into our lives. Check out the link to Grace’s blog at the end of this article.

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Every wedding is like a Burning Man for florists. You spend days of hard work and energy making something beautiful, all to tear it down a few hours later. It’s a reminder of what a breath this life is. One moment we are here, the next we are gone.

Tearing down the chuppah flowers with my husband at the most recent wedding I did, was both a joy and sorrow. He spent the first part of the day building it and I spent the second half making it beautiful with Garden Roses, Dahlias and Smilax. I laughed as we hacked at the wood, ripping it apart, tearing down the greenery to have it all out of the venue by midnight. I can fully appreciate why this process is maddening to most people and in many ways it should be. Humans are not wired to destroy the things they create.

 

The destruction of things will always be reason to grieve whether it’s a mutilated artwork, broken relationship or death itself. If eternity did not exist somewhere deep within us than perhaps we would just accept death as nature’s course. But that is not the human way. When a loved one dies, we mourn that death as the harsh reality that it is. Death feels like it should never happen despite the inevitable fate of us all.

 

As I write this I think of my aunt Karen who is slowly departing from us. Unlike me, she is not afraid of her finite time coming to an end. She knows more than any feeling of certainty, that the bliss of eternity awaits her. The hope she has in heaven and in the God who has shown great kindness to her during her life, makes cancer a lesser enemy.

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Even amidst the beauty of a heaven to come, the image of my elderly grandfather leaning over his frail daughter confound me as I try to sleep. Why does death have to end in pain? I remember the pain I felt as I was laboring with my first child, convinced that such pain had to end in my end. Giving birth might be the closest experience I’ve had to death. I was convinced as the baby moved through my body that these were my final moments. Then I pushed, transcending time and space, finding new life in my arms. The parallels between birth and death go beyond the mere pains of it. Both are expressed in the last few moments of Hector Berlioz’ Requiem, Grande Messe Des Morts, Op. 5 Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe, where a choir ascends to a culminating sound of joy, peace and elation after an anxious six minutes of somber orchestration. If you are familiar with this song then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can only imagine death as rebirth into a life that feels even more like home than the one I try to make for my child. I like to imagine for my aunt like I did at the birth of my son, that all which follows our finite lives is just hope actualized.

 

No amount of hope can ever diminish the great weight of death, however when hope is satisfied than death is absolutely redeemed. Heaven seems so mythical but at least part of me feels like if I could do something as magical as having a baby or growing a plant out of the ground, couldn’t something like heaven be real? If I can re-purpose materials to make something new, can I be re-made?

 

When we were done taking down the greenery, my husband and I took it back to my brother and sister-in-law’s row house in Philadelphia. Rather than throwing it in the garbage or compost, I decided to re-install it as a hanging archway on their porch. It became a new creation and though these greens will one day fade back into dirt, the mystery of re-birth manifested itself in an eternal way.

 

 

*Link to Grace’s Blog: Click Here

Why? Where? What?

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In these last few weeks, the terrible tragedies in our nation have surfaced heart-felt questions from many people:

Why would God allow this?

Where is God when these things happen?

There are no easy ways to answer these questions. Even Job in the Old Testament came to the conclusion that there are certain aspects about our circumstances we simply can’t comprehend. But there is one question we can answer:

What does the Bible tell us about God’s heart?

In the midst of our sadness and grief, there are many truths about God which we can hold onto in our lives. I want to mention two:

God brings comfort in our pain. The Bible says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) His presence is with His people even in the midst of tragedy. His Spirit is our comforter and healer and is a very present help in time of need. God doesn’t promise us a life without tragedy, but He does promise to be with us through the hard places.  David wrote,

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

God gives us hope in our despair.  The Bible refers to God as the God of Hope. If He can bring hope from the tragedy of the cross and the brutal death of His Son Jesus, He can bring hope and redemption to our lives as well. We may not be able to see it now. It may take time to work through our grief, but He always brings hope. The ultimate hope He has given us is to be in heaven with Him one day.

Paul prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) As you walk through grief or questions, my prayer is that His Spirit will bolster you with a hope and a peace that the world cannot comprehend.

 

I encourage you to search the scriptures yourself and find comfort, wisdom and strength in getting to know the God of the Bible. 

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why does God Allow Tragedy?

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This week as Americans reflect on what happened 16 years ago during 9 /11, we also face the current challenges of fires in the west and hurricanes in the east. Many questions are floating around social media asking, “If God is God, then why doesn’t he prevent such difficulties and loss?

Such a complex question is not easily answered. In fact, as I read the book of Job in the Bible, it is clear that we cannot understand all of the ways of God. We may not know all the answers to why God allows tragedy, but we can know some of the answers as to who  God is and how He works in our lives. We can learn about His attributes as we look to the Bible for guidance, wisdom, comfort and strength.*

One thing I do know, the Bible doesn’t promise us a storm-free life. If God allowed the tragedy of His own Son dying on the cross for the purpose of redeeming His people, then there are reasons beyond our understanding as to why He allows pain and suffering through hurricanes, fires and attacks.

Even as we mourn what happened in 9-11, we see that God brought good out of loss. We know that through our sadness, He strengthened our character and our unity as a nation. We were humbled, yet we grew in courage and perseverance. Now, through our current tragedies, we have the opportunity to grow in compassion and unity as we love and serve one another.

Instead of asking why, let’s turn our question to how. How can we serve and help? How can we pray and give? How can we grow through the challenges we face?  May each of us turn our hearts and minds upward at this time, seeking hope, direction and strength from Him.

 

*This week, on my facebook author page, I plan to examine some of the attributes of God from A.W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy.  Be sure to follow us, so you won’t miss out.

When We Wonder Why

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This past weekend, my husband attended the funeral of a young man who died in the prime of his life. Often tragedies like this can lead us to question why. Why would God allow someone to die when it seems like there is so much of his life yet to be lived? Perhaps you have had similar questions about circumstances in your life:

Why did this happen to me?

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

Why didn’t God rescue me out of my misery?

The problem of pain and suffering is an age-old philosophical question. In the Old Testament, we read about a man named Job who found himself in the midst of struggling to understand why. His vibrant, fruitful world came to a crashing halt when God allowed him to suffer the loss of his possessions, his children, and his health. He couldn’t understand why this would happen to him especially because he was a noble and upright man.

God lovingly responded to Job’s unsettled questions. Instead of explaining the reasons Job suffered, God kindly directed Job back to an authentic trust in a God he could not understand. God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” God led Job to a deeper understanding of His almighty power and omniscience, helping Job see that God’s ways are far beyond human comprehension. Job finally declared to God, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

We must ask ourselves, are we willing to trust God even though we don’t understand His ways? It’s hard, I know. Direct answers would be much nicer. How do we grow to the point of trust? How can we rest in the arms of a loving God when we can’t understand why he allows certain difficulties in our life? Just as a child would rest in the arms of a loving parent, so we can come to a place of resting in God’s care as we grow to love Him as our Father. Certainly we cannot know all the answers, but as we begin to get to know who God is – that He is a good, kind and loving Father, we develop a trust for the God who loves us. In Job’s response, notice he said he had heard about God, but now he has seen Him with his eyes. Job moved from a point of knowing about God, to a place of truly experiencing Him.

Job was able to put his trust in a God who had become real to him, not just someone he had heard about.The same is true with us. We can find people’s opinions about God from books, commentaries, editorials, and even sermons on Sundays, but we must get to know Him for ourselves. A search for knowing the true God will lead us to see his faithfulness and love. It’s one thing to know about God in a distant sort of way; it is another thing to experience Him up close and personal.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said, “If we begin to worship and come to God again and again by meditating, by reading, by prayer; and by obedience, little by little God becomes known to us through experience. We enter into a sweet familiarity with God, and by tasting how sweet the Lord is we pass into . . . loving God, not for our own sake, but for Himself.” We can fall into the arms of a God whom we know and love, but it is difficult to trust someone we do not know personally.

Where do we begin our journey of knowing Him? The Bible is God’s revelation to us about Himself. We read about His power, His goodness, His sovereignty and His unfailing Love in the pages of this magnificent book. Seek to know Him, not simply to know about Him. Draw close to Him. Open the Bible, and as you do, ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a very real way. He loves you and invites you to know Him personally.

To chat with someone about a relationship with Christ, go to: www.chataboutjesus.com

A portion of this blog is from Karol’s book, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.