The Morning Comes

September 23, 2020 § Leave a comment

“At times I am tempted to lose heart. But my good Shepherd is leading me toward life, not death…”

David Pawlison, Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles

Several of us were saddened the other day to learn that a pastor friend’s next-door neighbor had taken his own life. He didn’t know why, other than the fact that earlier this year his marriage ended in divorce. I can’t help but think that our current pandemic has figured into such narratives. Statistically, depression and anxiety are rising, as people have to process the uncertainty of work, isolation, family care, and daily life, in a time of COVID-19.

Dawn in Ellicott City, Maryland

As believers, we are not immune to human frailty. Jesus said that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). The world is broken, and whenever it suffers, we suffer with it. We are part of it.

What the scriptures teach is that we share a hope that takes us beyond the pathos of the moment – or even a lifetime.

It reveals that misplaced hopes will end in disappointment, even tragedy. And that making lesser things everything cheapens the undiminished hope of the gospel.

This is why, for me, and others in ministry, it is difficult to stomach health-and-wealth ministers that promise material abundance and miraculous healing, often as they exploit the weak, while padding their bank accounts.

Growing up, our neighbor contracted Leukemia. She went to a famous faith healer’s revival meeting, and came home convinced that she no longer had the disease. But she did, and eventually it took her life.

Did it ever occur to you that every person Jesus healed has since passed away? Obviously those healings were intended for a purpose other than lives that would never be interrupted by death or disappointment.

And they were – They served as snapshots of something far more visionary, beautiful, lasting, and hopeful than one’s lifespan.

The quote above is taken from the last chapter of a book that David Pawlison wrote as he was dying of pancreatic cancer. At the time, he was serving as the President of CCEF, the Counseling Center out of Glendale, PA, that has most imprinted our church’s Life Counseling Center.

In the chapter he writes…

“Now more than four decades later [since trusting Jesus], I am staring death in the face. Instead of my faith failing, the promise of a new heart holds true. God is still shining into the darkness of my heart to give me the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

In the chapter he cites a passage in 2 Corinthians 4 that I memorized one summer during a personal crisis:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (vss. 16-18)

The promise of the gospel is not that we can escape this world’s troubles. That would be far too short-sighted of God for His people, and would only carry them until the next heartache or disappointment.

No. We have been promised that when all is said and done, and we close our eyes in death, through Jesus, and in the power of his resurrection, the morning comes, with unending joy.

this is our good news…

grace & peace.

The Mystery of Waiting (aka Riding the Storm Out)

August 25, 2012 § 4 Comments

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Mumford & Sons, After the Storm

This post was inspired by a sister blogger (barbcollinsbooks) after several of us conversed online this morning about Hurricane Isaac as it barrels down a corridor in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately any intersection with the state of Florida will impact family and friends. So we pray…

When it comes to hurricanes, preparation begins with determining where you are in the ‘cone of possibility’ (as opposed to the ‘cone of silence’), that rarely-accurate imaginary, studied, hypothesized passage of potential landfall. If there is a relative probability that the hurricane will strike, then it is a matter of stocking up on imperishable foods, filling cars, gas tanks and generators with gasoline, checking batteries and flashlights, charging chargeable devices, cutting down coconuts (aka projectiles), sealing important documents, putting dry clothes in protective containers, and installing storm shutters. Then you just go through the storm (the picture in this post is from our church property in Miami after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 – yes, that is a single fallen tree!).

When a storm closes in on a community, at that point all we can do is ride it out and wait.

Last week our community, Ellicott City, experienced a horrendously tragic event where two college girls were instantly killed after a train derailed beside the very bridge they sat on – probably one they had sat on dozens of times when many trains had passed before.

It is as though a horrible storm blew in for an evening and there was nothing we could do. The storm is still raging – there is great pain. Answers are insufficient, even insulting. There is no substitute for grief… or time. Our Comforter is God (John 14:16) and He alone heals.

Unanticipated tragedies and events have a way of deceiving us into thinking that they are exceptions in an otherwise perfect world. But they aren’t. They represent this broken world’s true identity.

I hate that so much. I hate that it is all so screwed up – but it is. I hate the suffering that family and friends endure, along with the rest of a world that was created to be so beautiful.

And we are called to wait. Waiting goes against every instinct in my being. But deep within I know that I am far less prepared for the storms I face than I would like to admit.

I don’t know how this waiting thing works (Isaiah 40:28-31), but we are promised something we can’t produce when we do. We are promised endurance and hope, none of which we feel during the storm – but somehow and mysteriously it comes. No answers. Just God.

And then the storm passes. By then all power is out and a few hours seems like the entire night. The day after is a surreal experience both in marveling at the damage and debris, and in celebrating survival. It also marks the onset of entering into one’s community to share in the collective effort of healing in the neighborhood.

I think this is who we are: Unfinished sons and daughters of God who find their mission in the healing work of the gospel in a storm-wrecked world. I will tell you that I don’t like the storms, and anyone that tells you they do is probably lying. They wreak havoc with my comforts, and sometimes bring to pass my deepest fears. But I’m glad that God doesn’t keep His children immune to them. Through us Jesus enters into the world’s debris, even as He did into our lives when He redeemed us.

I have no other answers – and need none. We have Jesus. And this enables us to ride out the storm – because He did.

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but it really is good news…


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