Kyle is my oldest son. I am proud, so very proud of the man he is. There was a period of my life in which I unlearned/learned/relearned much of my current theology from him.
He taught me grace in meaning and action. He helped me see the salvation offered by God in a much broader fashion than my self-imposed and narrow ideology had ever allowed before.
He may be young at 27 years old, but I would sit at his feet any day.
His wise words below offer hope. A hope we have to make sense of an often senseless world.
On the two year anniversary of the day that ripped our family asunder, I hope you can appreciate what he says…
This is a picture that I have shared with friends before. However, after two years, this picture is the best way for me to describe what life looks like since that day in October 2011. Just days after the death of my mom and my brother, we found my mom’s bible. On its pages were several notes that she had recently written, notes that pointed toward hope in the midst of the chaos she and my dad had been facing in her and Cole’s last few months. This picture comes from one of those pages. On it is a simple phrase that has encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other each day.
“God is at work, even in our pain!”
I remember when my dad called me out into the garage, telling me to come look at what he had found. When I looked in her bible and saw these words it felt as though God had allowed my mom to reach back into this world to tell me something essential, something I needed to know. Of course I wept. But this phrase has honestly helped me keep living.
It might be easy to read this phrase quickly, feeling and thinking nothing more than that which is felt or thought at the reading of any trite, pious, bumper-sticker style religious platitude. But to me, this means far more than that. This phrase encompasses something that I needed so desperately two years ago. Really, it encompasses something each of us needs at any given moment of our often pain-filled experiences on this earth—Hope in the apparent absence of hope.
Joseph was betrayed by his family and sold into slavery, alone in a distant country…
Israel spent 420 years in slavery, many born into and dying without a single day in freedom…
Job, well, you know about Job…
And yet, God was at work in it all.
…Joseph was in a position to save most of the known world including his family line, the line of Israel, during terrible famine.
…the generations of Israel that came and went in complete slavery continued the line until their family would be set free from Egypt in an amazing display of God’s power.
…And Job, who had only heard of God with his ears, saw God face to face, and was comforted, teaching generations of believers how to wrestle faithfully with God.
This does not make their struggle any easier. It does not take away the pain. However, just maybe, it gives meaning to their pain. The message of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is that even the darkest pain can serve a valuable mission, even death is not too broken to be redeemed by God.
I don’t believe that our pain is always God’s doing or “part of God’s plan” as the cliché goes, though it can be (think of Israel taken into exile or Job’s story). I believe sometimes things are the result of the Enemy, the result of the decisions of man, or even simply the result of climate, chemistry, biology, and physics—just the way the world works. But if we are honest with our faith, we must at least acknowledge that the all powerful God doesn’t always stop our pain from happening—and couldn’t He? It is in those moments that all I have in my heart that works is, “God is at work, even in our pain.” There is more to everything than I can see.
In those cases, all I can do is relate to God in a way much like Job in Job 19. He repeatedly points the finger directly at God with no hesitation, saying to the Divine in more or less words, “You did this!”
“Know then that God has wronged me…” (19:6)
“He has put darkness on my paths…” (19:8)
“And He has uprooted my hope like a tree…” (19:10)
“He has also kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy…” (19:11)
“For the hand of God has struck me…” (19:21)
And yet in the very same chapter, he acknowledges that though these things have happened to him, and that the God who he thought would protect him did not, that same God is worthy of trust for He is the only real source of hope in this world–He is the redeemer of pain. Whatever is causing the present crisis, God will overcome it all on our behalf in the end:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)