Monday, October 8, 2012

A + B (doesn’t always) = C

I’d had this blog idea a couple weeks ago when four people got laid off from my church. This news was revealed a day after we had a fellowship-filled work day where we all came together to do updates on the building that we couldn’t afford to do with the decreased budget. I knew things weren’t good in the financial department, I just didn’t think it was lay-off-four-people kind of bad.

In the episode of the Once Upon a Time TV show last night, Henry, the grandson of Snow White, says, “Things always look worse right before there’s good news.”

At least that’s what we all hope. Things are bad. They couldn’t get worse. God wouldn’t let them get worse. When things look bad, that’s when they should, according to the fairy tales, start to get better. We’ve certainly suffered enough, haven’t we?

Then there’s that glimmer of fear that wants to come out and predict the worst. We can always see how things could get worse, but we won’t let our mind walk down that trail. We want to believe in a loving God so we hope He’s going to come through. We try to ignore the gnawing in our souls that says this time He’s going to decide to sit out and let us fend for ourselves.

I was raised to believe in karma. A different kind of karma than you see in the hippie coffee shops. It’s the Christian karma. At one point or another, most Christians believe in this karma. This karma says, “If I obey, if I do everything right, then my life will go well and nothing bad will ever happen to me.” If something in your life is going wrong, the first thing you do is analyze your actions to see if somehow you’re failing God.

If you believe in this karma, you become confused when you look at the lives of others who don’t seem to be as good a Christian as you are and wonder why they were able to find scholarships to the school they wanted to go to, or got married to the eligible bachelor, or have kids who behave perfectly and never seem to have any health problems.

If you believe in this karma, you become confused when you look at the person who is the model Christian who suffers from a brain tumor, or the girl who saved herself for Prince Charming only to have her heart broken, or the church that’s loved and practiced humility continue to suffer financially.
It’s easier to believe in the A + B = C theory. It’s easier to see someone suffering and say, “If they had done X, Y, or Z then that wouldn’t be happening to them.”

That’s until the bad thing is happening to me. After I’ve analyzed my actions and decided I’ve done everything right the only answer is that there must be some fluke in the universe. Maybe this happened by an accident. Oh, but I forgot, God is all-powerful and omnipresent so this couldn’t have happened without his knowing or permission. 

That’s the part that gets me. I love God. I really do. I love how He’s good and how He loves me and fights for me. But He confuses me. I understand Him less and less as I grow older. That’s because I see more and more of the world and more and more reasons to wonder “why”. As the love of Jesus has begun to soften my heart, I realize that soft hearts are broken more easily than hard ones.

That’s why He wants them soft.

Because broken is the place where you know you can’t fix yourself and you know you can’t fix your world. When more pain comes at the end of what you thought you could handle is where you see your need for God in this way you never saw it before. God’s got this plan. This supernatural and extraordinary plan. He loves His church. It’s His bride after all. He’d never allow pain unless He had plans for redemption—doing away with the curse one day at a time. 

God’s plans don’t always turn out the way we want them to.

They turn out better.

Fairy tales are true and life does have a happy ending. Things will get bad, and they will get worse, but redemption and rescue always come in the end. Maybe not today or tomorrow or fifty years from now. Maybe not until Heaven. But the gospel isn’t called “good news” for nothing.

And if A + B (really did) = C, we’d be in pretty bad shape. Because reality is, we’re a bunch of screw-ups: weak, vile, and wretched by ourselves. We make a mess of things, anything we touch actually. The only hope for any of us is that Jesus loves us and wants what’s best for us and comes to redeem us.

In the movie Passion of the Christ Jesus is being beaten before His crucifixion. The beating goes on and on and you want it to stop. Finally, you think it’s over. He can’t handle any more.

That’s when they flip Him over and go to work on the other side.

No suffering is foreign to Christ. Jesus really did pay it all. And He’ll be with us for always, even until the end. 

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