Tag Archives: pain

Strong Faith: How Badly Do We Really Want It?

If God exists and is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow suffering in the world he created?

Life’s biggest questions, the ones that truly matter, can be condensed into a few that can be counted on one hand. The question I’ve just asked is one of them. It, and the very few more in its league, are worth asking. I’m convinced that our God will help us face such questions in his strength if we really want his help.

But if we’re fat and sassy, dollar-blinded and bloated and quite comfy, swimming along in the warm stream of our society’s sea of selfishness . . . If, most of the time, pretty much our highest goal is to get through life with more and more stuff and not lose too many golf balls . . . Well, then we easily shove out of our consciousness the questions that matter.

Yes, but then one hope-withering medical test, one terribly sick child, one life-shaking tragedy is all it takes to toss us out of the hot tub and into very deep, cold, and turbulent waters indeed. Then the questions that really matter really matter, and easy answers and “throw-down,” “Facebook-faith,” TV-preacher platitudes will never weather the storm.

I hope you’re not in such a storm right now, but we don’t have to live long to know that we will all go through times that shake us to our core. Before the time of testing, it’s best to remember that strong faith cannot grow in a heartbeat. However badly I want a 50-year-old oak tree to shade me from oppressive heat, I won’t get it this afternoon by planting a seedling this morning. As G. K. Chesterton said, “No one ever grew a beard in moment of passion.” Some things just take time. Possessing faith that is strong and mature is one of those things.

Don’t misunderstand. You can sincerely give your life to the Lord in a heartbeat and your contrite heart will be accepted into the Father’s warm embrace. Even mustard-seed faith, Jesus said, can be real faith.

But if we think “baby faith” is all the faith God wants to build in us, and if we think genuinely trusting God is easy, we’re mistaken. For our faith to mature, we need to yield our wills to God and follow our Lord in practical ways. The Son worshiped the Father. He spent time in prayer. He was steeped in Scripture. He lay down his will, wrapped himself in a towel, washed the dirty feet of those who should have been washing his, and, because of his deep love for and trust in his Father, went to a cross.

If I want strong faith, I’ve got to walk the way of the cross. Can I carry a cross if I can’t even go to worship? How can I expect to grow in selfless, mature faith if I’m chafed by singing a song I don’t like in worship (but that might bless someone else)? More spiritual still, how strong is my faith if I won’t carry out the trash for my wife or switch off the TV to read our kids a Bible story?

God wants us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He’ll help us to grapple with hard questions and live through hard times. But for our hearts, minds, and souls to be strong and integrated, real relationship and growing faith is required—not to buy God’s favor; God’s people already have that. No, we need faith to help us through life’s storms. And the question is unavoidable: how badly do we really want it?

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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What Will Happen Next in the Adventure of Life?

I don’t remember ever quoting that famous philosopher Forrest Gump, but here you go: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

That’s true, isn’t it?

Noted Swiss psychiatrist and Christian of deep faith Paul Tournier wrote a book about that truth and summed it all up in the book’s title, The Adventure of Living. Life, he writes, is, by definition, an “adventure.” You “never know what you’re gonna get.”

From even before the moments of our actual birth, we’re one heartbeat away from, well, death. Most of the time, folks survive the entry into this world. But not always.

Once breathing, we never know what the next breath will hold. Even before we know how to articulate these truths, we discover that life, and sometimes each day of life, holds both far deeper joys and much more poignant sorrows than we could ever have dreamed or imagined.

From a very young age, most of us—at least, those whose parents give them this sweet blessing—learn through time-honored fairy tales and great stories that life can be wonderful and scary, pretty much all at the same time. Imaginary countries filled with breathtaking beauty and incredible joys open our hearts to receive deepest truths. They take us on great journeys, amazing adventures which are adventures precisely because in the midst of their joys are encounters also with wolves and dragons and orcs. Nothing that is completely safe can be called an adventure, least of all, life.

It says much, I think, that most of us would judge that experiencing life’s deepest joys, greatest beauties, and richest loves, is worth the risk, the utter certainty, that living means facing relentless uncertainty and experiencing, at times, incredible pain. Few of us would, if we could, opt for a painless life. We know that a life devoid of the possibility of pain and sorrow would also be completely numb to the experience of joy and love. The trade would not be worth it. A risk-free life without “the adventure of living” is no real life at all.

Just this morning I watched the video account of three astronauts’ journey back to earth from the International Space Station. It happens so regularly that we become complacent. But it really is amazing. And dangerous.

That video led me to another, the poignant final moments inside the crew cabin of the space shuttle Columbia. Mission Commander Rick Husband and I were in school together. Another amazing man of faith, he absolutely loved what he did. Most of us can hardly imagine a life with such risk, but then we step out the front door, and . . . Would Rick have traded his rich life for one with no risk? It is not a hard question.

The almost career-ending injury astronaut John Glenn suffered was not in space but was against a bathtub right here on earth.

Mountain-climber Charlotte Fox scaled earth’s highest peaks and survived a near-disaster on Everest but died recently after falling down her stairs.

What will happen next to each of us in this adventure called life? We can’t know. But if our faith is in life’s Author, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” we can know that he will be with us through every moment of the adventure, and that the ending will be the best beginning of all.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


In a World Full of Questions, a Few Answers Matter Most

 

It is no proof of superior intelligence, but even as a young man I was theoretically sure that I would not always be a young man.

As I (rarely) contemplated middle or old age, though they seemed light years away, I figured that a major consolation of being old and crotchety, say, 45, would be that by then I would probably have found answers to a great many of life’s most vexing questions.

I’m an incredibly vibrant 60 years old now. Since I can’t imagine much worse than living to be 120, I’ll admit that 60 may, at the very least, bump the outer range of middle age.

The bad news (which is not really bad since it means I’m still seeking and inquisitive) is that I have more questions than ever. The good news is that the older I get, the more I realize how few of those questions really matter much. In fact, I’d say that life’s biggest questions could be numbered without getting much past the fingers of one hand. (I can probably do with five, if you would later let me add a related question or two beneath a couple of these.)

Does God exist?

What kind of God is he?

Has he revealed himself to mankind and how?

Is he absolutely good, absolutely powerful, and absolutely loving?

And, if the answer to that last one is yes, then why does God allow pain and suffering?

These are questions of belief. That does not at all mean they can’t be approached rationally; it does mean we will always, even when we’ve seriously and diligently sought their answers, still have to say, “I believe that . . .”

And, it seems to me, even after we’ve come to confident peace about the first four, and even the fifth, we will repeatedly face situations in our own lives and the lives of others that bring us back pretty regularly, and sometimes poignantly, to that last one.

Two words are “the answer.” Free will. Of this, I am sure.

And two more points here, one of which I know, and one of which I believe. 1) “Knowing” the philosophical answer to the “problem of pain,” does not take away pain. Agonizing pain is still agonizing. 2) With all of my heart, I believe that our deepest pain hurts our Father even more than it hurts us.

In The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott asks, “In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

He writes, “I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, . . . detached from the agonies of the world.”

But he continues, “Each time after a while I have had to turn away . . . to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, . . . plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.”

God suffers to one day end all suffering.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Why Does a Good and Powerful God Allow Suffering?

 

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It’s one of the oldest questions in the world. And maybe the hardest: How can a completely good and powerful God allow suffering?

The question ranks among the handful that truly matter. As the question asked most often, most poignantly, in the midst of the deepest shock, pain, and perplexity, it defies the easy answers we let leak from our lips when we’re short of answers and our highest wisdom would be silence. Pain is the solvent that melts away glib answers, plastic platitudes. The real answer, like all real answers, is not easy.

It is given through tears. It requires rephrasing the question: “How can a good, powerful, and loving God not allow suffering?”

When God created humanity in his own image, he gave us the gift we call “free will” which gives life and love meaning but necessarily carries the possibility of pain. Unlike puppets dangling from a divine string, puppets who could never make the wrong move or dance the wrong dance, we can choose for good or evil. If the terrible choice for hate and evil and despair were no option at all, would choosing for love and goodness and hope mean anything at all? Only in a free universe are our choices invested with real meaning and significance as they open our lives up to genuine joy.

Would the love of your spouse so warm your heart if they had no choice but to give it? Would the hugs of your four-year-old daughter so light up your life if there were no possibility she might choose to turn away? Would our love of the God of all joy and light mean anything if he had not given us the freedom to choose to spurn him and follow evil and the Prince of Darkness instead? Real choices must have real consequences.

It’s one thing to ask those questions when life seems good. It’s quite another to ask them when the whole fabric of your universe seems to have been ripped into shreds, and pain and evil and wickedness seem to have won the day. Most of us have seen such times. And all of us will. But thank God himself that we have also seen the awesome power of goodness, fierce love, and nobility even in the midst of the deepest pain.

It’s a truth that rips our hearts apart, but God himself could not create a universe where beauty and goodness could mean anything real if there were no possibility of evil and thus pain.

To seek an easy answer is to ask to be deluded. The answer of the Christian faith—not of the sideshow barkers who often claim to speak for our faith—is anything but easy. God is so good, so powerful, so loving that through his own unfathomable pain, he took our hurt into himself. Literally. Genuinely. Powerfully. Forever. Christ’s sacrifice means that one eternal day pain and suffering will be forever banished. Oh, Lord, come quickly, and may it be so!

“Weeping may tarry for the night,” writes the Psalmist, “but joy comes in the morning.”

Dear God, when we or those we love are walking through an exceedingly dark and difficult night, grant the faith, the strength, and the vision only you can give us to look up for the light of the morning and trust that it will come.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Reminder That God’s Light Is Always There

 

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As if it happened yesterday. That’s how clearly I remember the experience I’m about to relate. Not wanting to make too much of it, I’d hate to make the opposite mistake by failing to say to the Giver, thank you.

By the way, the weather guy is predicting ridiculously high winds and detestable blowing dust today. He didn’t say “ridiculous” and “detestable,” but they will be. Around here, weather folks rarely ever miss when they predict wind and dust, apart from which, our climate would be almost perfect, which I suppose is like saying that Jack the Ripper would’ve been a fine guy except for the unfortunate murderous streak in his nature. Anyway, living here we deal with it.

In this fallen world, trouble is like blowing dirt in west Texas; it goes with the territory. And we all go through seasons when the difficulty is particularly painful.

My family and I have been incredibly blessed, so as I give you the background to my simple story, I don’t mean to whine, just to tell the truth. It was the sort of time everyone faces from time to time. You’ve been there (or, sorry, if you’ve not been, you will). The difficulty driving you nuts tends to be the last thing you think of when you go to bed and the first thing you think of when you wake up. That’s the bad news; the good news, and you’ve probably also learned this, is that such times force you to more prayer. And prayer, even when it may well have more to do with desperation than “righteousness,” is not at all a bad beginning and ending of the day.

But even prayer has its temptations. Lengthy prayers in the midst of some difficult times can be a mistake. Short ones are the ticket. The long kind too easily become just one more way you allow yourself to wallow in the mud rather than to trust in the Almighty.

So I waked up that day and, true to form, picked up the problem. I wandered into the living room, sat on the hearth, and, frustrated at myself for being so faithless and, truth be told, impatient with the Almighty’s seeming slowness to deal with the difficulty, just breathed a rather ticked off petition, “Oh, Lord, can you just get us through this!?”

And that’s when—that’s exactly when—as the whispered words were still hanging in the air and barely out of my mouth, the deliciously warm, blindingly brilliant shaft of sunlight blazed through the window and hit me in the face.

It was both amazing and surprising, and not. From several mornings’ experience, I knew that, at that exact time, the sun and our windows are lined up. The sunlight washes over the cross hanging in our window and emblazons in a field of flaming gold yet another cross, its shadow, on the opposite wall.

So most of what happened was really no surprise; it was just, once more, breathtakingly beautiful. But the light hitting me in the face, right at that moment? A complete surprise.

I’d not call it a miracle, just a very nice gift and much-needed reminder that even in windblown, dark times, God’s children live in the warmth and light of the cross. Sometimes I need to be hit in the face by the light of his brilliant beauty to make me remember that it’s always there.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

  

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Suffering Is Often What Makes Growth Possible

 

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We know it, don’t we? We don’t like it, but we know it: we grow through suffering.

We dislike the accompanying book-end truth almost as badly: too much unbroken ease, comfort, and “success” constitute far more serious dangers to our souls than suffering and difficulty ever do.

Author Philip Yancey says that the amazing German theologian and pastor Helmut Thielicke was asked, years ago after an extensive tour of the United States, what he considered to be the greatest “defect” of Christians in America. His reply? “They have an inadequate view of suffering.”

Not just mistaken. Or wrong. Or misguided or naïve. Not just faulty or illogical. He might have truly said any of those things.

But the word he chose was “inadequate.” Just the right word, I think. Weak. Not up to the task. Not strong enough. Not able to stand the stress of any kind of real test.

A bridge may look fine. It may even look beautiful. But the only way to truly determine its strength is by testing it. Drive something heavy across it. See if it stands when gale-force winds lash it and waves beat against it. If its strength is illusory, you’ll soon know. If it is inadequate to a real test, that truth will soon be made obvious.

Now, real testing is never enjoyable. The tests that come to bridges, cultures, and individual lives are no fun at all. But come they do, and come they will.

In “The Lord’s Prayer,” we’re taught to pray simply for such earthly and non-glitzy concerns as our “daily bread” and, immediately, for what we need daily just as badly, the forgiveness we covet for ourselves and, inseparably linked to it, the mercy we desperately need to extend to others. Do we want mercy? The test comes in how willing we are to extend it.

But then comes another daily need, a recurring petition, “Lead us not into temptation.”

I’m told that perhaps a better rendering would be, “Lead us not into hard testing,” a petition I think many of us find ourselves praying with deeper poignancy the longer we live, particularly at those times when that cow’s already pretty much out of the barn. Times when, though we’ve no doubt the “testing” and trial could get even harder (with all of our hearts we pray for mercy that it won’t), we know for sure that it is already very, very hard.

Then with the psalmist we also pray earnestly, “In the shadow of your wings will I take refuge / until this time of trouble has gone by” (57:1). And we pray that, if the suffering must be endured, “Dear God, may we not miss the shaping, the molding, the tempering that your Spirit can work in our souls only when the fire is hot and the anvil hard.”

In his fine book (what a title!) Creative Suffering, the faith-full Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier writes, “That which disturbs our lives, puts us out, irritates us, annoys us, affects us, makes us suffer—severely sometimes—does not make us grow and develop, but does make growth and development possible, on condition, of course, that we are not destroyed by it . . .”

Talk about an “inconvenient truth.” But true nonetheless.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!      

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Dear God, How Could You Let This Happen?”

 

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We’ve all had times when through our pain and tears we ask, “Dear God, where are you? How could you let this happen? How long can you stomach this kind of atrocity before you break in and do something to stop it?”

Maybe it’s a senseless mass murder on the order of the 9/11 attack. Or maybe no famous skyscrapers have been felled but through the suffering or loss of someone you loved more than life itself, your whole universe has crashed in and you are amazed that the sun still comes up every morning as if nothing had even happened.

“Dear God,” you cry, “how can you be both all-loving and all-powerful and allow such pain and evil to endure?”

It is an excellent question. What’s harder for me to understand than why we ask such questions is why we wouldn’t, though even if God were to detail the reasons he allows pain (and miraculously enable us to comprehend), I doubt we’d like the situation more.

To skeptics who point to pain and say, “See! There is no God and there are no answers!” I’d say, “You are wrong.”

To Christians who mouth plastic platitudes, “Well, it was just God’s will, and real faith is  happy to blindly trust and ask no questions,” I’d say, “I  think you are wrong” even though I affirm with all my heart that faith is indeed all about trusting God. But it was God who made us capable of asking such questions. (Just spend some time in the Psalms if you think the faithful don’t ask such questions of God and, at times, ask them in deep anger and perplexity.)

Why does God allow pain? It’s one of the Top Few biggest questions of all. I think author Wendell Berry gives an important clue when he shows Jayber Crow, his main character in the book by the same name, mourning the loss of a young man from his little town killed in Vietnam. Jayber asks, “Why? Why didn’t God just come down and put an end to such horror?”

Then Jayber realizes the same question has been asked before. When God did come down, we hung him on a cross and taunted him, “If you really are God’s Son, come down!” As he showed us the depth of his love, we dared him, “Show us your power!” Thousands of times since, we’ve demanded the same thing, but “Christ did not descend from the cross except into the grave.” Why?

Jayber says through tears, “I knew the answer. I knew it a long time before I could admit it, for all the suffering of the world is in it.” Why didn’t Christ come down from the cross? Why doesn’t God break in right now?

“He didn’t. He hasn’t, because from the moment He did, He would be the absolute tyrant of the world and we would be His slaves. Even those who hated Him and hated one another and hated their own souls would have to believe in Him then. From that moment the possibility that we might be bound to Him and He to us and us to one another by love forever would be ended.”

He loves us too much for that.

Where is God in our pain? Even when we hurt too much to believe it, God is hurting with us, grieving more deeply than we can possibly understand. In our darkest times, “God grieves and Christ’s wounds still are bleeding” because of his love. And the power? It comes, too, but later. Even before the amazing power of the resurrection came the almost incomprehensible power of love freely, willingly, given for all.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


In Music and in Life, the Last Note Is the Longest

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In music and in life, the last note is always the longest.

Whenever I’m teaching a new audio/video volunteer at church how to punch the buttons, play the songs, set the levels, I always warn them at some point about “audio whiplash.” Punching “stop” or “pause” while the music is still playing does to folks’ ears what slamming on the brakes in a car does to our necks. It hurts! So you always wait for the music to come to a “full and complete stop,” as flight attendants redundantly warn airline passengers, or you slowly fade it out. Either way, you let us land slowly, gently.

Waiting is always hard, and, yes, waiting for that last note to play out is hardest of all. It’s hard for me, too. It’s all I can do to force myself to wait, wait, wait to punch the “stop” button so as not to chop off even the slightest audio reverberation.

I need to talk some good audio engineer friends about this, but I figure they have some descriptive term for that last note, waiting for it, and what happens if you don’t. Maybe cutting it off is such a rookie mistake that professionals aren’t even tempted to, but I would be!

When I’m behind the mike in the sound booth, I know (usually) to be still and wait even after I’ve sung the last note of a song or a phrase or re-take. Wait for the silence. Then wait to hear in my headphones the voices of the engineer and producer from the control room, so I know it’s safe for me to talk, too.

But sitting behind the engineer in the control room as the musicians are recording tracks gives another point of view. I’m utterly amazed at their skill. I’m listening. I’m watching. I’m loving it. Sometimes I’m holding a mike and singing the “scratch track” to serve as a reference and for them to “play to.”

But then comes the last note. My last note ends before the musicians.’ And invariably my eyes go to the computer monitors in front of the engineer. I’m watching the audio wave files on the screens. Though it’s okay to breathe, I’m probably not. Usually, I’m holding my breath, staring a hole through the monitor as that last line levels out and the very last reverberations, echoes, overtones, all fade to silence. And I’m marveling at the engineer’s patience as he waits, waits, waits to stop recording.

It doesn’t matter how long it really is, that last note is the longest of all. Waiting for it to fade takes almost forever.

Dear Lord, give us the strength to wait for that last note to play out. If it’s a note of joy, beauty, love, or laughter, may we take it all in and wait for the sweet silence that will make our whispered “thank you” richer, deeper. If it’s a note of pain and suffering, help us still to drink it in, wait for it to fade, and open our hands to receive what you’ll give us in the silence. Whatever its tone, help us to hear it all, wait for the silence, and find waiting to meet us again your sweet hope, your real presence.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Out of the Depths” Comes a Cry for Help and Hope

 

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I love the Psalms.

They teach us to pray. They teach us to be honest with God. In each one, at least in a verse or two, and often in every verse, we find ourselves and our own feelings.

Consider, for example, Psalm 130. Ah, here’s a psalm for real people, flesh and blood humans who haven’t got life all figured out, who make mistakes regularly, whose lives have plenty of room left for growth. Real people with blood in their veins.

Someone once poked fun at the Puritans by chiding that they thought themselves so holy that they had to hold on to the huckleberry bushes to keep from inadvertently ascending.

The writer of Psalm 130 is under no such delusion. Driven to his knees and to his Lord by his own weakness, his cry for help and mercy becomes our own cry for mercy and grace. No wonder this psalm has through the centuries often been used in the worship and liturgy of God’s people to express their need, their confession of sin, their trust.

The psalmist (probably not David on this one), starts off “real” and stays that way: “I’m in a mess, and only you, my God, can save me!” The NIV renders this, “O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you!”

Eugene Peterson is right on target, as usual, in his paraphrase (The Message): “Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Listen to my cry for mercy!”

This cry comes from “out of the depths.” The psalmist is sinking in his trouble. He’s drowning and headed for oblivion, and he knows it. If you’re drowning, you don’t politely whisper, “Say, would you help me please? Ever so sorry to be a bother, but I really believe I may be drowning.”

I’ll never forget the day my son Joshua and I went, believe it or not, rafting down the Nile in Uganda. We had great guides, but a Class 5 rapid christened “Silverback” just about did us both in.

We knew our chances of riding the raft all the way through that one were virtually nil; the right plan is to ride it as long as possible before the inevitable dunking and downward plunge. It is incredibly difficult to get your breath in that kind of white water even when, after what seems like thirty minutes down below, you finally bob up (which you do by relaxing [?!] and trusting your vest). The muted underwater world and the green glow you saw overhead as you floated upward has finally turned back into the deafening but welcome sound of crashing waves. You see bright light and foam and froth; you desperately need air, but all you seem to be able to suck in is foam and spray. Seems such a shame, you find yourself thinking, to get to the surface and still drown!

What Silverback did to me, life at times does to us all. And we find ourselves fresh out of wise words and self-help strategies and success seminars. We discover that we’re in the same boat as all humans. We are not “a cut above” and our words are cut down to three: “O God, help!”

He does. And the psalmist’s words in this psalm become ours: “If you, God, kept records of wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped” (The Message).

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


One Day Death Itself Will Die

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Somebody was going to die on that Thursday.

Oh, I know. Somebody is going to die every day. Somebody is going to die before this sentence ends, but chances are it won’t, and can’t, affect you much.

But on that Thursday two weeks ago, the links that would lead to tragedy were already chained together, and someone not far from where I live and closely tied to a number of people I love was going to die.

The tragedy was set in motion on Wednesday night as lightning struck out in a field, hitting one of the big sprinklers on the farm. Its now-lightning-welded connections became one major link in a very unlikely but deadly chain of events that mindlessly conspired to send 480 volts through a pump housing. Whoever touched it would die a millisecond later. Guaranteed.

It could easily have been one of the farm employees. Or the father of that well-loved farm family. Or the son about to turn 30, married just five years with two little sons of his own.

But Thursday somebody was going to die. And it was the son.

As I looked into the eyes of that father and that mother, standing near the lifeless body of their son at the emergency room, a young man who had been filled, far more than most, with life and joy just a little while before, the kind of son any parents would be proud of, a boy not only loved but intensely likeable, it tore my heart out. And right now, again, I weep for them all.

On one hand, I can’t imagine being in their shoes. On the other, . . . This young man was buried on his 30th birthday. I have four sons near his age, one who is just 10 days younger and will be 30 this week. And all of mine do work just as dangerous.

Life is dangerous. And unpredictable. And unfair. It’s good that we don’t dwell always on those facts, but an event like this slams them back into our faces.

No one can make sense out of this kind of thing. And even if we could somehow understand it, do we think we’d like it better?

I know some reasons that even God has to allow pain and suffering in this world now. Even God can’t make powerful things (like electricity), which bless us in so many ways, totally safe. The same tools that can spare life can take it away.

I know that death is part of this world because of man’s sin. God loved us so much he made us free creatures so that we could choose to love him or not. Even for God, to create us free to love means creating us free to hurt and be hurt and open to tears.

I’m not sure why anger is one of my first reactions when people I love are hurting, but it is. (Read the Psalms, and you’ll see God can handle that.) I’d be last in line to blame anyone for asking where God was on Thursday.

But I think the answer is that in a way we cannot now imagine, God was there, hating the pain and suffering and loving that son and that family with a fierce and divine love.

Somebody was going to die on that Thursday. Nothing could have stopped it. But life and love and joy and laughter will have the last word forever because the Father who is all love allowed his Son to die on a Friday long ago so that death itself will die.

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 
Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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