Disappointed? It’s your fault of course

sad_manI’ve been mulling over this article You Can’t Turn Lemons into Lemonade, especially as I wrestle with some deep, abiding and lengthy disappointment. I appreciated the honesty in which the author acknowledges that we do experience disappointment in this life. Try as we might, we just can’t make it right so its important to think about our disappointments theologically and put them in perspective.  I noticed some of the reactions to it that made it seem like as long as we know of our future hope, we should not be disappointed.

I’ve heard this before…

I often get the impression in our Christian circles that disappointment is taboo. It’s not that disappointment is not a reality but when we do get disappointed, its because we need to adjust our attitudes.  I have often heard this expressed this way – the problem is our expectations. If we could just temper our expectations than we won’t be disappointment anymore. The underlying sentiment is that disappointment is a product of our own choosing, that if we make the necessary changes than we should not be disappointed. But more telling in this sentiment is the understated reality that somehow disappointment is our fault.

But what this misses is the fact that we live in imperfection. Our lives are not perfect and neither is the world.  I’m struck by Paul’s words in Romans 8

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage of corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are now saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25) Continue reading

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Privilege, Pain and the Tragedy of Triumphalism

man standing on rockThis is a composite of various thoughts that have been swirling around my head for the past few days. I’ve been in a somewhat disconcerted state, continuing to reel from issues that plague my soul, wanting relief and wrestling with God. The persistent tug of war between despair and hopeful expectation of God’s working all things out gets exhausting at times. Just when peace settles in something comes across my radar that upsets the apple cart, so to speak. Honestly, I’ve gone through a period of feeling abandoned by God and feeling left to my own devices to figure it out. Well of course that is NOT the reality but at times I have trouble convincing my humanity of that. Thank God for the promises of his word.

When I saw this clip from Tullian Tchividjian, it so resonated with some of the things that bothered me regarding how pain and suffering is treated not only in our corporate gatherings but also the wrestling matches with ourselves individually.

What he speaks to is something I’ve encountered throughout my Christian life, the need to look victorious in spite of how circumstances are warring against our soul. Because after all, doesn’t Paul say that we are more than conquerors? Unfortunately, I fell into this mindset at a time when I was taking a pounding from life and detached from how certain realities in my life had impacted me. Because of the Charismatic teaching that I had embraced, there was this philosophy of warring though the difficulties and engaging in radical praise. Be triumphant even when you don’t feel like it. Be strong, when you are weak. The problem with that mindset is that it doesn’t allow a realistic evaluation and may encourage dishonesty in our spiritual walk. Continue reading

The Problem of Evil: Why We Need a Good Theology of Bad

newton ct imagesSadness. Grief. Shock. Horror. Questioning…lots of questioning regarding this recent tragedy that has severely impacted the lives of 26 families who must cope of the aftermath of loss and unspeakable violence. Sheer evil, actually. Even countless more are impacted: the responders, the survivors and their families and anyone else who got close enough to this tragedy to feel it’s penetrating arm.

The question of evil is most obviously on the minds of many. Christians have responded and some responses have been…troubling.

  • We’ve taken God out of the schools
  • Evil spirits at work
  • Video games
  • Gun control
  • Poor parenting

The commonality in all these responses is that there is something outside of oneself to blame. These responses are inadequate. Because they dismiss the very real presence of sin that resides within humanity. This sin and evil that entered the world through one man’s disobedience has impacted us all and subjected humanity to death, disease, dysfunction and delirium. (Romans 5:12; 8:18-22). There is something within, that when facilitated by aggravating factors, like mental illness result in horrific atrocities. But as long as the external factors are blamed, the root cause is overlooked. Jesus himself said

Listen to me, all of you and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man (Mark 7:14-15)

See also the compatible passage in Matthew 10:10-20. And specifically vs 19 – “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

So we need a good theology of bad because unfortunately bad is with us. The problem of evil will persist until Jesus comes back and fixes everything. Until then, his kingdom breaks through in various ways in the midst of pain and suffering. We’ll celebrate that in a couple of weeks and marvel at the incarnation and the promise of redemption through God the Son, Immanuel God with us. He provides light, hope and comfort though not eradicating the presence of evil.  Until evil is eradicated with his glorious appearance, we wait and hope and trust though trying to make sense of it all. These are the unfortunate tensions of living in the already-but-not yet kingdom realities. For there remains grief, heartache and questions. .

Here are a few good articles I’ve come across.

An Insufficient Answer to the Shootings in Connecticut

Any Person is Capable of Any Sin

If God is Invited in, All is Well?

Continue to pray for the families of this tragedy.

Yes, God DOES Give Us More Than We Can Bear

God has not given us more than we can handle. Have you heard that or even said it? It’s commonly taken from this verse

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

My friend Miguel Labrador had some intriguing things to say in a FB post about the use of this verse to mean we won’t be given more than we can handle.

‘God will give you more than YOU can handle.’ Stop telling people that He won’t. First, it’s NOT biblical. Second your erroneous use of the verses that idea comes from (1 Corinthians 10:13) is not even talking about that. Your scripture application FAIL actually hurts people. Check out what Paul says; “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethern, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life, indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so many great a peril of death, and will deliver us. He on whom we have set our hope. And He will deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). He will give you more that YOU can handle. Because he stands ready to listen to your heartfelt cries of desperation and weakness.

I think he is right. Now Miguel and his wife Claudia serve as missionaries in Ecuador and no doubt have encountered times of tremendous hardship.  They know what I’m sure many Christians have encountered, that God does give us more than we can handle at times. But it’s in those times of weakness that we turn to God for strength. Hear what Paul says also further in 2 Corinthians;

Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weakness, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

It’s the strength of the Lord that carries us through times when it it too much too handle. And we will encounter those times.

Thank you Miguel for reminding me of this today.

For Those Who Know Too Much

During a trip to California a few years ago,  my dad made a remark about the ex-husband of one his neighbors. Now they live in a very nice, gated condo community with each building consisting of 2 vertical condo units. Apparently, the ex-husband of the downstairs condo unit owner maintains active involvement in his ex-wife’s life. So my dad vocalized his observation about how although the ex-husband lives just a few houses down, he always drives to the ex-wife’s house. My dad was insistent that he figured out the reason, “Jim”, who is retired obviously needed to feel like he was going somewhere and making the 200 yard trek via vehicle satisfies this need. It was not until he expressed this epiphany to my step-mom, that we learned the real reason. “Jim” has emphysema from years of heavy smoking, and gets too winded to walk even the short distance. My dad thought he had the guy figured out.

I see a very similar scenario in the book of Job. Job is stricken with utter loss, devastation and sickness and is utterly miserable. His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar think they have it figured all out. God must not be pleased with Job, Job must have some sin in his life, God must be trying to teach Job a lesson, there is something Job must do before God removes the hand of judgment upon Job. They offer words of comfort, admonishment and wisdom according to their assessment of the situation. Of course, what they have failed to recognize is that God has his own purpose for Job’s suffering, that is significantly removed from the friends’ assessment they are so convinced must be the reason for Job’s malaise. They were wrong.

The devil got in God’s face about his favor and protection towards the righteous, that he insisted if God would remove his hedge of protection, then surely righteousness would fail. But God obviously was so confident in Job and his faithfulness, that Job received the honor of proving the devil wrong. God insisted that Job would not fail Him. He was right. Continue reading