Gratitude Day 265
Mon., May 6, 2019
Isaiah 53:4 – Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
Sometimes, life is simply unfair. There is no other way to describe it. It’s simply crappy and unfair.
In the last week, I become aware of two situations in which life seems terribly unfair. I don’t know these ladies. I’m using them as examples of how life seems to beat up the wrong people at the most inappropriate times.
Meet Rachel Held Evans. She is a Christian author who has written several books. I read “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” a couple years ago. Rachel shared her story of how she decided to try and literally follow the Bible’s instructions for women for a calendar year. Each month, she pursued a different virtue and shared what she discovered.
Almost two years ago, I attended a “Writing for Your Life” conference in Michigan. The main speaker was Barbara Brown Taylor, who has written a couple books that I absolutely adore. I realized this conference might be the closest geographical opportunity I might have to hear her speak, so I signed up. Besides, the conference would be an opportunity to learn more about possibly pursuing a Christian writing career.
The other main speaker? Rachel Held Evans. Rachel grew up in a traditional southern Christian conservative area. She attended a conservative college. Over time, she began to question some fundamentalist Christian beliefs she had been taught. Before the conference, I read two of her other books: “Searching for Sunday” and “Faith Unraveled.” In these books, she explores how she struggled with faith as she was challenged to rethink some beliefs she had been raised with.
At the conference, Rachel was introduced as the most influential Christian writer for her age group. Wow. These are big shoes to wear. Yet, her writing and speaking skills merit this declaration. I found her inspiring and real. She’s not afraid to address issues that often are delicate. Whether a person fully agrees with her theology and beliefs, her passion is contagious. I left the conference with great appreciation for Rachel and Barbara Brown Tayler.
About 10 days ago, I saw a Facebook post asking for prayers for Rachel. She’d had the flu and her health had steady declined. On Saturday morning, 37-year-old Rachel Held Evans died. She was very happily married and had two small children; a 3-year-old and a baby less than one-year-old.
Rachel’s husband, Dan, posted about the surrealness of her death and how he is waiting to wake up from an awful nightmare. He must feel that life is unfair and crappy these days. How could his wife go from a vibrant woman to dead in just a couple of weeks? I don’t have an answer.
Now, let me introduce you to Tenley. Last week, my sister Debbie sent me a message. Her son, Kevin, graduates from high school the end of this month. On Monday, Tenley, one of his fellow classmates and fellow FFA officer, was med-flighted to Mayo Clinic were brain tumors were found. After surgery, Tenley was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common form of pediatric brain cancer.
Tenley is 20-something days from graduating from high school and her world has just been turned upside down. On her CaringBridge page, Tenley’s sister shared her reaction after she was told about the tumor. Tenley said, “So I don’t have cancer, just my tumor is cancerous.”
Talk about a young lady ready to live and take on whatever comes her way.
Disappointment is tricky. When it happens, we often look for someone or something to “blame.” Sometimes there is a place to direct blame; sometimes there isn’t. What makes disappointment even more tricky? With disappointment, there is always pain. And no one wants to experience pain.
Don’t we invest huge amounts of energy, time and money into avoiding pain? We shelter kids and grandkids from potential pain that might come their way. When we feel pain, we look for something to get rid of the pain. Whether it’s a pill or something else, we go to great lengths to mask and hide our pain so we won’t feel it and no one else will know it is there.
Is hiding pain a great idea? Yes, some types of pain should be avoided, like getting burned by touching a hot stove. But what about pain that could help us grow? Make us stronger? Maybe, it’s OK to let ourselves walk through, feel and experience the true depths of pain and disappointment.
For most people, this is a counter intuitive idea. Most people are experts at doing whatever it takes to bury pain. Too many people have little or no concept of how to deal with pain. And so, we never fully discover how pain can allow us to grow and become stronger. Life isn’t always meant to be easy. There is benefit from not always choosing the “easy” route but going through the much harder and more painful route.
This is how Jesus lived. Jesus didn’t hide out where it was safe. He didn’t always choose his words carefully, making sure not to offend someone. Most often, he chose not to hang out with the “right” people and was severely criticized for keeping company with the “wrong” people. The words, “safe,” or “comfortable” or “easy” were not part of Jesus’ vocabulary.
When life was unfair for Jesus, i.e. – hanging on a cross and dying, he didn’t say, “Life is so unfair!” No, he actually prayed for those who hurt him, made sure his mother would be taken care of and assured the sinner hanging next to him that he would see something greater beyond this earth. In every situation, Jesus set aside his personal pain … and provided opportunities for someone else to work through their pain. Their disappointment. Their lousy life situation. He didn’t simply erase or hide or minimize their hurt. He acknowledged their difficult spot and gave them hope.
Hope. I pray that Rachel Held Evan’s husband, Dan, and the rest of her family and friends, can one day find hope. I pray that Tenley sees hope as a bridge in helping her deal with the cancerous tumors the doctors found in her body. And I pray that whatever disappointment or pain or lousy situation you are going through, you find hope in a Savior that so desperately wants to journey with you through this time.
Jesus isn’t going to swoop in and remove the pain and disappointment. Jesus will not give you permission to hide or mask it. Jesus will walk alongside of you and say, “Let’s do this together. If you’ve lost hope, let my hope carry you along for a while.”
We have an alternative way to dealing with pain, disappointment and lousy situations. His name is Jesus, the author of hope. I pray you get to know his life story as well.
For the author of hope, Jesus, I am grateful.
Lord God – please be with Rachel’s family. Please be with Tenley and her family. Please be with anyone who feels their life is lousy as they deal with disappointment and hurt. I pray Jesus, the author of hope, will comfort those who are in pain. May he bring appropriate healing into our lives. Amen.
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