God NEVER promised a Disneyland

hope

I encounter people who seem to have the notion that once they become a Christian, all will be “well with their soul” as the hymn declares.

Life presents us with difficult challenges and tough decisions. But Disneyland? God never promised this to me! What do we do when the scorching heat of the barren desert experiences comes vaulting into our life? It might be the loss of a job. A sudden lingering illness. The loss of a loved one. Where is God when it hurts so much, I can not make it through another minute? The rescue helicopter is in the distance, but it just flew over once again. They never saw the shouting and furious hand waving. Did God abandon me in the desert to die alone and frightened? There seems to be, no hope. And yet even in the darkest of times, God provides just enough shade for us to make through the next moment.

1 Kings 19 is a natural backdrop. Let’s back up for a moment. In the previous chapter, the prophet Elijah had just called down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. In chapter 19, we find the prophet alone in the desert, running from those that would kill him. He was ready to die. Did you notice something? God does NOT scold Elijah for being depressed. God simply asked: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God did NOT remove him from the desert. Instead Elijah found a broom tree (chapter 19:4) and sat under it. God provided just enough shade for the prophet to make it through the next moment.

In the desert experiences, faith is refined and proven. God did NOT remove Elijah to an oasis. God does NOT bring us to Disneyland in the midst of a trial. God provided a broom tree, just barely enough shade, to be out of the scorching heat for the moment. Too often we want to escape the seemingly never ending desert experiences. Remember God is with us, even in the desert. Chuck Swindoll said: “Remember past victories. They will sustain us when the negative tide of emotion enters our life from time to time.”

All of us have to come to grips with “the problem of pain” as C.S. Lewis so aptly stated. Does suffering have value? Life is not always a joy. It isn’t always wonderful. It is often times painful.

As Larry O. Richard said: “This may be one of the most important values of suffering. If life on earth were a constant joy, why would we fix our hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at Jesus’ return? If life on earth were without difficulty, how would we remain sensitive to our need for God? If life on earth were without trials or persecution how would we be forced to choose between commitment to Christ, and comfort or ease? As Peter said, suffering does have value. It reveals the genuineness of our faith, and brings praise to the Lord.”

We are called to be a broom tree and provide shade to a weary world.


“Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches in our soul.
and sings the tune without words,
and never stops at all.”

– Emily Dickinson

Where is God when it Hurts?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know full well.”
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

I had a recent hospitalization. Recent in fact: it was just last week.

If CS Lewis is right, that “pain is God’s megaphone.” then what is he trying to say to me?

I woke up as normal, petted the cats, and wandered off to breakfast. Hmm big choice: eggs and 1/2 bagel, oatmeal, polenta, or cheerios? Yeah not a huge selection, but when you’re on a budget, predictability in cost becomes a factor.

So, I decided on Cheerios and Milk. A good way to start the day. Or so I thought. About 15 minutes after eating them, my stomach became nauseous.

Things never settled. I got sicker as time progressed. Then the vomiting started. I couldn’t keep any water down. Uh oh, this is serious!

I called my doctor, who by now only knows that I call if something is seriously wrong said: “Get your butt on over to the Hospital.”

I timed things and drove the 2 miles. Despite my condition, I sat in the waiting room for 4 hours with a bucket. I’ll bet that had to be a site to see.

By then I was in so much pain from vomiting about 20 times, you can only imagine. “Okay God, you have my attention! What’s up?”

I wasn’t understanding what was happening to me or why. They ordered a Cat Scan. “Oh God, this is serious!”

What I didn’t realise, was HOW serious. I had a blockage in the small intestine from scar tissue from a previous stomach surgery. “Great! What do I do now?”

It turns out the Doctor said: “We are going to continue IV fluids, and you are NPO!” (nothing by mouth.) How is that going to fix anything?

As I lay there, and pondered all of this: fearing, wondering, hoping, crying, praying, alone. A lot of scripture came to mind. But Psalm 139:14 was the strongest. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” If I am so wonderfully made then you screwed up God! Why am I lying in a hospital bed, wincing in tremendous pain?

Then as I meditated on the scripture, it became clear. It wasn’t about being “wonderfully made at all.” It’s a control issue.

Even in times like this, God is still in control. You mean God knew about this? Why would He let me suffer so? Ahh the refining fire, is no place for fun.

I began to experience peace, even though I was in great pain, simply because I knew I wasn’t responsible for the outcome of this. God was. Nothing ever escapes God’s omniscience or omnipresence.

I had to realise, that despite all this: God was still in control. I am not! I AM wonderfully made, even though it hurts.

As Larry O. Richard said: This may be one of the most important values of suffering. If life on earth were a constant joy, why would we fix our hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at Jesus’ return? If life on earth were without difficulty, how would we remain sensitive to our need for God? If life on earth were without trials or persecution how would we be forced to choose between commitment to Christ, and comfort or ease?

As Peter said, suffering does have value. It reveals the genuineness of our faith, and brings praise to the Lord.” (“The 365 Day Devotional Commentary”, Larry O. Richards, Victor Publications, 1992, pg 1109)

And that’s what I learned. Good lesson, God!

Wayno