Illogical Disbelief

Over the last few years I have seen many of my friends and people I care about fall away from their beliefs in Christ. Almost without exception this has been when a storm has come into their life, and the scream goes out “how can God be real if this can happen to me?”

It amazes me that people can have this attitude.

If I take some time here I can list some, not all – that would take too much space, of the storms I have had to endure: my brother’s death, watching several members of my family succomb to assorted types of cancer, close friends dying in accidents, chronic illness, my own wife being seriously ill for over 2 years and almost dying 3 times as a direct result.

Psychologists produced a list many years ago of the most traumatic events a person can endure, and gave a corresponding figure to each one, the concept being that if you look at the table and add up the numbers of the events that it would give a total which would indicate the likelihood of depression and mental illness through stress if your total was above a certain number in the preceding 12 months. With a psychologist I went through this list and we stopped counting when my total was 3 times the figure for “highly probable” of a serious stress-induced mental disorder.

Clouds gathered over me, and I was buffetted by the storms in my life, but it never occurred to me that God may not exist.

The Bible clearly says we will experience problems in this world. Jesus says so in John’s Gospel. He spends 3 entire chapters talking about it, and how to deal with it (John 14, 15 and 16).

Yet so many professing to be Christians fall apart when adversity comes.

In the parable we generally call the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about the way people receive the seed. It would be more accurate to call it the parable of the soils, because the sower doesn’t change, neither does the seed.

The sower sows the seed, but the nature of the soil determines how it grows. Specifically, Jesus warns of people who hear the message, but although it grows in them, other issues either choke it or they never let it take a deep root so when troubles come they have no place to draw strength.

Over the course of my Christian life I’ve had some friends who have fallen at slight adversity, and some who make my life experiences look like a day at the beach with a picnic and yet have held fast, unwavering in their conviction.

There is a huge difference between going through adversity and choosing to stay there. I know victims of rape and child abuse who have gone both ways, drawing closer to God and running away from Him. Financial struggles have dogged some friends with the same effect.

This life is a fire. It melts us. As we move through, God turns up the heat to mould us to His shape, like a master sword-smith melting and welding to produce a blade that will be useful, enough spring to withstand battle but hard enough to hold a sharpened edge. The Japanese sword makers, the masters of their trade, only make a few swords each year so they can be certain the blades are perfect. They must have the correct blend of steel and the impurities need to be removed by fire.

God refines us the same way. We go through the fire and are melted. He removes things from us as the fire intensifies, and like a sword-smith adds carbon to strengthen the steel, he pours Himself into us to give us strength for the battle.

Life is a fire, and it will melt you. But to say because of adversity that God does not exist is like questioning the existence of the sun because of heavy cloud cover. Nobody in their right mind would do that, yet so many question God’s existence when faced with a Spiritual cloud.

There’s just no logic in that!

Love (September 2012)

The last few weeks have been difficult, but I’ve seen love demonstrated in some amazing ways through them.

It’s hard to write about specifics, as the people involved are people I care about a great deal and I don’t want to break confidences.

I’ll start with a simple one.

My wife and I reached our ninth wedding anniversary this week. Over the nine years we’ve been married, and a little over ten we’ve known one another, we have been through some hard times. Sickness, brokenness, pain and loss have dogged us physically. We’ve had problems in these areas both pyhsically and mentally. We’ve both had to spend time in hospital where we nearly died. We separated briefly due to emotional brokenness, physical and mental pain has been a constant for us both and we have had loss, financial and personal.

Yet through this there’s always been something stronger. Love has carried us. Something beyond Human love had kept us together. God’s love has been demonstrated to us through our family and friends in spite of the circumstances we’ve faced. We’ve had love shown to us in ways beyond the wildest imaginings of our hopes. God’s love has been shown to us through incredible generosity. Support has been given us without holding back from places we’ve never imagined it would come from. Places we expected to find support it didn’t come. That’s not how God works. The unexpected is where God works. Walking on water, calming storms, feeding multitudes with a lunchbox. That’s what He offered us. That’s what we received.

I love my wife, she loves me, and we both love Christ more.

Two people I care about, probably more than they know, were assaulted in the last month. I wasn’t there. I heard about one through an email, and the other through prayer.

God told me how much He loves one friend, and reminded me how much I can love at the same time. I pray for my friends. In a little under 9 years I’ve not really had any revelations for any of them. This was different. God took me to a specific scripture not once, but 3 times as I prayed for this friend. He spelt out to me what had happened and how He wanted me to use the gift He gave me to help bring healing.

It takes courage to speak out sometimes. I was scared to, but when I did it was incredible. The friendship has been deepened, ties strengthened, and a deeper and more substantial love has been shown in all directions. My wife and I have been Blessed by this friendship more than can be written here. We’ve been given the opportunity to love and be loved in return. Love speaks in spite of fear. It works in spite of circumstance. It heals in spite of pain.

There are many ways I can speak of how God’s love has been shown to me, but it’s recently that I remembered, or more accurately was reminded, that He wants to show it through me as well.

I speak my mind. Sometimes to the point of being blunt. I have no time for petty office politics where senior managers seek to cover their own backs when things get a little uncomfortable. It probably hampers my professional growth in my current position. I’m not happy where I am, and I make no effort to hide it. I don’t care what other people think, which is a somewhat dangerous place to be, as it means I say things unexpected. I place a higher value on openness and honesty than promotion and job security. I will support my family and friends as needed because I know God will support me. I look to Him for guidance and wisdom. I seek out His people, but still the only living person whose opinion of me matters to me is my wife.

I’ll speak the truth as I understand it. Without apology, and as far as possible without exception. Life’s too short for anything else.

One final example of love for tonight.

I own my own business, and my wife works for me. We run it together, and the business is medical. She’s a doctor and I’m a businessman.

On Thursday, our anniversary, she tried to help a dog that was knocked down outside our home. In it’s pain it attacked her, biting her hands badly. Instead of a quiet evening together in front of the fire, she spent the day at hospital, having her hands treated and I had to leave my “other” job early to make sure she was ok. On Friday she saw a hand-surgeon to make sure there was no permanent damage because of the amount of pain she was in. I took her to the hospital, where she had to have rabies treatment injected into the wound-sites. Her hands were in agony.

Exhausted, we went home and tried to rest. At 11:30pm we got a call from a family concerned about the mother as she was having chest pain. Despite her own injuries, my wife got up and we went to the family’s home. She fought to save the lady’s life for half an hour, doing CPR with no regard to the aggravation to her own injuries. When it became apparent that her efforts were unsuccessful and the lady had passed away the most important thing became the lady’s dignity. Together we moved her from the floor back into her bed, made sure she was covered and looked as peaceful as possible, then called in the family and told them as gently as possible that the lady had passed away.

Love in action – concern for the family’s memory of their mother, ensuring her dignity to the last. Little gestures like covering her with a blanket and washing her face so her family would see her at peace and remember that, not the horror of watching CPR being performed.

My wife demonstrated God’s love to the family by ensuring they would have as little trauma as possible at that time. We couldn’t save the lady, but we could show love to the family, and respect to her.

Love is patient, kind, and does not seek to puff itself up. It’s hard being in a position where you have to love someone sacrificially. It’s harder not to boast about it.

God gave me opportunities to love and be loved in the last few weeks. He gave opportunities to all of us. Some we take, others we leave. Something He has shown me very clearly is that to receive Love as He would have us receive it, we need to give it as He would give it to us. Freely, honestly and generously.