"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." -Hebrews 11:1
We were asked a question in our Life Group today... how would we describe what we believe about God? Responses included "He is sovereign", "He loves me", "He is in control", "He knows what's best for me", etc. When something bad happens to others, we hear similar ideas... "Everything happens for a reason", "It's all part of God's plan", "It's for the greater good". My response was that I didn't really know how to articulate it in to one word or phrase.
A skeptic or a cynic might say something very different... "If there's a God, that wouldn't happen" or "How could a loving God allow that happen?" On the heels of a second miscarriage, I can say that my mind has not gone there, and I pray it won't. I haven't found myself angry or in question of the reasoning behind any of it. But when it seems to be such a common occurrence, between other family and friends, and there are so many people dealing with similar or worse issues, I have found my mind wandering to dark places, allowing questions in like "What if this whole thing isn't true?", "What if it's all for not?", "What if it all really is all just chance and circumstance?"
In Philippians 1:21-23 Paul talks about "...to live is Christ, and to die is gain..." That sounds real awesome and inspiring, and all those phrases about "God's plan" and "He's in control" sound fantastic until I get punched in the stomach by life. The pill doesn't go down quite so smoothly, and if I'm not careful, dark thoughts from a dark power allow me to go to dark places in my mind. For me, these thoughts have only creeped, and I have not allowed them to take root, mostly through prayer. Our pastor preached 1 Peter 1:13 today, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." A few of his points around this verse focused on how we are to protect our minds from distractions and hindrances. We have to work hard to prevent the pressures of life from clouding our focus.
I have yet to experience a time when faced with doubt, struggle, or temptation, where I stopped and prayed for reassurance or a way out, that God did not respond in some way. I'll give two examples from this week directly related to our current circumstance. First, after the first miscarriage in October, we were very moved and very encouraged by this video, which we have watched many, many times...
In case you didn't watch the video, the scripture at the very end is Psalm 73: 25-26, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." This past Wednesday, as we were getting ready to go to the hospital, I clicked on biblegateway.com to see what the verse of the day was and it just so happened to be Psalm 73: 25-26. Some might say it was just a coincidence. Maybe. Later that morning, a friend sent me a text of encouragement and suggested that I read 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10. It's long so I won't type the whole thing, but in verse 9, the Lord tells Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And Paul goes on to say in verse 10, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." I find great comfort and reassurance in these words. I read this passage with Em and her sister and we prayed together for it to be made so in us. I've been listening to a lengthy sermon series on Ephesians from 2003 in my car. I listened to the first 4 parts last week and didn't listen again until this Thursday when I went back to work. In part 5, the pastor preached 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 as part of his sermon. It blew my flipping mind and immediately relieved any doubts or uncertainty that were tempting me. I can not, do not, and will not believe that it was just a coincidence... just chance and circumstance. I believe it was His subtle, or not-so-subtle, way of whispering "I'm here... and I know... don't lose heart."
I do not believe that God made this happen. I do believe he allowed it to happen. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. And when it comes, we have a choice. We can get mad and shake our fists at God and say "how dare you?!" or "I don't believe in you!"... or we can put our faith in the idea that "He is sovereign", "He loves me", "He is in control", and "It's all part of God's plan". Our pastor said it well this morning, "We are not at the mercy of anything in this world because we have hope in Christ." That same faith that is so strong when things are going well has to hold up when things go badly, or it stops being faith. The bible is very clear that following Christ will likely involve suffering. Just ask the disciples. When I am struggling with doubts, questions, uncertainty because of suffering that just doesn't make sense, He is always faithful to reassure. It sounds cheesy and cliche to say that, but I've experienced far too many things in my own life and in the lives of others to write it off as coincidence. It's been a tough week, and we have certainly had better ones. But our faith is not shaken. God is good, even when things are bad. We may never understand why this happened, and we don't know what the future holds. We aren't promised anything. We're not promised tomorrow morning. But our faith is in the promise of something better to come, and so I think my answer to the Life Group question would be that I believe there is no way it's all just chance and circumstance. And Emily and I will continue to do our best to be faithful in both good times and bad.