The Care and Feeding of the Heart: An Apologetic on Suffering—Part 6
Welcome to the Training Table where we seek to further the Vision of Feast of the Heart, “Everyone reformed, revived, a constructive revolutionary!”
Thus far—and in order to get the best perspective on how a loving God can allow suffering—we’ve feasted on “God’s four-part story”:
Part 1: Creation
Part 2: The Fall
Part 3: The Redemption
Part 4: The Consummation
Only by having the proper CONTEXT for what reality actually consists of can we live as the sort of beings God Himself created and sustains. “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jeremiah 51:15)! We are creatures of context, and crazed without it.
One’s ability to “get” anything substantive about Life and our personal lives—all the travails and all the joys—is based upon how well we know God’s Story [found in the Bible].
Last we dined together, Part 5 consisted of The Unavoidable FREE-FALLS of life. Please remember some key issues about FREE-FALLING:
- The foundation of fully and fruitfully loving and trusting God our Maker, Master, Most-High was put in place by Him “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1, 2);
- The unavoidable sin, suffering, decay, death, the little and large the free-falls of life began when the predecessors of humanity, Eve and Adam, disobeyed God and infused Sin into the “spiritual genetic make-up” of all fallen Image Bearers [humanity] since then (Genesis 3);
- The first FREE-FALL (Genesis 3) was symptomatic of humankind’s, a) guilt/shame, and, b) the loss of Family. [At our conversion, we experience the beginnings of NO MORE SHAME (Romans 8:1) and a brand new FAMILY (Mark 3:31-35).]
- All of life—every aspect of it—has been infected and grossly undermined by the impact of Sin entering the universe, as well as “the accumulations of sin” over time: The pervasiveness of decay, “living in a free-fall”, being in wild-eyed horror of the nauseating vertigo of meaninglessness… is so thorough that it’s now considered [especially by our Western, “modern”, and comfy culture] as being normal! For far too many, mere survival is now the high bar of a life well-lived…
- Living life in the midst of a free-fall of meaning, idolatry, egotism, emotional and psychological pain, decay, loss and weeping is antithetical to how human beings were made by God to thrive;
- The vast majority of mental, emotional, psychological disorders—and their many “cures” [E.g., “cloaks” far too often] which have increased exponentially in the past 75 or so years—are directly related to the consequences of denying God’s FOUNDATIONS [which we have stripped from many so institutions and hearts] that were established for humanity to rest upon, be secure in, and flourish from;
- The first and final solution for mitigating the effects of the universal and personal pain of living life in a free-fall has been put in place ONLY by the God of the Bible (John 6:44)—because only He is the Author and Sustainer of our soul;
- Devoid of God’s plan and person [Jesus Christ… The Way, The Truth, The Life] to mitigate the effects of The Fall… and FREE-FALLING… Mankind has creatively and foolishly invented endless ways to distract, deny, diffuse, become pathologically busy, disavow, anesthetize, drug, entertain, avoid, and suppress the reality of sin and FREE-FALLING in every manner conceivable (Romans 1:18-32);
- Especially in Western culture, each and every day, the vast majority of people we come into contact with are actually living life in a FREE-FALL of some form and degree—compassion is the best response;
- Worry, existential and temporal angst, unrelenting anger, additive lusts, “deadly emotions” [see Resources], gluttony, envy, massive materialism, irrationality, overweening pride, impatience… and lots more… All sorts of very negative and conflicting emotions mark human beings who strive to live life in a constant FREE-FALL while remaining in denial of it;
- In many everyday cases of interacting with “a culture of free-falling folks”, we can find it alarming and disheartening because—like a kitten whose drowning in a rushing stream of water and we reach in to save it—we can get mauled due to fear and irrationality by simply seeking to help a free-falling person along the way—but help we must;
- Only by embracing and addressing the reality of the UNIVERSAL existence of sin and free-falling, on a very PERSONAL level, can we have a healthy, God-centered, wise perspective… and anywhere close to a healthy impact on another life;
- Christians, of all people, should not be SURPRISED by the effects of Sin [Original] and sinning [the habits and hurts of sinners] in the world. The unwitting Disciple’s surprise and shock only serves to distract and delay his or her running to the aid of those whose lives are being ruined and racked by unavoidable sin and the free-falls of life;
- Christ-followers are to wake each day wise, armored, and ready to run into the unavoidable chaos of this increasingly broken world, equipped to respond to FREE-FALLS with the FOUNDATIONS of love and truth God has provided them;
- Lastly, trying to live a life in the constant FREE-FALL is not living life at all: In fact, it’s hell on earth.
Part 6: Foundations
[Quoted from my book:]
Free-Falling and Foundations—A Cry to God Christmas Night… He Answers from Above
“Oh, Dad. . . . Oh, God. . . .” As I repeated the tearful refrain, the responses began again; this time, I heard the words more clearly—a series of verses from Scripture, verses that the Bible and the Holy Spirit had specially given to me over the past fifteen years of my faith journey:
In the beginning… God said,… (Genesis 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word… (John 1:1)
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread… for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.He will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Commanding, yet quiet. Scary, yet soothing. Distinct, yet elusive. The words began to tie me to an entirely new reality in the present moment. They formed the perfect answer for my pain. Truth. I shuddered deeply and sucked in my breath, wiping my tears and the phlegm that had pooled on my lips and chin.
The words of each passage began distinctly overlapping, and then melting away into the night. The “circle of sounds and words” then repeated itself, distinct yet still, quiet and overlapping. Oh, how I had loved these passages, these truths, and these promises. Nevertheless, I could not have imagined how tightly I would hold onto them in this moment of deep weeping and a fearful freefall as I peered into the window of my own heart.
I could never have anticipated the context into which God now placed them and the deeper meaning of sweet solace they would bring both to me and eventually to the many others who would be crushed by dad’s suicide.
A Firm Foundation [remember the inset picture from my book]
Suddenly, I realized my rocking and freefall had slowed. I painfully straightened my back and glanced around. I checked my dad’s condition. It was the same. The sirens still wailed in the distance, still strangely muffled yet timelessly imminent, but my free-fall had stopped. Without knowing when exactly, I had somehow “landed” on something as firm, more rock-solid than I could ever imagine. Hundreds of attempts with thousands of words to describe what had happened would never fully explain the experience.
I had landed. I knew it. I knew I could never go lower or sink deeper. This foundation I was now on would not allow it. I was resting fully on God, on “The Rock.” I knew somehow my family and I would make it. The one and only true God who had in the beginning spoken creation into existence would never leave me. The Word who was there “in the beginning,” the Savior of the world, the God of those magnificent “beginnings,” held even Dad’s choice this Christmas night within his perfect and providential purpose. I knew, at the core of my being, yet without being able to explain it, that God’s plan was perfect and rooted in something solid, deep, and abiding.
I had no idea what would happen after this moment, nor did I need to know. I could trust God for the future, whatever might come, because I was kneeling, resting on something as solid, immovable, and reassuring as the eternal Rock himself that consisted his mighty acts of creation, incarnating Christ, and the promise of a never-ending covenant love.
It was particularly important that this first group of three responses from God ended with his promise to intimately comfort and encourage me, to keep on caring for me, with his promise never to leave me nor to forsake me… ever… ever… ever.
His love just for me buoyed me up, brought confidence and hope in a way nothing else could have. I didn’t realize it at the time that God was perhaps perfectly and especially there for my dad as well. This Christmas night I grasped afresh how unspeakably vast God is, and yet, how so very personally he cares for me. I saw for the first time the full glory and greatness of God who was there just for me, who is always there so infinitely and yet so intimately for each and every heart that turns to him The Foundation in times of weeping or a freefall of any kind.
Clutching… and Letting Go
Admittedly, I am one who pays a great deal of attention to the grandness and granular stuff of life. It is indeed a mixed blessing.
But now in this most sacred place in the garden on Christmas night where I felt a sure foundation beneath me, I sensed a deep need to move on and yet, at the same time, a need to circle back into the passages offered by God and dig into more detail. I couldn’t do both.
It was as though the world’s time was about to come rushing in and overwhelm me with the chaos of the world’s response. I wanted and needed to consider for a time a level much wider and deeper concerning the passages I had just received from God. I wanted to trace back and tightly hang onto them. At the same time I felt an urge to move forward, somehow knowing this timeless place that God created would not last forever.
As I knelt over Dad, these ideas rushed through my mind. The enormous tension of “time-bound timelessness” threatened to rip me in two, but God had blessed me with just enough wisdom and trust to stay put a bit longer still.
I choked back my tears and uncontrollable groans and shaking just enough to trace back to how God by reminded me of creation first, and found I could begin to breathe more easily and calm myself. I could remember how God had started and sustained everything, from the very core of my own heart and the atoms that made it up, to the furthest reaches of the infinite universe. God thought, and all creation leapt into existence. He had sustained every detail and grand design until this very evening, which God had planned so perfectly… respectively.
All creation “thought, uttered and fluttered” into existence by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Oh yes, I was reminded that this is so true. What an awesome creating and sustaining God he is! Could God then be trusted to remember my dad and me in the garden, right now in this place? Absolutely. God always has a specific reason for the things he does, and reminded me that he began the whole of creation of the universe. He sustains all of it to this day, and, if I can trust in anything, I can trust that he hasn’t left out even the smallest details within it.
In God’s mercy, akin to addressing Job in his greatest distress (Job 38:4), he reminded me of the beginning of all beginnings, and his tender care of me this very night. Within this first verse that God mercifully gave me was an implicit and actual assurance that he most carefully sustains it all as well, in every detail providentially and humanly imaginable.
It was as if God reminded me, “John, I hear your pain. I feel your deepest despair. I know you’re intense fear of freefalling into the shock and darkness of this tragedy. I didn’t form you for this sort of freefall. It’s not in your true nature as it was ‘in the beginning’…And it’s completely the opposite of the security and safety I intended for you, beloved. But remember, I began it all and I am in and through it all today… until I bring it all to consummation.”
Christ in me… the Hope and Glory
Then, just as the first moment God answered my cry for help, the second verse and truth began to overlap and ascend into and through my heart for attention, “In the beginning was the Word…”
While kneeling in this sacred moment in time, this incredibly rich and jam-packed “second beginning”, referring to none other than Jesus Christ himself, carried with it an even greater measure of remembrance, meaning, intimacy and gratitude than I could ever fully describe. Moving from the words of remembrance in God forming creation from nothing (Genesis 1), to the Word incarnate in Jesus Christ (John 1), no more appropriate gift could have followed the first reminder of God’s created order. The Word incarnate in Christ…born, died and resurrected for me.
These realities were utterly incompatible with any thought that Jesus would leave me alone to suffer this Christmas night.
It was as though the perfect next step from creation as a “reflection of God’s nature in himself” to the remembrance of the intimate word manifest in Jesus Christ “dwelling among us” was offered to me so intimately and in ways that I had never dreamt possible.
“Never, ever… no never…”
This remembrance of “Christ’s beginnings” that echoed back from my outcry—still intertwining the first with the second beginning—could not have been a more perfect way for God to reach down into my heart and stop my freefall. These were the next truth-full words God responded to my cries with: the words from God to not be afraid and to have courage. To know that he would never ever leave me or for sake me with a promise of the love of the Trinity-God that reached into the center of my being.
Again it was as though God had said, “John, dear one, remember I spoke it all in the beginning for my pleasure and your blessing; I sent my son to redeem it when it all went wrong. Surely, beloved son of mine, you can trust in the fact that I am not only aware of your deep hurts and needs, but I am right with you now and will never ever leave or forsake you in any way, as we move through this together. I began it all. I am sustaining and redeeming it all. Remember, I’m with you for time and eternity.
The remembrance of these foundational promises and facts of the Godhead himself moved down to the final level of promise in, “I will never leave you… never ever, no way, no how, no matter what sort of freefall, of any kind, I will always be with you, John. Get out your faith. Use it now. Do you trust me in this? That you can be so blessed by me? I can and will bless you and others by faith that I will always be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you no matter what may come? Yes, and lots more will come. Many trials, many joys, many changes and challenges are to come. But in it all I am always with you, John.”
I now knelt upon this unshakable foundation. I was now resting on this unfathomably unique and blessed assurance of God’s answer to my pain and outcry. Anything else that might ever occur in my life might aim throw me back into a state of dark meaninglessness, existential vertigo and pain… But the foundations of my faith will not be moved! This blessing from God himself cannot be compared to any gift except, of course, the gift of God’s final glory and seeing his face when all things are made new at the end.
[End quote from my book.]
How could a loving God allow such horrid and widespread suffering to occur in the world?”
This very first step in the 6-parts of The Weeping, the Window, and the Way—God’s protocol for redemptive suffering—is SO VERY CRUCIAL to embrace, my dear friends in Christ:
God allows, mercifully ordains and orchestrates our FREE-FALLS in order for us to see and be reminded of exactly what our FOUNDATIONS consist of!
Merely at face value this offer by God may appear inconsequential… even trite or just a more-serious-than-normal Hallmark card message.
But if you or anyone were remotely awake and believing of what we’ve discussed in the previous five messages, you would see that, a) we cannot live without God’s foundational truths and love; b) our Sin-filled universe and heart creates faulty foundations of just about ANYTHING but God; and c) when [not “if”] this broken world slams into our heart and life and leaves us free-falling in pain we can either better understand exactly what sorts of foundations have sustained our life… or not. Merely getting up, dusting ourselves off, buckling down and trying harder after we’ve been hit by a passing train of life’s brokenness is grossly, sadly insufficient, Beloved.
God deeply, lovingly truthfully desires we look much closer at what we have set our lives upon as our foundations.
Faulty or Firm Foundations? Do You Recognize Any of Them?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of marriage… and I was never able to find Mr. or Mrs. Right?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of family… and my spouse walked out or I lost them in a tragic accident?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of children… and I lost one?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of career… and I was passed over, caught for an indiscretion, or down-sized?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of fitness… and I sustained an injury that prevented athletics of any kind?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of fame… and I fell from fame in disgrace or poor ratings?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of power… and I was demoted to a role of powerlessness?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of looks… and I was marred by a surgery, an accident of some kind, or simply pushed aside by one better looking than me?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of wealth… and I went broke or amassed much more crap than cronies?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of revenge… and I realized I had alienated every person in my life?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of my intellect… and I contracted dementia, out-smarted and alienated all my family and friends, or reasoned myself into a corner of an illogical and meaningless life?
What if I built my life upon a foundation of my religion… and I was left alone either by my works-based and guilt-filled legalism or liberalities.
What if anything I had built my life on EXCEPT GOD… crumbled and fell away beneath my feet? Which it will…
In every case [and many more] in the above, real-life scenarios, God is well-aware of our need to have a ROCK-SOLID AND TRUSTWORTHY FOUNDATION beneath us… that will never leave or forsake us…
And He will allow and orchestrate the unavoidable circumstances of living in a broken world to help us see that ANYTHING but HIS… CREATION, CHRIST, and COVENANT foundations will fail us every single time.
All free-falls are allowed by God to help us see the real nature of the foundations of our life, and make whatever adjustments are necessary to replace them entirely [by coming to faith in the God of the bible for the first time] or shore them up [as disciples of Christ in need of refining, deepening, growth, and effectiveness].
Until next week when we will chow down on Part 7, THE WINDOW, please chew on theses truths and love offerings from God—delivered by a sinner saved, sanctified, and called to serve… by grace.
It’s only once we are resting on the proper FOUNDATIONS of the faith that we can then take the next step in God’s protocol for redemptive suffering. Amen.
Foundations of the Faith