16th Mar, 2011

Heaviness All Around, Hope Can Be Found

An earthquake rips open a chasm in the earth throwing the ocean over a wide expanse of the Japanese coast killing thousands and leaving the country in turmoil.

In the aftermath several nuclear plants are on the verge of meltdown and explosions, and no one seems to know how seriously we should take it.

Not only are thousands of people dead or missing across Japan, but thousands more have lost friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins, dogs….

It doesn’t take epic-sized disasters to discover the heaviness of this life. In fact, I think we more often ignore the tsuanamis of life as the reality of their devastation would literally overwhelm us. But perhaps we also become numb to the daily deluges we face; I know I have.

I met a wonderful man yesterday who has Parkinson’s disease. He is an American hero, serving our country in Vietnam, building an amazing business, and he has a hard time walking across the room without losing control of his feet and being temporarily paralyzed in space. He faces his battle bravely and it has made him a more compassionate man.

Someone close to me is facing the future of Alzheimer’s slowly corroding her brain and putting her in a fog that never dissipates until death separates her from her body.

The media continues to perpetuate fear as its main commodity, never failing to ask what if the worst possible scenario materializes and rarely offering a hope-filled alternative.

Rob Bell, a man who shares the love of Jesus and proclaims His name across the globe, is brutally attacked by critics when he writes his belief that “Love Wins.” People who haven’t read the book, including followers of Jesus and fellow pastors and theologians, accuse Rob of being a heretic and dismiss him. I haven’t yet read the book, but whether we can label Rob in some way or not, it is very heavy to see critics write things like “I wish Rob had been in Japan.”

The Westboro Baptist Church members.

War. Seriously. People will go to Japan and face the incredible risk of radiation and disease to save people, and people will take up guns to kill one another. What is it we are fighting about, really? We all are sons, daughters, moms, dads, husbands, wives, and all struggle with joy, sadness, love, anger, and pain. Yet we find it necessary to kill one another. Strange stuff.

Our family’s seeming inability to ride in a car for any period of time without someone bugging someone and someone needing to be told to stop.

Our ability to treat people we hardly know with great care and respect while finding ourselves uttering cruel remarks in our homes with those we love.

I find myself suspecting the worst of others and put myself at the center of things. I really hate that. I often assume people misunderstand me. Despite knowing it’s not all about me, I seem to default to selfish thought rather than selfless thought. And I don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt approach people with encouragement and hope.

And aren’t I glad my thoughts cannot be read or heard.

All of these things and more weigh heavily upon my heart. It’s tempting to lose all hope or to live in anxiety. But what is interesting is that I don’t feel “depressed” in the world’s way of looking at things. I feel more alive acknowledging the hardships of the world and the depravity of my heart than I ever have before. I think I’m learning about poverty of spirit and hope in the Lord. I see more and more each day how empty my solutions are, and my heart is, apart from Jesus.

Jesus faced this dying world by dying Himself. He didn’t try to take from what is already dying (the world); He took from Life, His Father, and gave His life away. And by living in the reality that apart from the Father He could do nothing, He didn’t look for answers in the world. As I stop looking to feed my needs and desires with what this world offers and seek God’s offering, I no longer fear radiation, food shortages, failing bodies or minds, or natural disasters. Instead, I am filled with compassion for those who are suffering, just as I am suffering, and desire to do more to point people to the One who suffered for them. And I live joyfully knowing that this place is not my home or my hope, His reign over me – the Kingdom of God – meets my every longing!

I feel like I could cry quite easily, a feeling that was once quite foreign to me. But in that place I am finding great peace and joy. I don’t understand it, but I like it. I feel alive. Something inside is groaning. I ache because there is so much pain. I don’t have to ignore it or numb myself anymore. God is real, alive, and really living in and through me. I don’t know exactly what it all means or that it is all good and right, but I know that my faith in Him seems stronger and I feel I can rest more easily knowing that He is God and I am not. And as His love fills me, I can face the tragedies and ask if I am part of His solution without fear. Wherever He leads, I will go!

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