Reading for today: Psalm 79 and John 11:17-44
Jakson started preschool at 4. Up to that point he had mainly been around only his older brother and some semi-adult men, like PoppyC, who probably played too rough and teased too much. Socializing with other kids was a challenge to say the least. One day, when Jennifer picked him up from school Ms. Roshelle gave Jennifer the news, “Jakson hit Mary Kate today.” We were all mortified. All of us, that is except PoppyC. I wanted to know more so I asked, “Jakson, why did you hit Mary Kate today?” To which my grandson replied with what seemed to me to be a perfectly plausible answer, “PoppyC, she is just yukky.”
We are always looking for reasons, always trying to assess blame. Perhaps the most difficult psychological and theological issue in life is the problem of pain. Why does bad stuff happen? Especially to good people? And who is to blame for that? Automobile accidents, skin cancer, global warming, we want someone or something to be responsible for the tragic, traumatic trials in our lives, and very often that someone or something is God.
God gets lots of credit, usually not where it is due. I get a raise it’s because I worked hard and earned it. The doctor gives me a good report, well, of course, I’ve been working out and counting my calories. My kid makes the honor roll, it’s because she takes after me. Let’s be honest, most of the good things that come my way on a day to day basis I take credit for. But let a bad thing happen, let some sorrow enter the picture and I am so quick to say, “Why me God?” Sometimes I imagine God wants to answer down from heaven, “I don’t know. Something about you just bugs me!”
The 79th Psalm is a litany of “why me’s.” “How long, Lord will you be angry?” (verse 5) “Do not hold against us the sins of past generations.” (verse 8) Obviously, all the bad stuff that is happening to Israel is somehow God’s doing. Even in the story of Lazarus, both Mary and Martha say, “Jesus, if you had been here our brother would have made it. This is your fault.”
Look, if you are expecting here an explanation of why bad things happen to good people you need to find someone a lot smarter than me. (Not a difficult task by the way.) And if you think I am going to deny that God could change things if He chose to, not going to happen either. We pray for healing and it doesn’t come. We ask for protections and accidents happen. We plead to keep our marriage together and divorce takes place. Pain happens and it seems that even if God doesn’t cause it, He could prevent it. Why God? Is this all Your fault?
Well, I don’t have an answer to all of that but I have learned this, the more time I spend in the “why’s” the longer it takes me to get to the “what’s” What can I learn from this God? What can I use from this to help others? What can I do from here to show the world that You are still a good, good God? The longer I spend in blaming the longer it takes me to find healing and to know the tremendous peace that God has for me, and the plan. Pain and heartache is as much a part of life as breathing. Scott Peck said, “Life is difficult. The sooner we accept that the healthier we will be.” The Buddha says, (yes, I’m quoting the Buddha) “Life is hard and then you die.” And Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He also said, “I have overcome the world.” Most of the greatest lessons I have learned in life have come out of pain and sorrow. Some of the most marvelous things I have seen God do, He has done out of my hurting.
I am not suggesting that you aren’t hurting. I don’t for a minute mean that you can’t mourn, get angry, have doubts, ask questions. That is a natural and important part of the healing process. But I do believe that the sooner I get through that phase the sooner I will know the hope and wholeness that comes from a Father that loves me with an everlasting love. Peter writes, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of ALL GRACE will Himself restore you and make you strong and firm and steadfast.” I Peter 5:10.
At the end of the Lazarus story, Lazarus is standing there wrapped up in the grave clothes. (Picture Boris Karloff as the Mummy.) Jesus says, “Loose him and let him go.” “Let him get on with his life.” Maybe that’s a good word for me. Maybe I have been wrapped in my “why me’s” for too long. Maybe I have spent way too much time trying to blame, figure out, be angry. Maybe it is time for me to be “loosed.” Maybe it is time for me to listen to Jakson. “She’s just yukky PoppyC. Now let’s go have ice cream.”