“I’m bleedin’, Burt!”

wood 2That title is from It’s a Wonderful Life, and maybe this Christmas I can get my family to watch it with me (but I doubt it.) Regardless, Friday is “pizza and a movie” night at the Jones’ home.  Homemade whole wheat crust (it makes you actually use your teeth) with several toppings, including my own “special” sauce, freshly-picked herbs from the garden and two or three different cheeses.

In our division of labor when it comes to pizza, I do the cooking, the family does the eating.  Occasionally, I get a bit happy with the sharp things, and am currently typing this with a finger bandaged tightly to stem the flow.  But the pizza was superb (if I do say so myself) and life goes on…

With little incidents like this, we generally just chalk it up to that “life-goes-on” thing, but in the deeper scope of that life, pain creates a conundrum on a spiritual plane that must be addressed.

Some think of only two options when it comes to pain and God: a) He may be good, but not all-powerful, or He would stop this nonsense, or b) He may be all powerful, but He must not be good, because He allows this nonsense to continue.

Others far smarter with many letters behind their names have tackled this one, throughout the millennia, in fact.  I’m a bit less distinguished (hey, I have a nursing degree, does that count??) but even in my puny mind there’s got to be more than that when considering the Divine!  In my profession, we tend to have our patients rate pain on a scale from one to ten, one being a hangnail, and ten being childbirth—okay, that’s just my definition, but we do even have one for children:

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Photo credit: http://www.chongholee.com

Few believers would throw away their faith on #3, but let’s face it, it gets a bit more tempting as the scale continues.  Then there are those who don’t even bother themselves with it, since (a) and (b) seem to have it covered.

To say that pain disproves the existence of a biblical God seems a bit shallow, and a bit of a cop-out really, accepted by a heart that has been beaten down with bitterness and disappointment and excruciating, heart-bending agony.  What if our pain is actually a clue to His existence and the reality of what His Word says about life, and love, and the eternity that is “written in the hearts of men”?  What if pain is telling us that what is happening is not right, was not originally meant to be?  After all, we don’t exist in a vacuum, and to not care about pain tends to define the sociopath.   At the end of the day, I have to allow for mystery, even disquieting mystery surrounding pain.

So how can I be faithful to a God I do not fully understand?  And yet, how could I worship a God that I do fully understand?  I posit that it’s not actually an issue of understanding; it’s about trust.  God does give me sufficient understanding so that I can trust Him in the things that I don’t understand.  Besides, a disciple isn’t called to always know the what’s or why’s of his master, and even the best of friends aren’t automatically privy to the heart of one another. bandaid

Thankfully, when I’m bleeding, He gives me more than a bandaid. 

(Hey!  That’s a good title for yet another post!)

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A, B, C, or all of the above.

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I’ve had a history of being a black/white, good/bad, either/or kind of person.  Give me a true/false or multiple choice test, and I’m okay.  But asking me to pull an answer out of my gray matter without any prompts is a bit more of a challenge. 

Life, however, tends not to extend itself to us in either/or definitions.  And humans, being the limited thinkers we are, tend not to appreciate that.  Dare that we would think there may be options of which we are unaware!!

Here’s just one example: either (A) God is not all-powerful to end the world’s suffering, or (B) He is not all-loving as He says He is.

Joshua, of Jericho fame, ran into that intellectual wall (pardon the pun).

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

“ Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.”

Now, here was something Joshua hadn’t even considered, and I can only imagine it gave him pause (if not a heart attack, as I hear angels can be pretty scary…)

The point is not to try answering all the questions, because when one is attended to, invariably another will surface.  Satan has many of them; he’s been at this for years.  Not that God doesn’t invite our questions and concerns, but there comes a point in every disciple’s life when the unanswered questions must give way to a trusting relationship with the God whom we can “know sufficiently but not exhaustively.” 

In other words, God is not defined by our multiple choice answers.  He defines Himself to us.

Joshua 5:1, 14  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.