Monday, March 8, 2010

Dining, drive-thrus and drives

Random fact of the day: I love driving nowhere in particular. My perfect vacation would probably be a road trip across the U.S.

Hearing aids: I love Sonic. Or rather, I love their Cherry Cokes. I don't go very often, though. Partly because I'm trying to wean myself of a sugary-drink addiction but mostly because I don't do drive-thrus (okay, technically Sonic is a drive-in but whatever. Work with me here). I can't understand what they say at the intercom and I'm terrified I'll end up ordering too many onion rings.

Oh, I know of deaf or hard of hearing people who will just bypass the intercom and go straight to the drive up window and place an order there. Or what I've done in the past with Sonic has been to push the button and ask for someone to come out and take my order. I quit doing that when they kept coming out with paper and pen for me to write down what I wanted. :p

But when I have my youngest brother in the car with me, we can whip through the drive thrus. He does the listening and I do the talking. It's not a perfect system, but it works. Sometimes I wonder if I could bluff my way through ordering. I know they'll say something like, "Hello, How can I help you today?" and I can place my order. But it gets tricky after that. Will they ask if I want fries with that or will they just tell me how much it is and to go ahead and pull up to the window? I can't think of a neutral phrase that would satisfy both possible scenarios.

In other news: It's spring again. For now, anyway. It doesn't say so on the calendar, but right now, at 8:07 pm, my Weatherbug reads 59 degrees. It's spring, friends. I love new beginnings. I love that God is a God of new beginnings. Of starting fresh. Of forgetting what is behind and pressing on towards the goal. Of second (and third and seventh and 37th) chances.

I have been gripped by fear lately. I had been facing the question of, "If God is good, why do bad things happen?" much more intensely than before. Oh, when it comes to suffering and God's sovereignty, I often fool myself into thinking I have a handle on it. Hearing loss is suffering. I've made my peace (erm, mostly) with God's sovereignty over it. (This doesn't mean I never whine, or wonder, or wish for something else. Just that most of the time, I'm able to say, "God's in control of my hearing loss.") And really, I know I could have it so much worse. Whatever I suffer in my hearing loss is so much less than what other people suffer every day in their minds.

So it's been keeping me awake at night - how can God stand by and watch all this evil happen? How can He sit there while people are tortured, raped, sold, attacked? Shouldn't I be terrified of a god who would do that?

But then He reminded me that, as always, I had it oh so wrong and was, as usual, asking the wrong questions. God doesn't sit by while these things happen, He sits *with* us when they do. He never promises that we will be without trouble, but He does promise we will never be alone when we face it. And He always, always delivers a new beginning from it. Definitely in the life to come, maybe sometimes on this side of Heaven, too.

"... Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster." - Joel 2:13

God is not eager to send disaster. He doesn't gleefully rub His hands and twirl His mustache like He's plotting something devious. He doesn't cheerfully whip out God's Giant Bag 'O Pain and dump it out on an unsuspecting world. He relents over disaster.

I don't know why we sometimes see God like that. Probably because He threatens our illusions of security, of ourselves. When pain comes, we wonder why it happened, as if we are special and entitled to sorrow-free lives. So when bad things happen (and they will), in our heart of hearts, we are wondering, "How dare God allow that to happen. I don't deserve this." No, we don't deserve this. We deserve far worse and we fail to see how God is merciful in our pain.

We've been reading Mark 13 at church - Jesus is talking to His disciples about the day of judgement. One thing that keeps catching my eye (and heart) is Mark 13:20. Here's the context:

“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days." Mark 13:14-20

This reminds me of when Abraham was pleading with God not to destroy Sodom. "If there are 50 righteous people here, will you hold back? Will you not destroy the city?" Abraham asks of God. God agrees. "For the sake of 50, I won't destroy." Abraham persists and ask the same question. "How about 45? 40? 20? 10?" Each time, God says, "For the sake of 45, 40, 20 and 10, I will not destroy the city." (Genesis 18:27-33) It may not seem like it, but God is holding evil at bay for our sakes. If we're attacked, or mutilated, or raped, or hurt, or robbed, or ignored, or left out - God is holding evil back. He is showing grace and mercy even in the middle of hurt.

Horrible things are going to happen. Jesus isn't shy about sharing that. He tells us in John 16 that we will have tribulation. Life is going to be hard. And I daresay the Christian life is incomplete and lacking without suffering. There's no such thing as a prosperity gospel, which says that if we just believe enough, we'll be healthy, wealthy and wise. I know sometimes we think, "If I just love God enough, He'll keep me safe." or maybe, "If I ask Jesus into my heart 12 times, nothing bad will ever happen to me." Not so, friends, no matter how much we want to make it so. God promises suffering.

But even in suffering, in pain, in hardships, when the day is long and the night is pitch black and you don't know which way is up or right or backwards, He will be gracious. In ways we can't see or maybe even know here, He is holding evil back. Whatever pain comes our way - it will never be as bad as it could as if He had no reign over it. The very worst thing I can ever imagine in this life is complete abandonment from God. And that is the very thing I can be absolutely sure I will never have to suffer - because Jesus already did. He already bore the wrath of God and God literally turned His back on His Son so that He would never have to turn His back on us.

Sometimes knowing that He is sovereign over evil makes me a little nervous - what more suffering does He have in store for me? Sometimes I don't think I can take any more. But I can stand in confidence that whatever suffering is waiting - I won't do it alone. I won't be abandoned and I will find grace and mercy in the midst of evil.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:37-39

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