Life is hard to figure out.
In a session at a recent writing conference, Kaylan Adair, editor at Candlewick Press, spoke on middle grade novels.She defined them as stories where the characters stick their foot into the adult world for the first time. They are on an exploratory mission and don’t plan to stay. In these stories, the character discovers that life is complex and complicated.
There are days when I wish I lived in the chapter before the beginning of a middle grade novel – where life is easy to understand.
In reality, we live in the midst of layers of life, where things are happening simultaneously around us, to us, and by us, while we try to make sense of it all. We tend to default to a formula where our life experiences shape our definition of who God is and whether or not He loves us.
Good things happening=God is good and happy with us. Bad things happening= God is bad, weak, or mad at us.
This formula looks simple and easy to follow. But life can’t be lived through a formula. Life is complex and complicated, a mix of joy and sorrow at any given moment.
God is constant and unchanging, and life around us swirls in chaos.
Instead of letting our life experiences shape our definition of who God is and whether or not He loves us, what would it look like if we let who God is and His love for us shape our definition of our life experiences? It’s more than playing around with words. The difference between these two is the difference between hope and despair. I’ve experienced it in my own life.
When I was in 8th grade my grandfather died of a heart attack. I had a vague notion of who God was but I had no idea that He was with me or that He loved me. I felt alone and my grief was dark and hopeless. That same year a friend from school committed suicide. Again, I swam in dark and hopeless grief.
Years later my grandmother passed away after a horrendous struggle with cancer. At this point I had a closer relationship with God. I struggled with her suffering. I pleaded with God to take away her pain. I yelled at God and wrestled with the complex truth that He loved her and He was allowing her to suffer. But it was not dark and hopeless because who God is was my filter. My grandmother was his precious child. He loved her even more than I did. He was getting her heart and soul ready to spend eternity with Him and He would not let her suffer one second longer than necessary to accomplish that.
If I had interpreted who God is through this difficult circumstance, the logical conclusion would have been that God was either helpless or too cruel to alleviate her pain. However, the truth is that God’s greatest desire for my grandmother was for her to know Him and He loved her enough to do whatever was necessary to accomplish that purpose.
What made the difference in these two reactions?
I filtered my sorrow, my anger, my frustration through the filter of who God is. I searched His Word to find out about His steadfast love, His faithfulness, His being with His people. And I clung to who He is as we walked through this battlefield of cancer.
The more I know Him, the more I trust His steady, constant Hand in the midst of the constantly changing circumstances swirling around me.
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will – Casting Crowns, Just Be Held