When a dear friend phoned me recently, she asked for prayer, specifically for her son-in-law and daughter who were preparing to travel out of the country for a family emergency. The sister of her son-in-law had been murdered. My friend was not only grieving this senseless crime, but she was concerned for the safety of her loved ones who would be entering a foreign country where the laws and customs are vastly different from our own.
The couple and their families have been in my daily prayers. My friend has also kept me updated on their situation.
We live in a fallen world where life sometimes makes no sense. We often question, “Why, God, why?” My heart aches when I read or hear of those who are battling diseases or when loved ones are taken from us too soon or when a tragedy takes the lives of an entire family, a group of people or a segment of the population.
We wonder why people make the choices they do. We question how a loving God could allow these things to happen, especially to those who have done no harm. We even question our faith sometimes.
The social media site, Facebook, was abuzz several weeks ago with users posting and sending private messages about a hacker. I was bombarded with messages. It was irritating. After the third message, I googled the “supposed” scammer’s name and discovered the rumor about this fake account had been circulating for years. It was a hoax.
Although I shared the deception with others, the messages continued. I signed off, hoping to avoid more notices. The messages, fueled by fears of a hacked account, kept circulating for several days before dying down. It’s not the first time someone has tried to deceive the public and it won’t be the last.
As I pondered people’s tendency to believe what they read on social media, I recalled what Jesus told Martha in John 11:40. Lazarus had died. His sisters, Mary and Martha, were grieving and couldn’t understand why their friend, Jesus, had not arrived sooner to save him.
Why had their friend not hurried to Lazarus’ side? They’d heard Jesus speak. They’d entertained Him in their home. They just knew He would rush to help their ill brother. But that wasn’t part of Jesus’ plan.
Jesus delayed His trip to Bethany for two days. When He told His disciples it was time to return, they questioned His decision, citing the possibility of trouble with the Jews. The disciples misunderstood, thinking Lazarus was ill and sleeping it off.
Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15).
My two oldest grandchildren, now 12 and 13, spent several days with me recently. Cheyenne is now taller than I am by almost two inches. Her brother, Brennan, is also catching up with my five foot plus three inches. I’m not getting any taller, but they are.
It’s sometimes difficult to fathom how fast the years have gone. It seems just like yesterday that I was changing their diapers. While I miss those years, I’m enjoying this new season in life. Watching God at work in them and through them is a delight to this praying “Nana.”
A friend’s essay in a Christian writer’s newsletter made me think about our time here on earth. Martha, who turned 60 recently, wrote, “Am I really that old?”
Then, she questioned herself. “What do I have to show for sixty years of living? What impact have I made on my world? Do I even have a legacy to leave? If I die tomorrow, what would be put on my gravestone?”
Like me, Martha may have another 30 years to live or we may die tomorrow. Neither of us cares about making a name for ourselves, but we want our children and grandchildren to know what it means to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the peace only God can give.
As Christian writers, we know the best way to leave a legacy is through our writing. Encouraging other writers in our group, she wrote, “I believe my heart, and yours too, is in the right place. But if we never get what’s in our heart on paper or on the computer screen for our loved ones and the rest of the world to read, our gift will never see fruition.
Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.
Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.
While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.
When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.
While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later”— Romans 8:18 (NLT).
“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
When one of my readers posed this question via email, I turned to scripture. I wanted to give an honest answer as best as I could. I didn’t want to rely on my knowledge or give a flippant reply.
We seek answers when a child is taken away from his parents too soon because of a rare disease or a freak accident. We seek answers when a college student perishes in a car crash on her way home or when a loved one receives a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and faces a regimen of treatments with no guarantee it will help.
God never promised Christians a pain-free life.
Writer Avery Foley, who holds a masters of arts in theological studies, wrote the following in an article: “One of the most common questions believers and unbelievers alike ask is why a loving and all-powerful God would allow bad things to happen. When many believers are asked this question, they freeze, not knowing what to say. Or they weakly reply, ‘Well, we don’t know why bad things happen, but we need to trust God.’ But those of us who start with the right foundation, God’s Word, have a solid answer that is based in the history of God’s Word. But those who don’t start with God’s Word have a difficult time providing a satisfactory answer to this important and often emotionally charged question.”
Foley points out we need to begin with Genesis, appropriate because the first words of this book say, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory”—Isaiah 61:3(TLB).
Photo by Carol Round
Bright yellow daffodils began to appear in late February in northeastern Oklahoma. Because of the mild winter weather, trees are budding, snakes are slithering and mosquitoes are buzzing.
While I don’t welcome the snakes or the bugs, I love the sight of flowers and trees announcing the upcoming spring weather. Even without a harsh winter, these sights bring renewed hope, especially for those, like me, who are struggling.
Out for a walk recently, I spotted a cluster of sunny daffodils sprouting from a tomb of rocks around a large oak tree in a neighbor’s yard. The contrast between the yellow flowers and the gray and brown mottled surface of the rocks drew my attention. The flowers, pushing their way through the harshness of the stone, reminded me of God’s promises.
In Isaiah 61:3, God promises the Israelites that He will give them beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning and praise instead of heaviness. They faced challenges, but God offered hope.
In the midst of our trials—the fear, the uncertainty, the weariness, the suffering, the mourning—we can take heart in God’s promise to give us beauty for the ashes of life. We can find the beauty in these hardships if we seek Him. In 1 Chronicles 16:11 we read, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life”–Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB).
From the posts I’ve read on social media and remarks from friends, I’m certain most of us are glad 2016 is behind us.
Although 2016 was a challenge, I held out hope for a promising ending. However, I was confronted with disappointing news several days before the end of the year. It wasn’t just one piece of news—it came in a bundle of three—all on the same day.
I turned to trusted friends, asking for prayer. The next morning while writing in my prayer journal, God’s Holy Spirit revealed an answer to my “Why?” The reply came, “We each have free will.”
Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?
We can choose to follow God’s leading or we can select our own path. I trust the path others have chosen is the path God has prepared for them. I must walk forward, faithfully, on the path God has prepared for me.
While each day offers an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives, a new year is especially conducive to searching our hearts and our lives to see if they line up with God’s plans. Ask yourself the following questions: