good, evil, and meaning

Category : CS Lewis, God, different, failure, faith, hope

  

“Evil can be undone, but it can not ‘develop’ into good.  Time does not heal it.”       – CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

The truth is, not even God changes evil into good.  Once something happens it can’t be taken back.  Instead, he changes the meaning of evil. 

2,000 years ago we did the worst evil possible – we killed a man who had never done anything wrong.  A man who had never sinned.  If anyone deserved to live, certainly it was him.  Yet we crucified him.  That was evil, and will always be evil. 

Instead, God changed the meaning of his death.  Instead of being the end of his life, Jesus crucifixion was the beginning of our life.  Out of man’s greatest evil came God’s great good. 

The same is often true of our suffering.

Think about the most important lessons you have ever learned.  Did you learn them when everything was perfect and happy?  Or did you learn them when your marriage ended?  When your child died?  Or as you struggled with illness?

It’s almost always in the moments of our greatest pain and suffering that we learn the most.  God doesn’t slowly move evil into something good – we still suffer, we still struggle.  But he does change the meaning, and in turn, our understanding.

That’s the radical, revolutionary, and different God.  That’s the God of the Bible.

suffering: a hard lesson

Category : barbarian, faith, fear, hope

 

Israel spent a long time (500 years or so) suffering in Babylon.  Perhaps the one thing that they learned, perhaps even the main reason for the suffering in the first place, was to learn that there was only one God. 

In other words, they became monotheistic.

Now this may not seem like a big deal, but Israel really struggled with this idea that Yahweh (God) was the “one true God”.  They kept getting distracted by all the other religions around them.  They couldn’t learn that lesson while Moses was leading them.  They didn’t learn it during the period of Judges.  They couldn’t really even grasp it under David and Solomon.

It took 500 years of captivity, punishment, and slavery before they finally learned that there was only one God.  We live in a safety first world.  We can’t even imagine the need for suffering.  We can’t even conceive that suffering might be useful.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think God causes suffering.  I don’t think he wanted Israel to go through 500 years of exile.  I don’t think he wants us to have to suffer.  But because we have free will, I believe God has to let these things happen.

G.K. Chesterton once said that it wasn’t suffering that caused meaninglessness, it was too much pleasure.

We live in a world where all of your pleasures, no matter what they are, can be met.  And yet, we also seem to live in a world that is overrun in hopelessness.  Could part of the reason be that we focus completely on pleasure, and never take time to seize the opportunities suffering presents?

The Bible is filled with people who suffered, yet found meaning.  And I think if we look at our own lives, we’d find that same pattern.  Sometimes, just like it was for Israel, suffering is not only informative, it’s necessary.

living out a life of faith: 2008

Category : God, hope, live for the eternal, sharing faith, trust

  

Humility.  That’s what 2008 means to me. 

Professionally I find myself entering 2009 without a job.  The first time that’s happened since I was about 12.  This presents challenges and opportunities.  It’s challenging because more of my pride and self-identity are wrapped-up in working than I realized.  It’s hard to let go of that.  It’s also hard to let go of the money and sense of security a job brings.  But it’s also an opportunity.  I now have the time to visit friends.  I have a chance to learn new things.  And I also am in position to explore new writing and speaking opportunities. 

By allowing myself to be humbled, instead of rebelling in pride, I’ve been able to see the good as well as the bad.  Humility has a way of allowing us to realistically deal with the bad, while not losing sight of the promises God makes to us.  I’m not going to say this process was easy, but I will say it was worth it. 

On the personal side, writing R3 has been humbling in it’s own way.  Receiving feedback, (mostly positive!), knowing people are interested in what I write, and the slow realization that people get upset when I miss a scheduled post (you know who you are!), has all come as a bit of a shock.  Sometimes it even feels surreal.

But the most humbling aspect of R3 has to be the fact that writing for all of you is a huge honor.  One that I don’t take lightly, nor do I take it for granted.  I feel a sense of responsibility for R3 and of teaching what I think God is doing in my life.  Or, as Spider-Man once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” 

All of this leads me to one last thought for 2008 – one of the themes I’ve touched on time and again is the idea that God can take anything and turn it into an important lesson.  Pain, suffering, joy, excitement – they all can teach us about God.  Every lesson we learn brings us one step closer to our creator.  It doesn’t matter if we’re losing our jobs or getting $100,000 raise.  In every instance there is something we can learn about God.   

We may not know what lessons we will learn in 2009.  And I am sure they will often be unexpected, taught to us by sadness and happiness, calmness and activity.  But we can always count on God turning even the greatest disaster into an opportunity to learn more about him. 

Which is why in everything that we do, we must strive to learn how to live out a life of faith.  A life that is ready to do great things for the Kingdom.  Because that’s really the point of everything, isn’t it. 

suffering & humility

Category : choice, faith, hope

  

When I wrote earlier this week that my time of being healthy was over, I had no idea what was around the bend.  Let’s just simply say I haven’t been that sick in at least 10, if not 15, years.  I am still trying to recover, and frankly discovering it hard to concentrate on much of anything today. 

I find the whole thing humbling, honestly.  We all strive to convince ourselves that we have such great strength, or that we can do things “on our own.”  But then you get sick, injured, or lose your job, and suddenly you can’t even get out of bed!  How we take the little things for granted!

Even after spending a whole week focusing on things to be thankful for, I never realized how nice it is to be able to get off the couch to get a glass of water.  Or to have the ability to find a blanket without being overwhelmed by nausea. 

Today I look out my window into a world that seems a little brighter.  A world I take a little less for granted.  Suffering can teach us things pleasure and happiness never could.  Funny that. 

thanks giving: suffering

1

Category : CS Lewis, God, Jesus, Paul, barbarian, faith, fear, hope

 

As I alluded to in the post yesterday, I am thankful for suffering.  I know it sounds strange to say that.  Frankly it seems weird to type it.  But almost everything I treasure has come through suffering, including R3. 

We all want our lives to be easy and convenient.  I think this is especially true in America, where we are used to having everything within minutes, if not seconds.  But no one escapes suffering.  Not even God.  Which leads me to believe that maybe suffering isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to learn from.

God has a way of taking what the world means for evil and flipping it on it’s head.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch thinks she wins by killing Aslan, the Lion.  But she couldn’t be further from the truth.  The suffering, and death of Aslan (a stand in for Jesus) was the exact thing that ends up destroying the evil of the White Witch.  In the book, CS Lewis describes Aslan’s return like this,

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there ad different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” (Chronicles of Narnia, p.160)

Without suffering the White Witch never would have been defeated.  Without suffering you and I never would have been saved.  Without suffering countless miracles never could have occurred.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t look forward to it.  I am not happy about it.  I wouldn’t want to give up a Friday at the movies for malaria.  But I’m learning that sometimes the best teacher is suffering.  And I am willing to do anything that draws me closer to God. 

Because of all of that, I am thankful for suffering