As I type this, I am running on a combined 12 hours of sleep for the past 3 days. It has been an amazing weekend. Amazing because of the Creator and Sustainer, the Logas, the Comforter and the Answer, and the people he has placed in my life. By the way, this is a side note, but what are you calling God these days? Currently I have been reading a book by Craig Groeschel titled "The Christian Atheist" and in it he challenges the reader to determine what his name for God is. What you call God says a lot about your relationship with Him and what He's doing in your life. We call Him Father and Lord in our prayers, but what do we call Him in our tears, in our smiles? Comforter? Savior? Healer? Redeemer? Doctor? Merciful? Graceful? Holy? For me, right now God is my Strength, my Energy, my Blood. He is my Sustainer. He is the driving force behind my existence through His word (Heb 1:3).
It was about two in the morning on the I-95 and everyone in my car was asleep. This morning we were heading back from a face melting concert with As I Lay Dying. Face melting because of the band, but more so, because God is everywhere and is just waiting for you to step up to bat. So here I am musing on a convo I had with a guy at the concert and all of the sudden I'm slipping into sleep. I want to go to heaven, but not asleep at the wheel, so I thought of ways to wake myself up. I proceeded to pinch myself, at first the pain was nothing, because after all, I am not in the business of hurting myself (masochism is no fun!). Realizing it wasn't working, I grabbed a few hairs on my arm and just plucked them. OUCH! But I was awake and aware. For the remainder of the trip I would sit up, move around, and in some cases just jam to a song with some head shakes to keep myself awake.
Then God showed up. Earlier that night we were all eagerly anticipating Underoath and As I Lay Dying. With my perfect spot in the House of Blues, surrounded by my friends, a place with which to lean, an AC vent above my head, and a clear view of the stage, I was ready to go! Turns out, God has a different plan. To make a long story short, I ended up giving my spot over to someone who was shorter and had never seen these guys in concert before. I don't say this to toot my horn, that's not what matters here. God put that on my heart, then God spoke to me through someone else. This person's boyfriend thanked me for my nice gesture and proceeded to tell me how nice I was and how few people do that. When he said that, all I heard was God yelling "OPPORTUNITY!" (It is a sweet deal when God makes you sensitive to opportunities for kingdom work!)
We talked for a bit about the band, turned out he was a musician and a paramedic firefighter. I talked to him for a while, telling him how I used to want to be a firefighter and what not. After a little more convo, we got on the topic of the band (who is christian) and he began telling me how he loved the lyrics and the meaning, then he mentioned something about Christianity (which to me was a giant door swinging open) and I asked. "Hey man, you a Christian?" "Naw man," he replied. From there our convo went into where he was.
As a paramedic firefighter, he is on a regular basis surrounded by pain and suffering. At one point he told me that some days he feels like "The fingers of Jesus, except that he is doing what Jesus refuses to do, help people." Pretty strong words. This guy had been raised all his life in a christian home, but in the end, just couldn't believe in a loving God who allows so much pain and suffering.
We talked for a while and while I really want to talk about what I said, that's not important. I'll do that in my next blog on I'm calling "Pain and Pleasure, one in the same..." I will tell you this much. I did tell him how awesome it is to know that this world is temporary. And I know that because of the existence of suffering. Given the complexity and majesty of this creation, there is without doubt more to life than just meaningless existence. Pain and suffering are testaments to this. How? Because I was not created to suffer and then just die. I was created to worship and glorify the Creator. And the Creator sits and watches every day as His creation is cursed and killed by the very sin they traded there open door to Him for. He sits and suffers long as He continually pours mercy on His creation, wanting for all to come to know Him (2 Pet 3:9).
If you think you hurt when pain takes place, imagine how much more pain God feels when He looks on His own creation and watches them freely choose to reject Him, despite the flood of mercy and grace He pours on them. A christian dies at 30, an atheist smoker lives to be 100. Why? I don't know why, but I know why it isn't. It isn't because He doesn't love us. He proved that on the cross. And think about the above scenario for a second. The christian dies at 30, HE GOES TO HEAVEN! LUCKY HIM! He also misses out on bringing more to Christ (it is a sweet tug of war, just ask Paul [Phil 1:21-24]. The atheist, well seeing as God is in control, God is giving that atheist 100 years of mercy. Does he deserve it? I don't know, I am not God. Did I deserve the 24 years God gave me before I came into a real relationship with Him? No, in fact I haven't deserved an ounce of air from the day I was born. He is giving the atheist 100 years to repent. I'm not God so I can't say that this is the exact reason, however, it is one of many. Let's not be so quick to think God is a bad guy. He isn't. He is without shadow of turning (James 1:17).
Ultimately, while man has free will to do as he wants, God will always use whatever man chooses to glorify Himself. He will always use mans decisions for His good pleasure (Prov 16:3,4,9), and because God is God, rest assured, He is righteouss (Psalm 7:11[I like how NIV puts it]) and He KNOWS BEST! (Isaiah 55:8)
Suffering is evidence to the existence of God and of Heaven. Suffering is our wake up call. It screams the need for a savior, it preaches the message of salvation. The very fact suffering exists means that the opposite of it it exists as well. The opposite of it can only be found in One Place, in One Person...will you still suffer, yes you will, but you won't suffer from a hopeless idea of meaninglessness in life, you will have Hope.
Shadows truly are security. In them we know that there is light, because we see it all around us while we stand in the darkest of shadows. Know that the shadow in which you stand today is not God's, know that today You can stand in His light, with The Light, because OF the Light. How many times does God have to pinch us before we finally wake up?