Sunday, July 31, 2016

I Can Do All Things...except that.

I can do some things through Him who strengthens me.

When Your Vocation Is Not What You Ordered

"Let none hear you idly saying, "There is nothing I can do,"
while the multitudes are dying and the Master calls for you.
Take the task He gives you gladly; let His work your pleasure be.
Answer quickly when He calls you, "Here am I! Send me! Send me!"
from "Hark, the Voice of Jesus Crying"
by Daniel March, p. 1869

Vocation. A job. Work with a purpose: to bring people to the Word of God and vice versa with whatever opportunity God gives you while you care for yourself and/or your family. The catch? We can only accomplish tasks that are in accordance with God's plan for us, and God's plan isn't always an easy path to take. For example, let's say we get married and plan on having a big family. "We'll take just as many kids as God will give us!" we gladly say when people ask. And we try and try and try...

And He gives us none.

Why? We want so badly to understand this kind of disappointment. We want to know His reasons for denying our fervent and heartbroken prayers. Would we make bad parents? Have we done something to make Him angry with us? Is He trying to teach us something? Perhaps if we give more money to the church? Maybe if I pray more? Read the Bible more? I'm not kind enough. I'm not forgiving enough. I'm not good enough.

There must be something I can do so that God will give me a baby! 
The answer to all of these is... No.

The fact is, you are not in control here. Nothing you can DO or SAY or BARGAIN will make God give you what you want. Sometimes our vocation is just really, really hard to accept, like living with a thorn in our flesh the way St. Paul did.

I remember an argument I had with my husband once when we were in the throes of this disease, still trying to figure out what it meant for "us." I was so, so very sick and in a lot of pain all the time. Every medication I tried just made me sicker, and we were still childless after 5 years of marriage and medications and now I was not only careerless but jobless, too, and I wanted to work so almost as badly as I wanted to be a Mom. Our dreams of a big family and a mission church in Japan were slipping through our fingers like grains of sand, and so was our happiness.

"God will always give everything we need," my husband tried to comfort me one night. 
"Will He now, " I shot back with hateful sarcasm. "What about the homeless? The starving? Those dying from cancer? Does God give them everything they need, Pastor? Or does He hate them like He Hates me?"
My husband looked at me, obviously surprised that I had forgotten all the theology we both spent years learning together at the seminary, and he said, "Yes, He gives them everything they need."
"So people don't need to eat?" I demanded, wondering what the hell kind of God I was worshipping here. "They don't need to live?!"
"No," he relied patiently. "Those empty bellies and homeless families are for us to care for with the love we're suppose to have for our neighbor and the gifts God gives us. And all those people, those men, women, and children dying from disease and accidents and murder and everything else, even old age, are dying from the sin we brought into God's world. Remember, God promises to always give us what we NEED, but it may not what we WANT. We might not even like what we need."
There it was: the cold, hard, ugly truth that we were not in control of our own lives. No one should have to learn that before they're 30. The bitter truth goes on: while some people are living with the reality of their bad choices, God asks others to live without a home, too. He asks some people to live in pain when they did nothing to bring that pain about. He asks us all to die, and some way, way too soon even though they did nothing to bring on that death. We don't always need to be happy. We don't know why. Some people say, "God doesn't change your situation because He's trying to change your heart," and occasionally that might be true. It was true for Job (see The Enigma of Job).

But the harshest and most beautiful reality of all that if you are a Christian in this life:
apart from Christ, you don't NEED anything or anyone.
And sometimes when you're at the point where you have nothing but Christ left,
you can finally understand that CHRIST IS ENOUGH.
"Hark, the Voice of Jesus Crying"
By: Daniel March
lyrics in their entirety

Hark, the voice of Jesus crying, "Who will go and work today?

Fields are white and harvests waiting, who will bear the sheaves away?"
Loud and long the Master calls you; rich reward He offers free.
Who will answer, gladly saying, "Here am I! Send me, send me!"?

If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus; you can say he died for all.
If you cannot rouse the wicked with the judgment’s dread alarms,
You can lead the little children to the Savior’s waiting arms.

If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall,
Pointing out the path to heaven, offering life and peace to all,
With your prayers and with your bounties you can do what God demands;
You can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands.

Let none hear you idly saying, "There is nothing I can do,"
While the multitudes are dying and the Master calls for you.
Take the task he gives you gladly; let His work your pleasure be.
Answer quickly when He calls you, "Here am I! Send me, send me!"

Hymn # *826 from The Lutheran Service Book
Author: Joseph Barnby
Tune: Galilean