Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sometimes We're Forced Into Directions...

...that we ought to have found for ourselves.

"Seated Beggar and His Dog"
by Rembrandt
The Rich Man and Lazarus 
Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 

The poor man DIED and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also DIED and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he [the rich man] called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 

...And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

* * *

I FIRMLY believe God does not lie. This is His promise to you: to relieve your suffering once and for all through the suffering and death of His one and only Son, who died in our stead so that we might live eternally, perfect and pain and sickness-free one day. So please, try to get better, go to those doctors, take that medication, do your research, ask those questions. And try to keep that job or get that disability if you need it. Pray for those things, worry some because we don't have a choice their, be disappointed and stressed when they don't work out...

...but please please PLEASE do not ever rely on those things of the world as though they were your salvation. Your happiness does not lie in your health,
nor in your financial security. 

When we're sick every day and can't care for our families as we'd like and can't work and the doctors' bills keep piling up and we're getting nowhere and we feel like we're drowning, we forget that. Why? Because our illness and its costs to us and to those we love make us so incredibly unhappy, that's why. It is so easy to forget that our happiness is not locked up in a cure. It's freely given to us by Christ. So I'd like to remind you:

* * *
"The Peace He Left Me With"
by Megan Smith
originally published on August 19th, 2012

"PEACE I LEAVE with you; MY PEACE I GIVE to you. NOT as the world GIVES do I give to you. Let NOT your HEARTS be TROUBLED, neither let them BE AFRAID." (John 14:27)

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, "Ugh, if only I'd get that loan paid off, then things would be so much better." Or, "Man, if only I'd win the lottery, my stress would be so much less." Or (my personal favorite), “If only I'd get better, then everything would be fine."

"If only I'd get that promotion..."
"If only my Dad would move back in..."
"If only God would get me out of this mess..."

It never quite works, does it, even when that "if only" is fulfilled, because there is one if-then statement we can actually count on holding true: IF it's not one thing, THEN it's another. That's life for everyone, Christian or not. It's true. Going to church won't to get you any better odds in the Powerball.

So why bother going? 

...the world would ask. True peace is something the world doesn't understand. True peace sustains us while we're dying of the cancer God didn't cure, and it comforts us while we weep over the grave of our child whom God let die. True peace is what we strive to find while suffering with pain day after day after day when we know we are never going to get better. 

We have to know--I have to know--that True Peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, exists even when the pain doesn't go away, that it is a gift given to us by God, won for us by Christ, or we (I) will simply go mad. True peace doesn't come from a cure. Anyone who's beaten cancer once, or more than once, will tell you that. And true peace doesn't come from that one bad thing being taken off our backs or from finally getting what we think we want or even need.

The True Peace of God allows us to be at peace DESPITE the fact that everything around us going wrong because true peace has nothing to do with what's going on around us or inside us or because of us. It's about what Jesus did for us. And so, to the world, we're delusional at best; idiots at worst. And without the gift of the Holy Spirit, you and I would surely turn away from God in our sorrow, too, finding shallow "peace" only on a good day.

If happiness depends on all our "if onlies" being met at the right time, no one would ever be happy.

In our baptism, the Holy Spirit gave us a beautiful child-like faith that--while not left untested--is able to withstand anything the world can throw at us in its attempt to make life unbearable, including death. Through Word and Sacrament, we are renewed day after day after day with that gift of True Peace that surpasses all understanding. 

Don't miss the forest for the trees. With our precarious view of the good in spite of the bad, pray each day for the Holy Spirit to grant you a mustard seed of faith that truly will move mountains. Thank God for the ability to believe the impossible, and for the peace that allowed a beautiful woman to die with neither a troubled heart nor fear of any kind despite the hard life she had to live. (We love you, Grandma).

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is derived from Philippians 4:7
Remember to breathe!
"The peace of God -------> 5 count inhale
will guard your hearts.” -------> 5 count exhale