Monday, July 29, 2019

What a Wasp Taught Me About the Love of God

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
I John 4:9

Not so long ago, during a time of prayer, I told the Lord that I longed to feel His love in a greater capacity.  When you have been in such severely fiery and multi-faceted trials for such a long, extended period of time, you can start to feel like a lost child—even God-forsaken.  You can start to listen to the lies satan keeps whispering in your ear.  Lies like, "God doesn't love you.  He has abandoned you.  Your failures and shortcomings have caught up with you, and you are being punished.  God has turned His back on you.  You will never make it through this.  God may have helped you in the past, but this time will be different."  On and on and on he drones, and it is very easy in those moments of exhaustion at wit's end corner to start to see some probability in what he is suggesting.  In your heart, you know God's love is never-ending.  You know that Jesus promised to never leave you alone.  You are well-versed on the facts, but what is fact and what is "feeling" starts to overlap, and the lines start to blur, and you begin to lose clarity of vision.  So, in one of those vulnerable moments, I cried out to God, and I asked Him to please let me "feel" His love in a bigger way.

Looking back, I feel guilty for asking such a thing.  He has been SO good to me.  ALL.  MY.  LIFE.  He blessed me with the two best parents I could have possibly ever had, and they taught me early on to trust Him, to pray and seek His face with my whole heart, and to make Him Lord over every part of me.  Their unwavering love for me lasted until the moment they took their last breath of earthly life, and I could count on them always.  He brought the most patient, loving man into my life 32 years ago, and he has stood by my side and is the best husband in the whole world—hands-down.  He miraculously opened my barren womb and sent us the sweetest son after 12 1/2 years of marriage, and this dear boy blesses our lives in countless ways every, single day.  He has given me the best, close-knit, most loyal four siblings that a girl could ask for who, when the chips are down don't count the cost or think twice, knowing I will always do the same for them; precious aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins who feel like siblings; a multitude of the truest, most faithful friends there could ever, ever be; a loving body of Christ to surround and uphold with authenticity and prayer support; and innumerable other blessings besides.  On top of all, He DIED for me.  Laid down His life and shed His precious blood so I could avoid the Hell for eternity that I deserve.  He has always looked out for me and there is no way He could be a better or more loving Father to me, but in my weak and weary exhaustion, I just wasn't "feeling it," and I needed to.  Very badly.  So, I presented that request to Him and then forgot about it until a few nights ago when I found myself admitted to the hospital and facing yet more medical issues.

As I sat there, looking out the 2nd floor window, watching the traffic below, He reminded me,   "Remember when you asked Me to let you feel My love?"  My mind instantly went back to that prayer, and I replied, "Yes, Lord."  He then began to peel back the purpose for my present distress, and a short time later, He sent an angry looking wasp to my hospital room window.  I sat and watched as it continued to pound itself against the thick glass over and over and over again.  It even flew away for a span of time, only to return again several minutes later with seemingly intensified determination!  Oh, how it wanted to break through the glass and get to me!  It was like it was there on a mission to do anything it had to do to penetrate and inflict harm.  It was downright menacing.  How thankful I was for the thickness of that glass because I knew that no matter how hard it tried to carry out its desire and plot to sting, it was NOT going to happen.  There was no way I was in any danger, so I could sit there and watch and not feel a bit of alarm.

I think you probably know where I am going with this.  The precious Holy Spirit began to open my eyes and speak and make me see that my current circumstances, however unpleasant and terrifying, were presenting Him a bigger opportunity to demonstrate His great love for me by protecting me IN the trial, and no matter how hard satan tries to destroy me and get to me, there is a huge, thick barrier of protection between me and the enemy, and I do not need to feel one bit of alarm.  "Just like I close doors that no man can open, I also close doors that satan cannot open," He went on.  "No matter how hard he tries to penetrate through the protection I have around you, he will never be able to do more than I allow."

Talk about feeling God's love!  Oh, it blessed my soul to sit there and watch that angry, persistent wasp!  To sit there and watch him struggle with all his might to break through something that will never be broken by the pounding of wasp wings yielded a profound and unforgettable spiritual lesson.  Peace washed over my spirit as I waited for results from the MRI I had only moments before.  I KNEW in that moment that even though God has allowed some hard, hard trials, He has continually lavished His love and favor upon my little family and me over and over again.  When He gave us the word "favor" as our 2019 word of the year, favor is exactly what He meant.  Not absence of trials, but HIS LOVE demonstrated in such observable, tangible, undeniable ways.

If life were a bed of roses and trial-free, how would He ever show His protecting power?  How would we ever really recognize His love if we were so accustomed to perpetual bliss?  Would we even feel a need for God at all?  Would we ever know the slightest extent of the deep-settled peace and springing joy that comes from spending an hour in His presence?  Would He ever have the opportunity to reveal what true favor means?  What kind of communion or intimacy could we ever share with Jesus Christ if we never shared in the drinking of His bitter cup?  How could we experience healing if we never needed it?

In my last post, I talked about how satan came before the Lord and asked His permission to test Job.  If there is any doubt in anyone's mind concerning whether or not spiritual warfare is real, my unsolicited advice would be to read Job 1:6-12 and Job 2:1-7.  It reveals two of the most remarkable conversations you will ever read—God and satan speaking directly to one another, having two straightforward conversations about a man God described as "blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."  Can you imagine how it would feel to have the God of heaven speak such words and realize He was talking about you?

In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

In Zechariah 3:1-2, we read, "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.  And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee."

In each of the examples above, there was a very real and intense spiritual battle going on.  God's faithful ones versus satan himself.  Job underwent extreme torture at the ruthless hand of satan's evil, Peter was satan's target, and Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord with satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

In each case, there was a powerful demonstration of God's love that caused Him to rise up in strong defense of Job, Peter, and Joshua.  They were His children, and He would NOT leave them to the will of their arch enemy.  Think about it.  When you hear that someone is coming against your child, what rises first?  Is it not the deep, abiding love you have for them?  What could ever stop you from defending them because of that love?  Wild horses can't stop the love of a parent, and if we then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?  Matthew 7:11

God's love is stronger than satan's tactics.  God did allow Job to be sorely tested and tried, but he did not allow satan to touch Job's life.  In the end, God blessed Job with twice what he had before satan attacked him.  Jesus informed Peter that satan wanted to have him and sift him as wheat, but He went on to say that He, Himself had prayed for Peter.  Peter went through a serious testing period, but in the end, he emerged victorious.  Joshua was resisted and tormented by satan, but the Lord Himself rose up and rebuked satan on Joshua's behalf.

"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him."  Isaiah 59:19

After a total of six medical tests, I heard such wonderful words of life the other day.  They sounded something like this, "Everything is clear!  You can go home!"  Oh, Thank YOU, Jesus!!!  I lost count of the times I have praised Jesus in the presence of medical staff over the past few months.  I wonder how many times they hear that, and more importantly, how many times does our precious Lord hear it?  I don't ever want to be like the nine lepers whose lives were totally transformed without the slightest word of thanks to the One Who turned their whole world around.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that things could have turned out so, so differently SO many times, not only for me, but for my dear husband and son.  I truly have NO words to praise Him for His great, abiding, deep, overwhelming, reckless love for me, yes, even undeserving, unworthy me.  Oh, how I praise Him!

"Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me,
You have been so, so good to me.
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me,
You have been so, so kind to me.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me,
You have been so, so good to me.
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me,
You have been so, so kind to me.

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
And I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah.

There's no shadow You won't light up,
Mountain You won't climb up,
Coming after me.
There's no wall You won't kick down,
Lie You won't tear down,
Coming after me.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
And I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah!
Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson

ALL glory, honor, and praise to our dear and loving Lord for ALL He has done for me.  I am beyond undeserving, and yet He loves me anyway.

"Thank You, dear, precious Lord, for orchestrating the meeting between the wasp and me.  Thank You, for your endless mercy upon one who has failed you so many, many times, yet who loves you with all the love in my heart!  I raise a hallelujah in the presence of my enemies! Thank You, Jesus!"

Raise A Hallelujah - Bethel Music

Praying for you, dear readers, and grateful beyond words for your continued prayers and loving encouragement.  I love and appreciate you all so very much!  "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD."  Psalm 118:17   Praise GOD to be alive!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Huge PRAISE REPORT - Thank You, Jesus!

"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people."
I Chronicles 16:8

When my family and I started out this year, seeking God about His word of the year for us, we found that the word was to be "favor."  I wrote about it HERE.  At first glance, the word "favor" brought wonderful things to mind, and I envisioned a year full of blessings and void of trouble.  How carefree 2019 would be!  We would glide along and everything would fall right into place, right?  Surely favor meant no worries and fun times all around.

It didn't take long to come down out of the clouds and realize that I had it all wrong.  Favor meant nothing of the sort.  Deep trials descended one right after the other, and it felt like satan had pulled out all stops and unleashed a rampage like we'd never before seen.  The fiery darts were coming thick and fast from so many directions, I could barely keep up.  The job outsourcing that happened in early February of 2018 turned into months-long loss of income, Kevin's health problems escalated rendering him unable to work, Zach's and my health issues worsened, things we had counted on staying the same started falling apart, carefully laid plans crumbled under our feet, and we reached the utter end of our own ability to fix anything at all.  God had told me in 2015 that HE wants to be our all in all.  Funny, but I thought He was, and if I remember correctly, I told Him so.  As I look back over the past 4 1/2 years, I realize that we were far from the position of God being our all in all.  Gradually, He has stripped us to that point, and quite frankly, it has been a painful process.  (Read more about it HERE.)

BUT, back to our "word of the year," even though God has allowed us to be severely tested spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally, ALL THROUGHOUT each fiery trial, He has extended unbelievable and miraculous FAVOR upon us.  Over and over and over again, every time it looked like we would go completely under, He miraculously answered prayer, and HERE CAME JESUS, right on time.  

"They sent for Jesus, your friend's about to die,
But tarried He still on behind,
So, they laid Lazarus in a tomb, and said their last good-bye,
But coming down the road was Jesus right on time.

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray.
So, when your feet are weary, from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time!

I've struggled through life's deserts, they were so hot and dry,
'Til it seemed all hope was gone, and I would die. 
I wondered where was He, is He still a friend of mine?
 Then coming down the road was Jesus right on time. 

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray. 
So, when your feet are weary from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time."
Written by:  Charles P. Bosarge

I have been walking through some of the darkest, scariest health situations of my life, and this week has been brutal.  Honestly friends, I did NOT know how I would make it through.  It has felt like a 1,000 pound cloud has accompanied my every step for so long.  On Monday, came a long-dreaded biopsy that ended up being worse than even the dreading ahead of time, and before I could get any answers concerning the biopsy came another medical test yesterday.  Physically, I have been pretty uncomfortable, but the waiting is the absolute WORST.  The mental anguish and torment has been unbearable.  As I waited, still groggy from anesthesia yesterday, the doctor walked up to the side of my bed, and I could not hold back the tears as his words dispelled the lies satan has been screaming for so long.  How I praised God right there in the presence of everyone within the sound of my voice!  One hurdle down, but what about those biopsy findings?  Unanswered questions hung over my every move like a lead balloon.  We returned home to a phone call from the surgeon telling me he wanted to see me to discuss the biopsy results.  Can anyone say full-blown panic?  If it were good news, wouldn't he just want to talk to me over the phone?  Why ask us to make the drive there to get the answer?  Let's just say fear took it to a whole new level.

This morning, Kevin and I sat in the surgeon's office, and as he sat across from me, he spoke these glorious words, "Everything is good.  Everything is BENIGN.  Sorry to worry you.  I just like to tell my patients in person."

BENIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The word we have been pleading to God for and pounding the doors of Heaven about for so long.  There it was.  Handed to me like a most precious gift.  Oh, that word!!!!!!  THANK YOU, JESUS innumerable times over and over again!!!!!!  I do not know how relief could be felt any stronger than what washed over me in the seconds following the hearing of that six letter word.  Several hours later, I am STILL in total AWE of our awesome GOD and the abundant mercy He lavished on me today.  I know, and I told the surgeon so, that this could have turned out so differently.  But, GOD, rich in mercy!  Today, He spelled favor —B-E-N-I-G-N, and I feel like He graciously and so kindly handed me a new lease on life.  How I thank Him!

God did not promise that we would not be sorely tried in 2019.  What He did speak is favor.  Though we are called to suffer, and the full healing has not yet come, we are alive, praise His wonderful name, and this song has become my anthem.  

"But God, rich in mercy
You came to save me
Now I'm alive!
My God, strong and mighty
You reached down for me
So I could rise.
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm alive!"
Written by:  Zach Williams

When satan went before God and asked His permission to test Job so severely, God put limitations upon what satan could do and told him he could not touch Job's life.  I am SO thankful we serve the same God Who is in absolute control, and satan cannot do anything that God does not allow.  How comforting to know that our dear Lord walks before us and winnows our path, and HE decides what to leave in and what to take out.  "And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8

I want to thank each one of you for your faithful prayers, loving friendship, encouragement, emails, cards, and gestures of kindness through our many struggles.  I cannot begin to express what it has meant to us, and I trust God will richly bless each one who has helped to pray us through these trials.  One of you has given up meals and fasted for me this week, and I tell you, that just humbles me and touches my heart more than I could ever put into words.  THANK YOU seems so inadequate.  I am so very grateful to God and to all who prayed.  

Whatever you are going through, God is there.  You do not walk alone.  I am praying for each one of you, also, and trusting God to pour out His richest and best blessings upon you and your life.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  
(Matthew 5:44,45)

Recently, a dear friend, asked me to write an article exploring the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  I must say, when she first asked, I was stumped because it is a question I have personally wrestled with for many years.  In response to my wondering, the Lord gave me some thoughts that I felt led to share with you today.  I hope they will be an encouragement to you in whatever struggles you currently face.

"A mother of four returns home from church to find her husband’s mangled car, just a block from home.  As she enters her house, the phone is ringing.  It is the hospital telling her to come quick, that her husband has been in an accident.  She asks, “How bad is he?” only to have the nurse on the other end of the line insufficiently cover the receiver while asking another nurse, “Shall I tell her?”  In that moment, she knows he is gone.  She struggles wondering why he wouldn’t stop drinking, how she will tell her children their daddy is gone, and how they will ever make it through.

After the ending of a tumultuous relationship, a sweet, kind-hearted girlfriend takes him back just one more time.  She gives him everything he asks for, including the money in her purse, only to have him return a few hours later to ruthlessly and repeatedly stab her face and body, leaving her lying in a pool of blood.  She is found, arms folded, eyes turned Heavenward, dead, on her apartment floor.

She and I stand beside my mother’s/her great-grandmother’s casket as she begins pouring out her heart.  Addiction, abuse, and bad lifestyle choices have caused her to lose custody of her three children, and the only way she could attend the funeral was by obtaining a special pass from rehab.  She tells me how she has made up her mind to change, and I tell her how proud of her I am.  Just a few weeks later, she is released from rehab and everyone thinks she is finally turning her life around. Then someone makes an offer she can’t refuse, and she decides to go back for one more fix.  Something goes terribly wrong, and her Daddy finds her dead the next morning, lying on his bathroom floor.

This stuff isn’t made up.  This is real life.  Each of these are true and have touched my life and the lives of those I love in a deeply personal way.  I could go on and on.  There are plenty more stories.  You could probably share many of your own.  The human condition is something we all have in common.  Everybody hurts.  We all cry.  Things touch our lives, and we are left reeling, sometimes to never fully recover.

So, the question is, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Why does God look on while such things happen?  How can a loving God allow such pain to be inflicted upon His creation?  We hear of horrific happenings every evening on the nightly news, and we find ourselves asking the age-old, still-unanswered question again and again.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

In spite of the frequency and number of times it has been asked, the question remains unanswered because to answer this question one would have to be able to see into, know, and fully understand the mind and reasoning of God.  We know from Scripture that God is high above us, and His thoughts and ways are beyond what we have the capacity of comprehending.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8,9

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him?”  I Corinthians 2:16

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”  Job 38:1-4

From these verses, we conclude that we can never fully answer the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but as we look at a broader view of Scripture, we can see that God’s original and never-faltering nature is and always has been purely and entirely good.  Our hearts cry, “Why, God?” when bad things happen because deep in each one of our spirits, we believe that God is good.  We believe He is sovereign, that He is in complete control, and that He can prevent bad things from happening.  So, why doesn’t He?

This world, when first created, was a perfect place where nothing bad ever happened and all was ideal.  Even the concept of “bad” did not exist.  God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect paradise and named it the Garden of Eden.  God said that everything He had created was good, and He gave them one command, “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  They made the conscious choice to disobey that one command, choosing evil over good, and when they did, they performed the very first exercise of free will.  The choice they made was a bad one, and for the first time, the reality of “bad” was introduced.  In the beginning, “bad” was never a part of God’s plan.  His intentions for His creation were and always will be, all good.  If Adam and Eve had obeyed and stayed in the center of God’s original intentions, “bad” would not have been introduced to their world.

Accompanying disobedience to the command to not eat from that one particular tree, was a consequence.  If they ate of that tree, life would forever change for them, and instead of living forever in an Eden on earth, they would die.  Not just a natural, physical demise, but also a spiritual death.  Their sin would separate them from God and create a barrier to their fellowship.  Because of their disobedience, they were driven out of the utopia God had prepared for them into a world where Adam had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow and Eve had to bear children through agonizing pain.  We can see that their punishment was self-inflicted and caused by their own unwise use of the free will God gave them.  It certainly wasn’t God’s “fault” at all.  He gave fair and ample warning as to what would happen should they use their free will to disobey.

Adam and Eve lived out the punishment for their sin, but their errant actions didn’t just affect them.  How wonderful it would have been for the human race if the repercussions had stopped there!  In reality, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, each one of us is born with what Bible scholars call the Adamic nature.  The nature of Adam.  The propensity to sin and perpetuate the bad choice and disobedience that started in that garden all those years ago.  No man is an island.  Just as their actions affect us and every other person ever born, our own actions, whether good or bad, affect other people.

Free will is not selective.  It is universal and innate.  Free will when mishandled breeds bad choices.  Bad choices generate bad consequences and repercussions that spill over into the lives of others causing never-ending ripples that affect not only the present but future generations.

In all of the three examples I shared, we can see that unwise use of free will caused the suffering of others.  In each of these situations, God could have intervened.  He could have prevented the grief and heartache of the sufferers and victims, but in order to do that, He would have had to override the free will of another person.  He gave us free will, He CAN override it, but if He did, it would no longer be unbridled and authentic free will.  God obviously did not want to fill the role of puppeteer over our lives.  He created us with a unique will and the power to choose, and He will not revoke that decision or forcefully control our actions.

In situations like the ones I’ve mentioned, it isn’t hard to see what caused bad things to happen to good people.  But, what about the young wife, Sophia, who dies of a congenital heart disease?  What about another young wife, Melissa, who dies of cancer just months after her wedding day?  What about the Christian blogger who suffers horribly from Rheumatoid Arthritis?  We are always looking for a cause, aren’t we?  When nothing makes sense, and we aren’t able to reconcile what is happening, our first impulse is to blame the One Who could have prevented it.

Joseph in the Old Testament was ruthlessly betrayed by his eleven brothers, sold into slavery, forced to move to a foreign land, falsely accused of a crime, thrown into prison, completely cast aside, and forgotten.  At the end of his suffering, God elevated him to the position of 2nd in command in the nation of Egypt.  When he faced the traitorous brothers who were the cause of his deep trials, and they feared severe retribution from him, he said this, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”  Genesis 50:19,20

All along, God had a plan and was in the process of orchestrating it in and through the life of Joseph.  The fact that Joseph could not see that plan through eyes behind prison walls did not negate the fact that God had and was executing said plan.  God always has a plan.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  This doesn’t say that all things will BE good, but it does promise that all things work together for good.  Not just the good things, but the bad things, too.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle.  When you open it and lay out the pieces, you see bright pieces that instantly make perfect sense and are immediately recognizable.  A fuchsia colored flower, a puffy cloud, a fallen leaf.  But, there are also many ugly pieces that seem to make no sense and seem completely out of place and unrecognizable.  As time goes by, you put the pieces together, piece by piece, only to see that the ugly pieces had purpose, too.  What looked like a black, pointless piece turns out to be a gentleman’s hat or a hinge on a garden gate.  Its purpose is crystal clear once the pieces are fitted together.  The beautiful, identifiable pieces sitting right next to the ugly, mysterious pieces in perfect harmony, just like the puzzle maker intended.  When the last piece falls into place, you stand back and look at the full effect, and then and then only, does it all make perfect sense, and you realize that every piece was a part of the plan all along.

I don’t understand why the young wife with a congenital heart disease had to die, was never afforded the opportunity to live out life with her husband, have babies, or grow old.  What I can say is that before she died, she asked him to promise her that he would pursue a musical career.  He faithfully kept that promise, and it opened the door to a ministry that is blessing people all over the world.  In the aftermath of his deep loss, he wrote a book called, “Hope in Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments” and started a homeless ministry in honor of his wife, Sophia, called "Sophia's Heart", now known as "Better Than I Found It."  His name is Danny Gokey.

I don’t understand why the young wife had to die from cancer, why she was never given the opportunity to live out her dreams or why God chose not to heal her and spare her life.  What I can say is that her young husband drew deep inspiration from his pain and wrote a book called, “I Still Believe: Discovering Hope and Healing in the Midst of Life's Deepest Valleys” and songs like, “There Will Be A Day” and “He Knows.”  I hear they are making a movie about his life that will, undoubtedly touch the lives of millions.  His name is Jeremy Camp.

Joseph Scriven’s first love & proposed bride drowned the day before they were to be married.  He moved from his home in Ireland to Canada, fell in love and became engaged a second time, only to endure the heartache of her death just a few weeks before their scheduled wedding.  His sorrow propelled him to pour his life into helping the handicapped and destitute.  When his mother became ill, and he had no funds to return to Ireland to be with her, the immense anguish in his heart became the birthplace of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.”

After Horatio Spafford lost his young son to pneumonia, much of his business was destroyed in the Chicago fire, the ship that carried his four young daughters collided with another ship, and all four of their lives were lost, he wrote the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Maybe instead of asking the question why God allows bad things to happen to good people, we should be watching to see what happens afterward.  Maybe we should start looking for the good things that were birthed from the point of pain.  Countless survivors of bad things have overcome their circumstances to go on and share their stories and let others know they are not alone.  Their testimonies have resonated with millions who have found hope in the midst of their own heartache.  My Daddy always told me that character is forged in the crucible of pain.  He spoke from places of deeply hurtful personal experience and was one of the most humble, kind-hearted, giving, unselfish, compassionate people I have ever known.  When faced with life’s challenges, we are given the choice of allowing the anguish to make us bitter or better.  My Daddy chose the latter, and it resonated through everything he ever taught me about life.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

From this verse, we can conclude these things:

Our God is the God of ALL comfort.  His comfort extends to every possible bad thing that can ever happen.  We do not walk alone.  Whether it be divorce or painful separation, the death of someone dear, the loss of a job, a stifled or unfulfilled dream, the loss of a pet, disappointment, embarrassment, shame, betrayal, abuse, shock, financial distress, depression, addiction, anxiety, despair, suicidal temptation, abandonment, ex-communication from a denominational sect, slander, or any other life event, His comfort covers it all and is equally effective in every situation.

Our God is the Father of mercies!  He is merciful to us.  The love of God comforts, it doesn’t condemn.  He doesn’t blame us for the bad things others inflict upon us.  He doesn’t shame us for being victims.  His mercy is a healing balm that will wash over every place of brokenness and open wound, if we will only stop blaming Him and open our hearts to His healing.

Once a person has received comfort from God in any particular area of life, they are automatically endowed with a deeper capacity of compassion in that area.  Once someone has walked through divorce, they are much more sensitive, non-judgmental, and understanding toward others who find themselves in that position.  After walking through the valley of the shadow of a mother’s death, a person is far better equipped to empathize with the friend who just lost her Mom.  The recovering addict whose family left due to his out of control cocaine use is far less likely to ever cast judgment on the teenage junkie he meets ten years down the road.  It is amazing how God places specific people in each of our lives who are going through identical pain to our own.  This is not by coincidence or accident but is Divinely-appointed providential care both for us and for the person who is suffering what we have already gone through and survived.  It holds a lot more weight to look a suicidal person in the eye and say, “I’ve been there.  I’m still here.  I made it, and you will, too” than to just be able to say, “I’m sorry you are going through this.  I can only imagine how you feel.”  Bad things prepare and qualify us for authentically compassionate outreach in our own areas of experience and expertise and make us far more effective as we offer that same kind of comfort to someone else.  “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  See how that works?  As you look back over your life and recall the bad things that have happened to you, it is very likely you will therein unearth the area of calling God has placed upon your life.  When you were suffering most and felt God-forsaken, He was furnishing you with the very tools He would one day empower you to use to help and minister to others.  There are few things more gratifying than to witness the power of God’s redemption of your own sorrow and to see how He takes what was bad and transforms it into the impartation of good.

The words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Rainy Day” hold much wisdom and truth.
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.”

These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. “  Jesus (John 16:33)

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden, we live in a fallen world where “bad” has been introduced.  To think we will walk through life unscathed by tribulation is unrealistic.  It is all in the overcoming.  Because Jesus overcame, so will we.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  While I don’t feel we can ever fully comprehend the mind of God and our finite thoughts can never be reconciled with the infinity of His, could the answer to this question lie in the fact that God knows good people will use the bad to become better?

Full disclosure – Many of the thoughts I share were born out of a deep, late-night conversation with our dear son, Zach, and he greatly contributed to the thoughts I am presenting here.  Thank you, dear Zach, and may God ever bless you for the continual blessing you are to your Daddy and me.