I was sitting by my mom’s bedside when she looked at me and said “God doesn’t make mistakes”. She had been in the hospital for several days already and had not had much sleep the night before and yet this was her perspective. A few moments after that comment, she looked at me again and said, “On some days it’s harder to believe that than others.” This combination of truth and vulnerability are some of the reasons that I admire my mom so much. She has always been a pillar of strength in our family and seeing her struggle so much this past week has naturally been difficult for all of us that love her. I couldn’t help but think a little bit about Job who suffered so greatly in the Bible and yet was unwilling to curse the God who had created him.
Suffering is not a topic that I like to think about much, nor does the typical evangelical Christian. We have been brought up to focus on things like overcoming, victory, and abundance. Living in America, this this often resulted in the conflating of the American dream with “success as a Christian”. We are used to hearing sermons on fulfilling our God-given purpose and accomplishing our destiny. Rarely do we hear about what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction”, especially if that obedience results in any level of personal discomfort. Even the recent emphasis on “living radically” for Christ and giving up a few of our creature comforts has not dealt much with the topic of long term suffering and pain.
For many Christians around the world this is not the case. Pain, suffering, crisis and persecution are their daily lot. Simply to identify as a follower of Christ can result in hostility, isolation and violence. While I am not sure that American Christians are about to experience this any time soon, we are now beginning to face some jarring realities of our own. We no longer live in a nation that even pretends to be governed by Christian values and self-identifying as an evangelical is to invite ridicule and disdain. In the face of this, we have often reacted like wounded animals caught in a trap. Far too often we lash out with reactions that are no better than the people who have mocked us in the first place.
This week, we learned that we will have a pretty tough choice ahead as we consider the next presidential election. Neither candidate is an evangelical Christian and both espouse views that are antithetical to many of our core beliefs. It is at times like this that it is harder to believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. Somehow as our country moves further and further from a Judeo-Christian worldview and our leaders seem more and more ungodly, we are called to trust that God is still sovereign and knows what He is doing. More and more I have to face the question of whether I can trust God’s heart when I can’t trace his hand.
My mom also said something this week that reminded me why she is such a great example of faith in the face of fear. She remarked that during her stay in the hospital, she has had more opportunities to share the gospel than she had had in recent years. Every person she meets is likely to hear something about the Jesus she loves and how she is relying on him for the strength to deal with whatever comes next. This seemed like such a good illustration of how I am might deal with a world that seems scarier by the day. Instead of hunkering down and bemoaning the direction America appears to be headed, I can choose to see this as one of the greatest opportunities for gospel advance in my lifetime. It is certainly true that when the church of Christ has been ridiculed, mocked and persecuted at various times in history, this has often resulted in explosive growth. May that be true of me and my generation of Christ followers.