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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 58 - December 2015 / January 2016 > Connecting the Dots (part 1, by David Wallace)

Connecting the Dots

Part 1, by David Wallace

 
I recently read the story of Canute the Great, a 12th century Danish king. It's said that one day Canute called together of all of his people and told them to come to the sea for a demonstration of his power. As they gathered on the beach, Canute raised his hand and commanded the tide to stop. But nothing happened; the waves just kept rolling in. Again Canute raised his hand and commanded the tide to stop. Nothing happened, waves just kept coming. A third time, Canute raised his hand and commanded the tide to stop and nothing happened.

Confused and disappointed, the people turned and looked at Canute. They'd come to see a demonstration of power and they got nothing.

Canute's point was that while he as king had enormous power over their lives - people lived and died by his command - there were things that even he was powerless to stop. Canute could not control the world, and neither can I.

This year, earthquakes have devastated Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  There was another gun massacre at a school in the United States. Tens of thousands in Syria and Iraq have been forced to flee to survive the rampage of ISIS with many more killed before they could escape the onslaught.

They happened and I couldn't stop them - I can't control the world.

I can't even control most of my own life.

My parents got divorced.  Last year, my uncle unexpectedly dropped dead at 58.  As a 9-year-old, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. They happened and I couldn't stop them - I can't even control my world.

In a world perverted by sin, pain is inevitable and often we're powerless to stop it. Things go wrong, your world starts falling apart and there is nothing you can do.

Sometimes life just hits you across the back of the head with a brick. The specific brick that life uses will vary - death, divorce, the disappointment of an unfulfilled dream - but there will always be a brick.

No matter what precautions we take.  No matter how well we construct our lives.  No matter how much we work to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable and successful - live long enough and something will eventually go wrong.

It's also not a question of our righteousness or faithfulness.

In Job 1:8 it says,

Then the Lord asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless-a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil."

Yet, Job lost everything. His children dead. His body struck down with disease.

All his wealth and material possession gone. Despite it all, somehow Job's faith not only remained but grew.

In Job 1:22 it records that "In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God."

Our experience with pain and suffering can be why we believe or it can be why we don't. It can be why we grow and mature in character or it can be why we become a mere shadow of ourselves.  It can be how God becomes more real to us or it can be why we turn away from Him.

Carl Jung once said "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become."  The day the brick comes, all we get to do is choose how we respond.  Our response can draw us closer to God or it can drive us further away.

The prophet Habakkuk wrote - Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT):

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

When it all goes wrong, how do you maintain that faith?  We don't have to suffer like Job for our faith to be tested. It might simply be the pain of life being unfair.

In Psalm 73 (NLT) David wrote:

2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. 4 They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They don't have troubles like other people; they're not plagued with problems like everyone else.

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? 14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.

23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

In the face of disappointment and frustration with life, how do you maintain that faith?  How do you with joy and conviction say, the Lord gives and the Lord takes way?

A few years ago my parents separated and divorced. Their separation wasn't in the circumstances of martial betrayal, but rather the truth meant that it was something that couldn't be. 

But regardless of the specifics, some experiences just hurt and for our family it did. I was living with mum at the time and there was period when all joy seemingly vanished for her life - daily I would see in her eyes nothing but pain, a deep and abiding sadness.

Against the backdrop of a terrible reality, how do you say 'it is well with my soul?'

 
Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I cannot think of a more painful, soul crushing experience than that endured by the followers of Christ on the crucifixion weekend.

Friday Christ died.

Saturday the disciples just had to sit with the realization that He was dead. Their friend was dead. The Messiah was dead. God was dead. This was the person on whom they had pinned all of their hopes, their dreams, their expectation and now He was dead.  The person on whom they had staked their reputations, their future, even their lives and now He was dead. 

It was all over. Death had won. Sin had won.

But fortunately that wasn't the end. There was Sunday yet to come.  It was only on Sunday that it made sense. It was only on Sunday that they could start to understand God's plan of salvation. It was only on Sunday that the dots began to connect.  On Friday and Saturday they couldn't see the glorious triumph that Sunday offered. They couldn't connect the dots looking forward and neither can we.

 

Parts 2 and 3 to come in later editions

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