See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.
See Part 5 here.
See Part 6 here.
See Part 7 here.
See Part 8 here.
See Part 9 here.
See Part 10 here.
See Part 11 here.
With my mom back in her home, I’m happy that things are starting to gain a sense of routine. Routine is something I cherish. It keeps life moving. It helps everything feel like it’s all OK.
It even feels a bit normal. I called home. My mom was more interested in my relationship with my girlfriend than seemingly anything else. That’s a strength my mom has always had. Whatever is going on in life, she wants to know we’re OK. If anyone were to ask why I feel my mom is the best, I’d reply that it’s because my happiness is her priority. She and the family are working to get the house ready to sell, and the first thing she asked when I called is if I need any new clothes.
It’s startling to be honest. I sort of struggle with that. I try to show she’s raised me right by not needing her, and she’ll never stop wanting to provide for me. It’s one of the cornerstones of love.
What I want to be happy is for this to be over. I’m mentally exhausted at work. I’m exhausted with the pace I’ve been turing out stories. And this concern for my mom is always right there in the back of my mind.
So today, I speak about patience. I don’t feel I’m bad or sinful for expressing my desire for this trial to be over. However, I do realize that my purpose is to preserver. God wants us to stand strong through adversity. Doing so shows God we trust him and have faith in him.
I had a bit of a high-and-low moment at work last Friday. One the high side, one of my friends watched me teach.
“I don’t know how you keep bringing that much passion every day.”
I replied, “Are you ready for the answer?”
“When you know you’re doing what God wants, it’s easy.” As true as that is, I was, again, pretty arrogant. My point was that we should always evaluate what we’re doing. If we’re suffering, there’s a reason and purpose. My argument was that sometimes suffering shows us we’re not doing what God wants.
Less than an hour later I vented (it was venting, but I shouted, loudly) to my friend and team lead about an issue that came up. Someone wasn’t aware of a change we had to make. That person didn’t know why the change was made. He went to talk to our mutual boss about it. When you have some 30-something (at least) instructors working with more than 120 students in four different iterations of the same course, things are bound to fall through the cracks. My anger and frustration took the wheel, which means I turned from God in that moment, hours after I said it’s easy to do what God wants.
The fact is, it’s not easy to do what God wants. The reward, the joy I feel when I know I’m doing what He wants is priceless. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trials, and I failed that test. I failed that test less than an hour after I talked about keeping one’s mind on serving God. This is because I lack a skill that’s critical to being a good christian: Patience.
Romans 12:12: “Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
I’m not often patient in any manner. Now, in this portion of my mom’s treatment, all there is to do is wait. At work, when things took an unexpected turn, all I needed to do was wait. I didn’t. This is something I need to practice and demonstrate in my life.
There’s a phrase I’m currently studying in some christian circles. “Let go, and let God.” I’m not honestly one who believes that if I just sit idly praising God, things will just fall in my lap. At the very least I’m not so foolish as to think I can work outside of God’s will. I’ve mentioned before that one has to work toward a goal and then wait for God to enact His will in His time. But that patience has to become a regular part of my life.
Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Everything that happens, not matter how horrible it may seem at the moment, is for our own good. For those who wish to dispute this, I feel compelled to note the words “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This sort of puts a sharp, unsympathetic modifier on things. This verse clarifies that God works specifically for those who love him and those who’ve been called.
Some, like Paul may suffer so that they might hear God’s call.
So, to create context, let’s establish some necessary assumptions.
- Those who don’t love God may or may not suffer, but their acts, though permitted by God, are not for the good of those individuals unless that good is intended to bring those people to hear God’s call and come to love him, which is the greatest good there can be.
- The ultimate good is a life alongside Jesus when he returns to Earth.
- Glory is promised to those who love and honor God, but that Glory is defined as the love of God. Some people consider glory to translate to “what I want.”
That third aspect of context is the one that really gets some people. I’ve spoken frequently about things I want, but each of those desires must be secondary to loving and honoring God. That’s the glory. If one recognizes that as the definition, then one can understand a major question of religion.
“If God loves us, why does he let bad things happen?”
Paul lost everything. He was imprisoned and later executed for loving and following God, but he maintained faith and conviction because he understood his ultimate glory was already guaranteed.
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
At this point in this journey I find myself “wanting.” I want to get married. I want to be better at my job. I want to be a best seller. And, I want my mom to be cancer free.
I feel confident that most who read this wouldn’t blame me for any of these desires. The hammer meets the nail when one realizes those are all worldly desires. God may or may not choose to allow any of those things to happen. I’d obviously praise God for each of those things if they happened just as I praised God by telling my coworker I have passion when I teach because I believe that’s what he wants me to do. But what do you do when you don’t get what you want?
What was your motivation for following God? Readers, if you follow God because you believe he’s the ultimate “Godfather” giving you things in exchange for what you give, I’m compelled to tell you to pray. Pray for understanding and wisdom. You don’t follow God because of the earthly things you might get. You follow him because you love him and fear him.
So if I’m denied every single one of those earthly desires, what I should and will do is praise him. Praise him and testify that this, like all things, is ultimately for my good. I might not see it. I might not understand it. It might be a test, a test I’ve failed a lot in recent days.
I have a dissagrement at work, and off I go, shouting and yelling because I’m afraid. This demonstrates no faith in God and no respect of this will.
My girlfriend’s divorce isn’t final, and I fail to control my mind and body, ultimately seeking out fornication to satisfy my fleshly desires.
My mom has a few turns in her treatment, and I balk when my sister calls for help (see Part 7).
Why should God bless me if I keep turning from him every time my life is going well when measured by earthly desires and accomplishments?
Is that who I really am? I am I that hypocritical? Am I one of those who responded with, “Only just let me” when Jesus says, “follow me.” See the Gospels.
This is my repentance. It’s hard to be christian. It’s hard to follow God because you have to always follow him. I’m as faithful in prayer as anyone I know. I’m great at rejoicing in hope.
Now, in this portion, where I must wait, and I’m sad and hurting because I want my mother to be okay, I must be patient.
Pray for me in this readers. Pray for me that I might learn to be as calm and happy in my trials as I am in my joys.
Questions and Revelations
What happened at work?
Honestly, nothing. There were things I was very afraid could or might happen. But it was a hole lot of wasted anger and frustration over nothing. This amplifies my shame, readers. Things have gotten blown out of proportion in my life and in my workplace. I won’t assert they are more or less than any business or school, but I have to be better than I am in how I respond to them, even if they go result in my persecution or suffering. In this case, it was all fine by the time I left that day, but I think I learned more from this instance than I ever have. I fear the next time something like this comes, but I hope that I’m ready for it.
What do you mean “bad things happen for my good”?
Just what I said. Listen, I sometimes get frustrated at people or religious books that proclaim bad things happen for good reasons just as I get frustrated at those who smile and say to perceiver or not want worldly things when they seem to have an awful lot of worldly things. That’s jealousy, plain and simple. I’m not pretending to know your pain. But here’s some of mine:
I come from a family created through rape and brutalized by molestation.
I’ve seen children of those I love given away for adoption.
I’ve seen a child burned (not killed, but badly burned).
I’ve seen parents of those I love die.
I’ve seen dreams of people I love crumble.
I’ve told young men and women who wanted nothing more that to be storytellers for the Navy that they couldn’t do that.
It hurt. I wept. Most times I have to let a student go, I weep.
I have nightmares about this.
I’m not comparing my suffering to yours. But I have suffered, and I will suffer more. They were horrible. They were sad. Some of those things took me decades to come to terms with.
How was any of that for my good? For starters, I exist. I’m alive. Ester’s rape was a horrible thing. The molestation in my family wasn’t any better. But here I am, a man at the end of a long line of tragedy, a faulted, flawed, sinful man, but one who understands God loves him, and forgives him these sins.
Here I am, a man who feels like he had to fight through years of abuse and heartbreak, and now I’m about to become a part of a family with three boys, who might just need exactly that kind of knowledge, so that I can help them through their parents’ divorce. Is that how I want things to happen? No! But I’m better for it. I’m more prepared for future, harder trials because of it.
It’s easy for non-believers to point at the bad in the world and wail, “What sort of God would allow this?”
My response is a God who knows what’s to come. A God who’s calling others to action. A God who loves us enough to prepare us. Yes, he tests us. He allowed Satan to wipe out Job’s family. Job’s my favorite story. I don’t know that I could fill his example, but he suffered that so that he could be an example.
Jesus: God sent his only son to earth to die for our sins. Oddly, I’ve never heard anyone argue about that. I’ve never heard any non-believer say, “What father would ever sacrifice his son for anything?”
First off, Jesus also chose to die for our sins. He loved us so much he willingly died, obeying his father’s will and paying for all our sins. How much do you imagine either actually enjoyed that?
I’m not saying don’t be sad. I’m not saying look to tragedy with a smile. I’m simply stating my firm belief that as a child of God, everything that happens to me is for my own good.
Do you look forward to the next test?
Oh there’s no way that’s not coming. Even Peter was tested three times just as he denied Christ three times. Honestly, I don’t look forward to any of my trials or tests. Jesus didn’t skip to the cross and smile as they nailed him to it. He was, however, far more benevolent and honorable as he endured those things. So must I. No. I don’t look forward to it. But I do long to show God I can endure. That means I have to be put in a position to endure though doesn’t it?
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog. I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.
Thanks for reading