The Bottom Line

sea stairsI have occasionally been accused of being pedantic.  I guess I take after my Dad.  He loved not only to know how things worked, but to tell you all about it.  He could go on for hours explaining the workings of a motor down to the last nut and bolt, and I can still feel my eyes glazing over as I tried to listen politely when he got on one of his rants.  I loved him, so it didn’t matter ~ but there are times I ruefully wish I didn’t take after him quite so much.

The pieces I write for CWO are generally prompted by things I have been working on in my own spiritual journey.  I sometimes have a tendency to get distracted by analysis and semantics, but today I don’t want to get bogged down in detail.  I just want to be thankful for the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ, and resting in His love and comfort.

I have been fighting discouragement.  The last month or so has been difficult for a number of reasons.  For one, my own physical reserves have been drained again and again by various problems.  This is just part of being very old, but I must admit I find it frustrating.  There are so many things I want and need to do ~ and my body just won’t go there anymore.  I must take it as a given that on any specific day I may or may not be able to accomplish the goals I have set for myself.  I am trying to be content with what I AM able to get done without letting the undone things rattle me.

Besides the health issues, there was also a difficult death to absorb: a young woman (not a believer) dying of an overdose of pills, whether on purpose or not no one knows.  It affected people I care about, and had many emotional ramifications.  Not the least of these was the knowledge that as an unbeliever, she will be separated from the presence of God for eternity.  I did not know her personally, but my prayer is that those who loved her will become aware of the fragility of life, and think hard about their own relationship with God before it is too late.

Then I heard that the health of the husbands of two of my women friends has deteriorated dramatically.  Both of these very elderly women now find themselves in the role of caregiver to physically fragile men whose minds are no longer always lucid.  They have become willing prisoners to their love for their husbands and their sense of duty.  Both are living on almost no sleep, and the need to push through their own physical problems in order to be at their husband’s side.  There is no end in sight.  So many of my dear friends have had their last years become a severe testing instead of being able to age in dignity and relative comfort.  It seems unfair.

The final blow was the death of a friend who had been an important part of my early Christian life.  He was one of those special people who seemed to have all the gifts.  He and his wife had been friends of mine since we were all teenagers, and during our early days my husband and I counted them as among our best friends.  He had been a physician, and after retirement he became a lay-preacher as his father had been before him.  Then a few years ago, his fine mind yielded to Alzheimer’s, and so his death has been a release in some ways.  However, for many of us who counted him as a friend, his death puts an end-stop to a positive period in our lives.  His dear wife also has a form of dementia, and to watch these two vibrant, intelligent, productive people end like this has been draining emotionally and a challenge to our faith.  Thank God for memories; yet even they are not always forever, as their lives demonstrate.

How do we rationalize things like this and still come away with an unshakable faith in the goodness and love of God?

First, I have to remind myself that God is good, and that it was not He Who introduced sin and disease and other problems into the world.  We sometimes blame God for our problems, yet the source of evil is never God, but the enemy.  God may allow trials as a part of our training and the shaping of our character, but He is never the source of evil.

Next, I need to remember that we are as dust, and that every human is designed to live and then to die.  Death itself is not the worst enemy.  Those who die in the Lord will find an existence that we cannot, in our human state, even imagine.  Eye has not seen, ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for us.  However, for those who die outside of grace, perhaps it is better if we don’t know the details.  The worst thing we can face is not death, but death without Christ ~ and I thank God every day for the knowledge of Him in Whom I have believed.

The next thing to remember is that when we face problems, believers don’t have to face them alone.  No matter how isolated we might be in life, we always have the Presence of God with us.  The Holy Spirit has been given to us as a Comforter; God with us in every circumstance.  We can call on God to give us strength; to give us comfort; to give us wisdom ~ and He will answer.  Several times in the past weeks I have had friends say to me, “I don’t know how unbelievers ever get through these things without the Lord!”  Life is hard for everyone, but it makes a difference when you know you are never really alone, and are constantly surrounded by Love.

I am very grateful for all the blessings I have in Christ, but ultimately it really isn’t about what I get out of my relationship with Him.  I think young Christians, especially if they have had a lot of things that they deeply regret in their lives before Christ, are, at first, almost overwhelmed by what they have received in Him.  We think about what we have escaped, and about how much we didn’t deserve to be loved, and how much it means to us to have God as our Father, and be in the Beloved.

As we mature, the focus shifts to being more about Him and less about ourselves.  We begin to be aware of the real nature of God in each of His expressions: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We begin to appreciate Him not only for what we get from our relationship with Him, but more about His character, His attributes.  We gradually understand the depth of our own sin.  We begin to see that the sins of the spirit, like pride and selfishness and a desire for autonomy, are perhaps even more damaging to our souls than the sins of the flesh.  The closer we grow to Him, the more we realize just how far away from Him we really are.  It is a paradox.  We recognize the pure light of His holiness and struggle to understand the nature and transcendence of His love.  Amazing grace ~how can it be ~ that Thou my God should die for me?

Through it all, through all our searching and questioning and growth, God remains faithful and steady.  We may wander from His Presence for a while, but He will never leave us, even if He seems to hide Himself for a period as we wrestle with our own choices.

In this moment my heart is full of the wonder and awe of seeing the radiance of God through His love, His goodness, His holiness.  It is hard to understand why He should love us, love me ~ but I am so very grateful that He does.

Am I fretting because I am no longer able to do all that I would want to do? Then I need to remember that in my old age God is preparing me for eternity, and gently stripping away all my earthly entanglements and ties so that I can fully focus my heart on Him.  Am I sad because my friends are dying and suffering?  Then I need to remember that in heaven, not so far off now for me, we will be reunited and in perfect bodies, with perfect characters, and that the millstone of self and my old nature which now drag me down and cause me so much grief will be forever gone.

Somehow it always comes down to the same simple bottom line.  I need, once more, to trust Him.

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