Even Now

I’d like to just have a raw and real moment with you today. I wasn’t planning on posting a blog this week because my wife and I have a very big weekend ahead and I didn’t expect to have time to spare. However, I really felt the need to share something with you during this “coffee time”.

I believe that people sometimes get the idea that my family and I don’t face struggles. Such a belief is based on pure ignorance, but the ignorance is there because we don’t really telegraph all of our business on social media. Our business is our business. We wish to get through our struggles, not gain attention for them.

There are times when our difficulties involve struggles of faith. We don’t struggle with our faith in God, but sometimes we struggle to understand what God is doing. There are many difficulties one faces as a pastoral family. I will not bore you with explanations or attempt to garner sympathy for us “poor pastors”. The calling is what the calling is. However, I am going to share a situation with you so that perhaps you may be encouraged in your own faith-walk with Christ.

Currently, there is a “stronghold” we face in this season of ministry. Without going into details, we thought we had received a miracle aimed at this particular need, only to be notified later that we had not. As a pastor, I am expected to take everything in stride and chant a solemn hallelujah and move on when disappointments occur. I wish I was at such a level of spiritual piety. I am not.

I entered the empty sanctuary of our church broken and angry. I threw the notification of the mistake down upon the altar. I yelled to God asking Him why. Why would He allow us to believe something had happened when it hadn’t? Why would He allow us to be led into a false sense of hope?

Please do not misunderstand me. I was not angry with God nor was I accusing Him with wrongdoing. I was angry at the situation and frustrated that I could not understand the point of having the rug pulled out from under us. I was upset that I thought this stronghold took a direct hit only to find it standing unscathed when the smoke cleared.

I contacted my presbyter (he’s a pastor of a church, but also serves as a pastor to the pastors in our section) and I asked him the question that often can’t be answered; why? I’ve been asked that question plenty of times in my ministry, and there are many occasions when we, as pastors, cannot answer the question because we do not hold the information God does. So, when I asked my presbyter “why?”, I really did not expect an answer. I just needed to vent.

I love the great man of God my presbyter is. With his God-given wisdom and his tender spirit, he said to me, “I wish I had an answer on the ‘Why would God do this?’ question.  I would encourage you lean strong into the nature and character of God.  He doesn’t play tricks on His children—give us ‘a stone when we ask for bread.’” That quote about the stone for bread is from Matthew 7:7-11 and it is exactly how I felt. It seemed as though a cruel trick had been played on us and I didn’t understand why. However, that is not the nature of God. He does not play tricks on His children. So, though I didn’t understand, I did know that God was not being cruel.

When I informed my wife of what had transpired she looked at me and said, “Ok. Well, if God is not going to meet the need that way, He’ll simply do it another way.” Thank the Lord for a Spirit-filled wife! Thank the Lord for a Christ-centered marriage. There have been times where I have stood in faith when she feared and times when she has stood in faith when I feared. In this, we have had the blessing of leaning on each other over the years.

If I am to be completely honest with you, my coffee buddy, I am still struggling a bit today. However, I was reminded in prayer yesterday about Mary and Martha concerning the death of their brother, Lazarus. John 11:21 reads, “Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’” Jesus, we are told, delayed His arrival (John 11:6) and because of that, Lazarus had died. Sickness was one thing, but death was final. Death was, in everyone’s eyes, too late. Why had Jesus waited until it was too late?

But after Martha had basically informed Jesus that it was too late, she made an amazing statement of faith! John 11:22, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Did you catch that, “but even now”? But even now, though the circumstances declare that it’s too late, it’s not too late for God! But even now, though the point of no return has been passed, God can still reverse the situation!

But even now, though you thought God was going to work one way and you were disappointed, God will work another way and bring greater results than what was originally anticipated.

If you are a child of God through Jesus Christ, and you are wondering how God could possibly change an impossible situation you are facing, know that even now applies to you too.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

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The Real MVPs

We seem to hear a lot today about failed marriages and how a long lasting, loving marriage is a rare thing. I suppose, if you look at our society as a whole, those observations are fairly accurate. However, within the circles that I run, good strong marriages are not such an oddity. I know of many amazing marriages filled with love which have stood the test of time. It has been my experience that marriages between two committed Christ-followers are significantly better and filled with more lasting joy.

In last week’s blog I wrote about a question that was posed to my wife and I concerning our ability to stay in love for twenty-eight years. I also mentioned that we’ve had people comment positively on our relationship many times over those years. I suppose what we have is a rarity in the world, but it really is not so rare among true disciples of Christ. I say all of this to move into the subject I wish to address in this post; the real MVPs when it comes to marriage.

I read somewhere once that, “When most people say, ‘For better or for worse,’ what they really mean is just, ‘For better’”. Marriage was designed by God to be a covenant that remains through thick and thin. Unfortunately, our culture has systematically degraded marriage to nothing more than a glorified form of dating. Of course, dating really has no moorings attached so, if one party is no longer happy they can easily check out. The reality of marriage is that it is about doing life together and life, as we well know, can bring some heavy burdens that will shatter the fairytale scenario in one’s imagination concerning a happly-ever-after union.

You see, in the movies, Cinderella rides off with the prince, Bell dances in the grand ballroom of the castle, and Ariel is forever united with her true love. Then the music plays and the credits roll and we never see another problem again for these couples. However, what if ten years after the credits, Cinderella is diagnosed with breast cancer? What if Bell’s beastly prince gets injured and is confined to a wheelchair the rest of his life? What if Ariel gives birth to a child with a debilitating and even life-threatening condition? Rolling the credits cuts off the unpleasant reality of life and that is what really makes it a fairytale.

I believe that the real MVPs of marriage are those couples who have had their fairytale assaulted by the harshness of life. The real MVPs are marriages which, not simply endure, but thrive in the presence of infirmities. There is something to be said for the individual whose spouse is suffering from a chronic illness and instead of believing they have been short-changed in this deal and are entitled to some “love on the side”, they actually draw closer to their spouse and endure that infirmity with them.

I’m talking about men and women who dreamed of one thing, but received another and are not claiming a breach of contract. I’m spotlighting the husband or wife who remains faithful through the emotional toil that a chronic illness can create and the harsh ways in which emotional stress can manifest itself. Those who suffer the frustration of not being able to make their spouse better. Husbands and wives who have had to adjust their idea of romance with the one they love because long walks on the beach are no longer a reality. Those people are the real MVPs.

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Of course, we would most likely agree that marriage should be like that. Unfortunately, I have heard many stories of a husband or wife leaving their ill spouse for no other justification than that it is just not what they signed up for. When they said their marriage vows, they only really meant “for better” and “for richer”. Their image of life together didn’t involve a wheelchair or chemotherapy or a special needs child. In their mind, they only agreed to a relationship that supplied an unending flow of personal fulfilment.

The real MVPs are the marriages where great adversity has come in and they thrive through it. I know some of these types of couples personally. They are inspiring. We can never truly understand their ordeal, but we can be encouraged by their resolve and commitment to one another.

There is a man of God whom I greatly respect whose wife had fallen under the grip of the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. As the condition worked its horrible work this man watched his beloved of many decades fade away from before him. He was eventually asked by a colleague, “How do you do it?” His response was unwavering, “It is my great privilege to serve my wife in this condition.” That, my friends, is the attitude of a marriage MVP. That’s worth some contemplation in my estimation.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.