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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I don't want to be a fake, either

I will never forget the Sunday that I sat in the congregation on Sunday morning and listened to the pastor preach one of those sermons that most of us have heard more than once.
"Just have faith. You will never be sick. The people you love will never die. People will always like you. Money will grow on trees. You can live a safe and peaceful perfect life."

The truth was: in just 2 hours, the people who sat in that audience, including the pastor, were to be attending the funeral of our friend, 40 years old, who thousands of her friends and family had prayed for many years who had died from breast cancer.

Philip Yancey is my favorite author. Some of his books have interesting titles. This is his latest. I got it for Christmas.
Some of his others are:

Disappointment with God
Where is God when it hurts?
What's So Amazing about Grace?
Prayer: Does it make any difference?
Reaching for the Invisible God
The Gift of Pain
Church: Why Bother?
Soul Survivor: How 13 unlikely mentors helped my faith survive the church

Here are some things Philip says:
  • God seems to value character more than our comfort, often using the very elements that cause us the most discomfort as His tools fashioning that character. We are all a story being written, with an ending only faintly glimpsed by us.
  • God does not accept me conditionally on the basis of my performance, but loves and forgives me despite my failures.
  • Human beings need problems more than we need solutions. Problems stretch us and press us toward dependence on God. Success represents a greater danger..toward pride and self satisfaction.
  • On this planet God allows us to be put in harms way. Buildings collapse, tectonic plates shift, viruses proliferate, evil people resort to violence. If we believe God's promises, these things do not reflect his ultimate will, but while we spend our days on planet earth, bad things will happen.
  • In the face of tragedy, we can respond by blaming God or turn to Him and trust him to fashion good out of bad, to use whatever happens as the raw material for a new story. A story that will be much different than it would have been without the tragedy or failure, but in some ways even richer and redeemed.
When we try to make our life sound like a picnic, we hurt the cause of Christ. If we pretend that our lives are perfect, how can we hope to help those who are going through bad times or enduring hurt and disappointment?
Our wounds are the very things that God uses to allow us to receive grace and empower us to reach out and offer comfort to another grieving, hurting, disappointed person.
Our testimonies are our best opportunities to minister. Jesus knew the power of identification. He was betrayed. He knew what it was like to have friends walk away and gossip about him. When Thomas doubted his resurrection, he showed him the wounds. Sometimes, people will only listen to you after they have seen your wounds.
But he giveth more grace, Wherefore he saith, God resists the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. James 4:6


Wendy said...

Awesome. I have a good friend who has always been open to me about her frustrations and disappointments. She makes me feel sane. It's what I love about her. I need to borrow your book. Such a great reminder of the whole point of us being here.

Camezi said...

Preach it, Mom!