I haven’t published anything here for a while. Most topics that came to mind have been too personal or too controversial to share. So I’ve kept my journaling to myself and for a few close friends. But I’ve been learning some hard lessons lately that I feel led to share. God has certainly been teaching me a lot through the difficulties of 2020. The pandemic/Covid-19, the world’s reaction to it, government mandates because of it, loss of freedoms and privileges, the closure of my church services, racial unrest and riots, the destruction of my downtown city, wildfires threatening nearby neighborhoods, oppressive smoke and loss of healthy air quality–all have provided lessons for me. And there are the personal struggles on top of these world/USA struggles on top of it all. Times got harder. In this post I will address one of many hard lessons.
The latest crushing blow for me came when I heard the sadly true, tragic story of what happened to a family in Lyons, Oregon, the Tofte family. Without warning, their home and area was suddenly overrun by the Beachie Creek Wildfire. A 13 year old boy, his dog, and his grandmother died in that fire. The mother was badly burned and hospitalized. The dad could not get back in time to try to help save them. The unthinkable happened for that family. My area was on a level 1 watch for the Riverside Wildfire. Areas very near me were at level 2 of 3–be ready to evacuate. Level 3 areas being evacuated were altogether too close nearby for comfort, and I feared for friends in those areas. What I feared and was watching for and hoping would not happen actually happened to others. When horrible things happen to others, especially to children, it feels like it happened to me. Or maybe worse, I wonder why did it happen to them and not to me? Tragedies like this tend to make me question and doubt God. Where was God when that happened, I asked in a Facebook post. How can we trust Him when such heinous things happen?
So, I fell into a bad place spiritually for a while. I questioned God. I doubted God. Along with this issue, I generally often have seasons where I cannot “feel” or “sense” God’s presence with me. I can’t feel any joy or happiness with God, which believers are commanded and expected to do. There may be some depression involved with this. It may also be a time of God testing me. But working through it all, hanging on to the truths I know from my Bible studies, I emerge once again believing in, trusting in, and hoping in God. And I even have been able to “feel” His presence again, sometimes. Besides the fact that there is no one else to turn to, and no other hope to sustain me other than hope in God and eternal life, I choose to believe God is good, despite heinous things we cannot understand being allowed to happen. Job said, “Even if God would kill me, yet I will trust Him.” An even harder one than that for me personally is to be able to say, “Even if God would allow 13 year old boys to burn up in a wildfire, yet I will trust Him.” And “Even if God will cause harm or death to my loved ones, yet I will trust Him.” And the hardest yet still– “Even if God will never call my loved ones to believe in Him and be saved from eternal destruction, and even if my loved ones will not choose to believe in Jesus, yet I will trust Him.”
The hard lessons I am learning from the difficulties of 2020 in the USA, and my own personal difficulties I won’t expound on here, is that I don’t have the right to question God’s goodness or sovereignty over all things. He is God, and I am not. Like Job, I must say, “Behold I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.” Job 40:4. God said to Job, “Who then is he that can stand before Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.” Job 41:10b-11. All creation explains that God is Creator. I never have any difficulty believing God exists, that He is real. But I sometimes, from time to time, struggle with believing in His goodness. But His Word says He is good, and there is much evidence of His goodness all around us. God has showed so much goodness to me personally. Indeed, humankind would not even be able to conceive of what goodness is apart from God. Evil somehow provides a contrast that shows us what goodness is. Humans would not even have existence or breath and a voice to raise any questions about good and evil apart from God. I trust God has allowed (or even caused) all the terrible evils that run rampant in this world for a reason. Reasons we cannot yet see. And that he does things through the horribleness that are good in ways we cannot yet see. And that in the future, ALL THINGS WILL BE MADE RIGHT. There will be a righteous justice, a righteous dealing with sin. Sin and death and suffering will be taken care of forever. The waiting this side of eternity is very hard. But no matter what, by God’s grace I will trust Him, I MUST trust Him. I have so many fears for the future. Who knew aging was going to be so hard? Who knows what will happen at the next election? Etc. Etc. My only hope and confidence is believing that God by His grace and mercy will hold me fast and enable me to finish my life faithfully and trusting Him.
Romans 8:28 contains the often quoted promise for believers that God will cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I believe this with all my heart and it gives me strength to carry on. But this promise is NOT for unbelievers, and that is what I struggle with. The only way to get away from the all the heinous, horribleness of this fallen, sick world and life is to put your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Oh how I pray many more people and especially my loved ones will get under this umbrella of safety with Christ. Believers WILL face difficulty and possibly even martyrdom in this life. But in eternity, oh the reward and bliss that will be given us! Oh friend, do you know Him? Even if you can’t “feel” it — will you look to God’s Word, the 66 books of the Bible to find truth that will sustain you even when depressions, lack of joy, lack of “feeling”, and sorrow and griefs for the ugly hard things of life threaten to do you in? I am praying for you dear readers. For believers to walk worthy and faithfully by grace. And for many more to believe by grace. I remain available to anyone willing to help you discover the joy of Bible study and knowing Christ.