Why Me God?

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The orphanage I help run was spared by the recent wildfires that blew through our town. Many people were not so fortunate. In response to one of the many “Praise God” comments on Facebook, one angry gentleman shared a substantial rant, “If God was going to spare you, why did He start the fire? Why did other homes burn? Does God not love them as much?” Obviously, this gentleman has some issues, but it brings up some profound questions that have plagued theologians from the beginning. How does one explain the randomness of suffering? Why are there orphans? Why do some people get cancer? People much wiser than I have struggled to respond to this question. Here are a few thoughts.

From a recent personal standpoint, as the fires spread across our valley, our orphanage was spared. My home in the community was spared. The two main buildings at a second ministry I help run were reduced to melted glass, twisted metal, and ashes. On some roads in our town, every third house was burned to the ground, regardless if they were brick or wood construction, large or small. One house burned along with all of the trees on the property, twenty yards away from a large stack of hay bales that was completely untouched. The randomness of the fires that night was truly amazing.

Matthew 5:45 …He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

So back to the question at hand, why do trials fall on some people, and seem to float right past others? The response that I tend to land on brings comfort, but I know it can also easily offend people: God has a plan. We seldom know the plan that God has, but He has a plan. If you’re house just burned down, if you recently suffered the loss of a child, if you just lost your job or your marriage, you do not want to hear someone tell you, “God has a plan”. But, I wholeheartedly believe that we serve a God that is infinitely wiser then we can ever imagine with our feeble little minds.

There is profound peace in realizing that nothing is in our control, and none of us get out of this world alive. All we can do is go along for the ride. We can trust in the promise that God can, and will, use everything that happens to us if we allow Him to. When we try and control things, or THINK we’re controlling things, we’re lying to ourselves.

If we give in to a two-year-old’s wishes and control, they will live on birthday cake and cotton candy. A loving parent knows a diet made up of sugar is not in the best interest of the child. The child sees skipping cake as a life-crushing hardship, and a loving parent sees the need for a balanced diet is essential for health, growth, and longevity. This is beyond a two-year-old’s comprehension; it’s not their fault; it’s just that they are two. Their brains can’t understand the complexities of growth and nutrition. The parent can. So many of us want to live in a world of birthday cake and cotton candy. This is not the world we can survive in. This is not realty.

Does this mean God sends hardship? I don’t think so. But we live in a broken world with suffering all around us. All people suffer. All people battle illness, injustice, and random suffering. Christians, unbelievers, everyone suffers in this world. The difference is, we know that whatever this broken world throws at us, God can turn it around and use it IF WE LET HIM. He is so much bigger than this world. If we seek Him, the enemy attacks, but God is bigger than any attack the enemy has.

I, and our ministry, have been richly blessed. This is not to say we have not gone through trials and difficulties. The difference is the outlook during, and following the trials and difficulties. I can look back at twenty-five years of ministry, and with the benefit of hindsight, see how God used every storm and trial that we suffered through. We have suffered through illness, financial hardship, deaths of children, and countless other trials. Would I wish this on others? Absolutely not. But He has used the storms we have gone through for the benefit of the home in many ways I can see, and I’m sure in countless ways that I am not even aware of. We are stronger, healthier, and able to weather future storms better as a direct result of what we have gone through so far.

No one enjoys the storm, but out of the storm comes growth and regeneration. The hills around our town are currently blackened and charred, but the ash will wash through the soil and nourish it, enrich it, make it healthier. A year or two from now, the hills will be greener and more productive than they have been in decades. Out of the ashes, growth will happen. Even if we can’t see it currently, God has a plan.

Photo by Love Story Foundation©

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Life Is Never Normal

destructionA while back, I was sitting with a young couple who were planning on opening a new orphanage. Along with all of the important topics we covered, I asked them one key question. “Are you ready to never have a “normal” week again?” When running an orphanage there is always some disaster around the corner. Children get sick, cars breakdown, government officials can be crazy, funding is always an issue. Every week brings some new challenge that needs to be overcome. Looking back at that question in light of what’s going on in the world, maybe that’s a question we should all be asking. Are we ready to never have a “normal” week again? Continue reading

“We’re All Going To Die!”

couchIt’s been an interesting few weeks as the world has been panicking over the coronavirus. Although it’s tragic many people have become ill, and people have died; the reaction has been more than a little crazy. Financial markets have crashed, cities are shut down, lives have been turned upside down. The thing is, we’re all going to die anyway, it’s just a matter of dates. We all have an expiration date; we all wind up in a box. Why the terrified reaction to this one, extremely rare, risk? Continue reading

“Isn’t that Dangerous?”

pexels-photo-1895146I recently met with someone who is running a unique and inspiring ministry in the heart of the red-light district of Tijuana. Four years ago, this petite single woman moved into an area of ministry that most people would never consider. She opened up a little store-front location to host times of worship and prayer in the midst of a spiritually dark area. Several days a week they hold prayer and worship services that are open to anybody (I’m not using her name for her protection). She now leads teams out into the streets to give the sex workers flowers and tell them they are beautiful. She has been threatened, yelled at, and attacked for her work. I’m sure she’s been told that she is crazy. Does this sound like someone else you might know or read about? Many people claim to be followers of Jesus; few people put His example into action like this amazing woman.

Is the woman you just read about doing some astounding work? Yes. Is she hanging out and befriending people most people would never spend time with? Absolutely. She is many things, but the one adjective that is never used to describe her is “afraid.” She is oddly and sadly unique in much of the church today.

This month, my wife and I will have completed twenty-five years living in “dangerous” Mexico. We get asked a lot of questions about our work in orphan care and short-term missions. The one question we get asked far more than anything else is, “Isn’t Mexico dangerous?” The vast majority of people’s first question is about safety, not about the work, not about what God is doing, not about abandoned children. The first question is almost always about the risk involved. We’ve never gotten sick from the food or water. We’ve never been robbed or shot at while in Mexico (Ironically, I was robbed while in San Diego last year). Are some parts of Mexico dangerous? Absolutely. Does it matter? No. Life is dangerous; get over it.

As you read through the Bible, note that being concerned, first and foremost, about our safety was not what Jesus instructed us to do. When the apostles woke Him in the boat to calm the storm, He rebuked them for lack of faith, calmed the storm, and went back to sleep. How many of us lose way too much sleep worrying about things that never (or rarely) happen. “Fear not” comes up a lot in the Bible. “Cover your butt,” “Watch out for scary people,” “Don’t do anything risky,” doesn’t come up so much.

Fear can have an incredible influence on people. A great deal of marketing is in some way based on fear. “Buy this insurance to protect yourself from any disaster.” “Buy this clothing, or you might not be cool.” “Try this diet, or you might stay fat.” Politics is almost all based on fear. “Vote for me; the other guy wants to raise taxes.” “The other party wants to take your guns, your rights, your money, etc.” “We can’t let THOSE people into our country; they are different than us and scary.” Watch any cable news, and you will hear versions of these statements every few minutes. Fear can have a corrosive and powerful influence. Fear can rob us of joy and prevent us from experiencing everything this life has to offer.

Unfortunately, when it comes to fear, way too many churches are indistinguishable from the world. A few years ago I was staying with a worship leader of a mid-sized church in a friendly, middle-class suburb in the US. As we were leaving for the church, he loaded his gun and holstered up. When I asked about it, he said that at any service there are two or three people armed for security reasons. I have no problem with basic security, but I found it deeply ironic that the person who is leading worship, the one singing about trusting God with all, that He is our rock and fortress, would be packing heat. (Write to me and yell if you like, I’m actually pro second amendment, I’m just using this to make a point). “Yes God, we trust you with all, but I feel better when I can shoot at someone.”

The point of this rant on fear in the church is to bring up what it does to short-term missions or any area of service. Fear can rob us of incredible opportunities, and prevent us from experiencing all that God has planned for us. When we’re held in place, and prevented from taking a risk for God due to fear, what is that saying? “I trust you God, but I’d rather just show up on Sundays and watch from my pew, wouldn’t want to take a risk now would I.” The Christian faith is an active faith. Go. Serve, Give, Sacrifice. Not because we’re called to, it’s because we can’t help but act when we realize what God has done for us, and how grateful we are to Him.

There are some things you should definitely be afraid of. Be afraid of being out of God’s will. Be afraid of reaching the end of your life and having regrets. Be afraid of wasting the precious few years you have left.

You will die. The US will collapse eventually. Some of the things you fear will come to pass, just know that ultimately it just doesn’t matter. Our God is bigger than anything we will encounter in this life; it’s a good thing this life is only a temporary situation. Ultimately, we’ve already won. The world says we should be afraid. We are not of this world. Live accordingly.

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