HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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You Don’t Know What You’re Asking.

what askingJesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” [Mark 10:38a]

James and John thought they could handle whatever Jesus handled. So do you and me and every single person who has ever lived. Some of us are just less foolish about asking for it out loud. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t asking.

Just a little recognition and praise for all our hard work and dedication. Just a little pay-back for all our efforts and willingness to do without. Just a little of that much deserved thank-you for not being like so many others who don’t have time for God and their fellow-man!

Others might let it all go to their head, but not us … no we would be markedly humble in receiving what was due us. We would handle it with as much grace as Jesus Himself! Or so we think. And so we ask … even if it is only ever in our heart-of-hearts.

But then, we rarely know what we are asking do we? The things we so often want are precisely the things that are no good for us. Would we really want recognition for our work … all of it … not just the good stuff? Do we really want payback for all that we really deserve?

In an effort to be fair, would we be just as willing to give up what we have for all the extra we’ve enjoyed, just as quickly as we clamour to be repaid for the little we’ve done without? And are we really any different from anyone else? No. We, like they, can’t handle what we are asking for.

But Jesus can. And that is why we walk with Him every year to the garden and the cross and the tomb. He was willing to take the credit for all our sin, even though He had none of His own. He was ready to suffer all the divine payback for our transgressions even though it was His own Law being transgressed. He was happy to do without comfort, or honour, or peace, or support … walking the last painful steps to His death all alone … so that you and I might never have to receive what we actually ask for.

We may not know what we are asking, but He has always known how to answer … for our eternal good!

May you receive all that He asked for you this blessed Easter season.

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A Question of Suffering

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read the story of Jairus and his dying daughter, and harboured just the tiniest bit of resentment for the sick woman who interrupts everything and causes this desperate man so much grief. I can see Him pulling and tugging on Jesus’ sleeve … Hurry Jesus … hurry … you can come back … she will still be here but my daughter may not … I can see him bouncing on his knees in his impatience to keep moving, to get back to his precious child before it is too late.

And then Jesus finally finds this woman after asking through the gathered throngs. She falls to his feet. They talk. She is commended and Jesus finally, finally, turns back to poor Jairus. But by then it is too late. For Jairus has seen them across the crowds. His servants have come to find him. And when his eye meets theirs he knows. Is the instant of his knowing an eternity for him? Does he let go of Jesus’ robe? Do his arms hang limp at his sides? Does he fall to his knees? Can he breathe? She is dead. He’s too late …

The natural human heart cries out at the injustice. There’s no cutting in line! Wait your turn. Triage, and priorities are what’s fair. But an old woman is healed, and the little girl dies. She had lived with her condition for twelve years, couldn’t she wait just a little longer? Couldn’t Jesus? It is very easy to be resentful at the perceived wrong.

Until …

Until you suffer like that sick woman suffered. Until you spend a year not being able to eat. A year of being at the whim and the command of doctors and prescriptions and tests and procedures. But not one answer to be found. And then you begin to understand. And suddenly you feel less resentment and more kinship. Less anger and more pity.

Suffering is suffering. The intense punch of tragic circumstances, or the long drawn out frustrations that lead a person to the point of despair and the proverbial end of the rope. Each is terrible in its own way. Terrible in a way that you would not wish on anyone – ever. But suffering in all its forms is a part of everyone’s life. That’s what sin does. It hurts us, it bleeds us, it kills us. It causes us to resent, to lash out, to decry the unfairness of it all. It causes us to feel that our cause is the right, our suffering is the worst, and our need is the greatest.

And then Jesus goes and has sympathy for everyone.

He stops and takes time for one and for all. Suffering makes no distinctions in this life and neither does Jesus. His grace is a gift for you and me alike. His healing, his help, his forgiveness and compassion are there for the sick woman and the dying girl, for the young and the old, the grieving and the frustrated. And that ultimate healing, forgiveness and compassion would find their place upon the ultimate source of suffering … the cross. There he bled for that sick woman. There he died for that dying girl. There he cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” for me … for all those times I placed my own suffering above that of someone else; my needs before someone else; my sense of right and wrong in place of his own. There upon the cross Jesus bore all our infirmities to the grave that one day we might rise with him and Jairus’ little girl, forgiven and healed, just like that poor sick woman.


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“… and right before Christmas!”

Bad news is nothing new to any of us.  We have all seen our share of it, and we all know others who have it even worse than ourselves.  There is even a reported axiom in the news media that goes “If it bleeds it leads”.  If it weren’t for bad news there wouldn’t be much news at 6:00, 10:00, or 11:00 pm.  Recent events are no exception.  In the last week alone there have been terrible snowstorms stranding hundreds in their cars on the highway for a day or more and collapsing stadium roofs, there have been torrential rains and devastating floods and fires ruining people’s homes and businesses. Outside of the cataclysmic weather stories there have also been the regular parade of  stories involving violent crimes, gang shootings, break and enters, vandalism and more.  There has been much misery that has been particularly newsworthy of late.

But last night as I watched all of these and more unfold on the news, I was struck by a refrain heard again and again in one story of disaster and despair after another.  “… and right before Christmas!”  As each person stood before the broken remains of their house or home, their peace, and security, or family well-being; each in their turn took up the same litany of pain and grief crying out “… and right before Christmas too!”

What I was witnessing over and over again was the heart-felt religious expression of those who have come to the dark night of the soul.  That moment when all their convictions are brought into sharp contrast with reality.  And it was humbling to watch.  With each new voice added to that psalm of lament, the unanswerable question loomed clearer and clearer.  How could such a thing happen now?  Why Now?  It was as plain as the grief in their voices, that their suffering was only heightened by the fact that in their understanding  things should be very different.

What each one in turn was crying out for one and all to hear is that somehow, in someway, for some reason, Christmas should be different.  When was the last time you heard someone who lost a home to flooding or a fire cry out “… and right before Labour Day too!”  “How could this happen so close to Canada Day?”  “And to think it should come to this on Family Day!”  I don’t mean to belittle, anyone’s suffering, going through such tragedies on any day of the year is very difficult … but why should it be even harder to face just because it’s right before Christmas?

Because people believe Christmas should be different somehow.  People believe that there should be no pain, or suffering or tragedy or heartache on Christmas.  People believe that Christmas should be a reprieve from normal life, which is full of all this pain and suffering.

But in thinking this way people miss the real meaning of Christmas … for Christmas is not a reprieve from normal life, but in a sense, a fulfillment of such.  Christmas is the celebration of that time when the Lord God Almighty, everlasting and omnipotent creator and ruler of the cosmos, chose to become part of the “normalcy” of our broken human life.  Born into family discord, scandal and raised eyebrows.  Born away from the warmth and safety of a home. Born into poverty, want, and danger.  Faced with violence, oppression, and grief from day one.  And still it will not be over until many years later and the betrayals, the torture, the cross, and the painful death. Christmas has it all … and then some.  By the standards we tend to put on our own Christmases the first Christmas was an abject, heartbreaking failure.

But that’s the point of it all.  Christ came among us, came as one OF us, on that first Christmas, not to be a reprieve from our normal life, but to take part in it. Every last sad, and bitter piece of it!  And that’s the incredible news in all this … Christmas is where the convictions of God’s love for mankind comes into sharp contact with our reality.  Where the Heavenly One becomes so earth-bound it hurts (unto death).  But there is no dark night of the soul here!  Instead, the heavens are opened up and the night is filled with a glorious light. As God comes down from heaven into our world of struggles and pain and suffering, the angel hosts cry out in the litany of  hope and joy “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!”

Christmas is different, but not in that we should be free from suffering.  It is different, in that our God, out of His undying love for you, took your suffering upon Himself.  Christmas brings peace, not in the lack of grief, but in grief placed upon our Lord’s infant shoulders.  Christmas brings healing, not in the avoidance of pain (if only for a while), but in the wounds of Jesus by which one and all are fully and finally healed.  Christmas does grant a reprieve to all that pain and sorrow … but not here, and not yet …  In the meantime it offers us something very different. It offers us a God who has been there and suffered all that.  It offers us a God and will be right here with us through it all, sharing in our pain, that we might likewise share in His joy.  Christmas is not the time to cry out Why Me? or Why Now? It is the time to cry out Thanks be to Him!