If you’ve spent any amount of time living life, I would hope that you know people aren’t perfect. As much as I might have confidence in my capabilities, there is far more to be desired than is given. The real world is messy. Humans are messy. Life is riddled with pain and we are often forced to adapt to unimaginable unforeseen circumstances. Life isn’t fair, people die in the droves every second. Cancer, AIDS, Ebola, starvation, dehydration just to name a few. Why am bringing these up? Because without the gospel, life is meaningless. Without some hope of future redemption, without a father God who loves us beyond what we can comprehend who is always working for our betterment, life is meaningless.
If you try to live life as a Christian without feeling the weight of these things, you’re doing it wrong. At some point in our lives we will be faced with some completely unforeseen life circumstance that forces us to question all we have held at face value. I have a close friend, whose three-year-old son is dying from cancer that has only gotten worse after chemo treatments. How is that fair? How could anything good ever come from that. My friend and his wife have spent the past year living in the hospital while their son was treated. They were cleared and got back home only to discover that the cancer had only gotten worse. I have watched my best friends suffer through divorce, abandonment, death, and attempted suicide. How is any of that fair? I have watched close family and friends struggle with young Children born with learning disabilities. How is any of that fair? How can any of that be reconciled? Why do I believe in God, in the midst of this? Because it’s the only way I can survive. It’s the only way in the midst of a world that constantly threatens to overwhelm me. The only way that life makes any sense, is if this pain can be reconciled. The only way it could ever be reconciled is if there is a creator powerful enough, wise enough, and loving enough to reconcile the irreconcilable.
The gospel is not that Jesus died for your sins. The gospel is that Jesus died for you, your friends, your family, and the dying overseas. Jesus did not die to be a cosmic teddy-bear. Jesus died to bear the weight of all the pain of this world. God works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Do you think that this verse would be in the Bible unless God knew that there were pains so atrocious and unimaginable that we humans would doubt His goodness? Romans 8:28 is not a ‘nice’ Bible verse that diminishes our experience of pain. Romans 8:28 is a challenging and messy verse. God will work all things for the good of those who love him. All things! That means that there is no evil that will not be worked for the good of those who love God. AIDS, Ebola, starvation, and dehydration just to name a few. God works all for the good of those who love him. Whatever you are disappointed in or fearful of as you are reading this God will use for your good. There is nothing which is too bad for God to deal with. He will do more than we could ever imagine or know. Life is worse than we dare to think and God is greater than we could hope to imagine.
"The church is not a museum for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners" (Tim Keller). I’m a Christian because it’s the only way I can survive. God is the only person, yes person, who will consistently and steadfastly be there for me. Although I do have lots of family and friends, God knows me deeper than I know myself and loves me more than any human every could. God, through Jesus, has suffered as much as we ever could. Jesus went through every hurt and temptation we ever will. Without a suffering God who works everything for my good I will either be profoundly and thoroughly dissatisfied with a life that is all about chasing fleeting experience or I will be profoundly and thoroughly depressed at the state of the world. Life is worse than we dare to think and God is greater than we could hope to imagine.
Christianity isn’t a weak religion which is made for those who want to simply escape reality by clinging to a cosmic teddy bear. Jesus calls us to lay all our weaknesses and sins on the table and deal with them. Not minimize them, run away from them, or ignore them. God’s grace is sufficient for our sins yes, but our sins do affect us. Blissfully ignoring them by claiming God’s grace, although a major temptation, is not Christian. This temptation arises when we fail to recognize our need for God by turning a blind eye to the world we live in. Our world is broken and bleeding. Death, pain, suffering, and heartbreak are all too familiar to us in our current state. By turning our attention towards this pain and suffering, rather than away from it, we become more aware, both collectively and individually, of our need for God. God uses our brokenness if we will let him. The pain and suffering in this world can be our inspiration for action, rather than a guilt trip.