by ProfDave, ©2921
(Feb. 24, 2021) — Life hurts. We start out being a pain to our mothers and end up being a pain to our kids. In between is just pain, mostly. The Indian mystics are right, suffering is the predominant reality of life. Happiness is an illusion(?). Life doesn’t add up. Solomon said it, “all is vanity,” unless there is a transcendent, holy, good God in the equation. More than 90% of the material cosmos, they say, is dark matter. That’s what it takes to make the astrophysics work. In the same way, most of what makes life add up is the Eternal, the dark matter of the human condition. Otherwise, how would we know what “good” and “light” were? Only the masochists would have any fun. Whatever would give us the idea that abuse, grief, illness, insanity, debauchery and calamity were not normal when we see so much of them – especially in the movies and the news? “Kill” God, as Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus do, and all you have left is despair, meaninglessness, and a certain naked, self-centered, free-falling freedom. No wonder youth suicide is up. Grow up and have real troubles! Then you get old, get consequences, and things get worse. Nobody gets out of this life alive.
What do you do with the bumps in the road? What do you do with childhood abuse, deprivation, discrimination, handicap or other exceptionality that leaves you isolated? How do you transcend the wickedness done to you? Bullying? Abandonment? Humiliation? How do you get over your losses? A job? A home? A dream? A spouse? A limb? How are they dealing with the chaos and destruction in the wake of hurricanes, floods and wildfires? Your mother endured the inconvenience, discomfort, and agony of bringing you into the world for the hope of you – more trouble but hope anyway. Materialism, naturalism, and existentialism do not give you many options. Long-term hope is found only in a transcendent God who cares – cares about right and wrong, cares about truth and justice and beauty, cares about you – and has eternity in His hands. He has gone to a great deal of trouble for you and He thinks you are worth it!
God heals. Sometimes He gives us an obvious miracle – interrupting the normal course of cause and effect to shrink the tumor or stop the falling beam just above your head. How many coincidences does it take to make a miracle? Sometimes He “beams us up” instead. Other times He works through the skill and sacrifice of others. Most graciously of all, He works within us gradually to bring beauty for ashes, serenity for resentment.
When my late wife, Marie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I had my church anoint her for healing – later another pastor as well. God could have – certainly no problem for him – reversed the damage in her brain in an instant or through some new treatment. Or taken both of us to our long-home in an auto accident. Instead, He walked us through a long and gentle decline, giving us a good deal of deep joy as we went. He made our lives part of others along the way. We had peace because we trusted Him! My friends, faith-community, and brothers at Celebrate Recovery were a big help – they, too, are agents of His healing. And they still are. Becoming whole – deeply whole – often requires forgiveness, letting go of the people and things that hurt us. But hope – real hope – only comes in relationship with your Heavenly Father.
God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference!
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
. . . .
Trusting that You will make all things right
If I surrender to Your Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen. (Reinhold Niebuhr)
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.