Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gain from Pain

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

-- Isaiah 55:8

Parents fear the day that their children first utter the word. But don't worry. It's not one of those cringe-worthy expressions of the four-letter variety.  It's much worse.

It's that little question "WHY?".

Many parents will claim that it's cute (at first). But as their children get older, the repetitious sound of "WHY?" becomes tiresome at best. And especially when it's the response to everything from "Pick up your toys" to "It's time to go to bed."

The issue, of course, is that children don't understand that obeying their parents is for their own good -- even when doing so is uncomfortable, scary or downright inconvenient. When first graders ask why they have to go to school or visit the dentist, they don't appreciate that reading and writing will help them land a job one day...and that good dental habits can protect them from considerable future pain and expense. Kids can't see the big picture.

Some things don't change with time. As adults, we're also quick to ask our Parent (God) "Why?" when it comes to facing the trials of life. And just like our inquisitive first graders, we can't see the big picture of the plans God has worked out for us at the foundation of the world. But whether or not we understand His leadings, it's still up to every Christ-follower to obey them.

That's easier said than done because God often approaches problems and situations in ways that are diametrically opposed to what we see as the obvious solution. For instance, we read in the Bible that we're to love our enemies and treat others as we'd like them to treat us. But such wisdom often conflicts with mankind's Look Out for #1 mindset...even if that wisdom comes from the God Who knows the Big Picture.

Like reluctant children facing a trip to the dentist, we too can face discomfort when following God's instructions. Friends - and even family - can turn their backs or even ridicule us when we live out our faith. As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

If this sounds familiar - and frustrating - rest assured that you're in very good company. Just think of what Joseph and Mary (Jesus' parents) endured before their Son's birth. Since they were unmarried, their reputation was under fire because Mary was well along in her pregnancy. They were also under immense stress as they fled for their lives with the Baby Jesus to faraway Egypt. And of course, following God's plan meant the abdication of their personal ambitions.

So whether your 8 or 88, you wouldn't be human if you don't still ask "Why?". But with the faith that's available to us as Christ-followers, we can embrace God's promises for our lives - even if we don't quite understand His plans and see His Big Picture. It's when we believe His promises while facing the impossible that we show God's power. Even when we still need to ask Him why.

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