The Bible presents many suffering people who were miraculously healed in response to prayers. Miriam was healed of leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15). King Hezekiah, who was terminally ill, was given 15 years more to live (2 Kings 20:1-7). Job suffered too (Job 2:7)—enduring months of it before he was restored (Job 42:10).
I was talking with a friend whose marriage had ended in divorce. For years he tried to apologize and to rebuild a relationship that was broken. His wife, however, was bitter over an event that she couldn’t forgive—or forget. The event involved a loving act he had done to help her, but she didn’t see it that way. And her heart became stone.
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
Snuggled in blankets, we settled in for one of the worst ice storms our usually temperate climate had ever experienced. Roads had been closed, schools cancelled, and citizens warned to stay safely inside their homes. With our power out, we cooked pizza rolls in the fireplace, watched movies with our reserve computer battery, and slept under layers of blankets to keep warm. In the middle of the night, however, I awakened to loud intermittent cracking sounds. Layers of ice and snow had taxed the boughs of the tall trees behind our house. Unable to bear the burden, they were taking turns crashing to the snowy ground below.
God loves us. Most of us know this. But how many of us feel it? Paul knew that understanding God’s love was a difficult proposition. He believed supernatural revelation was required even to get started (Ephesians 3:16,18). God’s love is so large and our comprehension so small. How can we ever truly understand His love for us?
Technology is helpful, but it can also hinder communication. As the apostle John told Gaius, it’s hard to fully convey all that is in our heart when we’re not with the other person (3 John 1:13-14). If John were writing his third epistle today, he might sign off: “I don’t want to call, text, or tweet my thoughts. I hope to come over soon, and then we’ll talk face to face.”
As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines:
In 2014, some players from a high school football team were involved in various forms of poor behavior: skipping classes, getting failing grades, and even cyber-bullying. The head coach came up with a radical disciplinary measure: He disbanded the entire team. Players and their families reacted to the news with contrite acceptance, for they knew how much the coach cared for his players.
An episode of the BBC show Call the Midwife, set years ago in London, tells the story of a mother who reluctantly prepared to have her unborn baby adopted as soon as she was born. She did so because the child hadn’t been fathered by her husband. And it was likely to be obvious, for the skin color of the baby’s biological father was black while the woman and her husband were white.
The Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).
Do you love God? Just think about it. How can a lowly person draw near, much less talk about being in a love relationship with such a high and exalted Being? It blows my mind. A classic hymn describes God as “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” Perhaps God’s “otherness” explains why we often feel so inadequate in claiming that we love Him.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.