Archives for posts with tag: pain

Get Real with God Blog

No one disputes the fact that the world is a messed up place. Many of us are also in a world of pain. Some of it self-imposed, some of it, so it appears, random stuff. The question is whether the existence of the mess itself is reason enough to discard the very idea of God.

All of us, from time to time, have joined the skeptics in saying, “If God would only [fill in the blank], then people would have no reason to doubt His existence, power, or benevolence.” The blank is usually related to some display of spectacular power, an example of fairness written across the sky, or a special appearance by God, let’s say on the Oprah Winfrey show…

For example, if all the evil captors of the 200 plus Nigerian girls held in captivity were struck with an unexplainable stomach ailment and died within a short time of each other, allowing the girls to escape, people would believe in God, right? I mean, aren’t the girls Christians to begin with? Or if the Shroud of Turin were authenticated by Richard Dawkins, even Carl Sagan, from wherever he is, might believe, right?

Wishful thinking, this “What if…” exercise turns out to be. In history, just the opposite happened. Yes, believe it or not, according to the Old Testament narrative of the happenings of the people of Israel, at one time in history God made an unequivocal show of fairness – to the point of drawing up a contract with His people, painstakingly detailing what would happen to them if they kept the contract or vice-versa; and what happened at the end? Well, you know the story – the people chose to rebel against God anyway.

God also showed up in a visible way, with the original G.P.S. (God Positioning System) there for all to see – a pillar of cloud by day and a column of fire by night. He also spoke to Moses some 613 laws that the people were to follow and He gave them prophets and something called the Urim and Thummim, which was a nice little gadget only a few of the initiated were allowed to use when they needed a word from the Lord (was this some kind of a supercomputer with direct access to the mind of God?).

Crystal-clear guidance. Wow. But did that result in more faith? Quite the contrary. Writing about this, Philip Yancey says, “… clear guidance sucked away freedom, making every choice a matter of obedience rather than faith. And in forty years of wilderness wanderings, the Israelites flunked the obedience test so badly that God was forced to start over with a new generation.”  (Disappointment with God, p. 46).

This is fascinating, to say the least. It forces me to ask: Are those who cry out for visible, spectacular evidence on the sky merely looking for an excuse? What did God’s direct approach accomplish in the Old Testament? Again, I quote Philip Yancey, from the same book: “… God’s directness seemed to produce the very opposite of the desired effect. The Israelites responded not with worship and love, but with fear and open rebellion. God’s visible presence did nothing to improve lasting faith.” (pp. 47-48).

This all leads me to the message this Sunday, as we start studying the final song Habakkuk composed as he searched for answers as to why God was silent in the midst of so much evil in the world. We will learn that remembering the past only and imagining the future only will not satisfy us. Not that these things are bad. We can learn a lot from our past and we certainly can derive hope from imagining the future through the lens of Scripture. But the ultimate answer to our quest for meaning in the midst of our shared or individual messes can only be found in having faith in God in the present.

Hope you can join us this Sunday. You will also witness an amazing baptism celebration.

See you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Get Real with God Blog

We live in a world of pain today. Everywhere we look we see misdeeds and misfits. Some of us have cried tears to last several lifetimes and yet there seems to be no end in sight. Evil is rampant and the devil seems to be dancing with the stars.

For some of us the pain is abject poverty. Some of us see the wasting away of children affected by diseases that could be cured with a cheap pill and we weep. Many of us protest against the horrors of human trafficking and others are angry at rampant corruption in a world driven by money. The moral landscape of America also anguishes many of us. Our children seem to be out of control. Kids are perishing from the lack of a true north and everywhere the palpitating heart of broken relationships rages.

Some colleges and universities across the country are finally sounding the alarm. For example, the president of Dartmouth College, a very prestigious Ivy League school, recently came out against the self-destructive culture dictating the behavior of many students on his campus. He cited the alarming number of sexual assaults where excessive drinking plays a part and spoke of “a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, parties with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet.”

None of these things, except the Internet, were foreign concepts to Habakkuk, the Biblical prophet who lived around 600 B.C. and also struggled to make sense out of the ideological swamp he found around him, and especially in light of the fact that it appeared as if God didn’t care. Habakkuk grew up in a time when he saw devotion to God descend into the bottomless pit. The faithful reforms of King Josiah (2 Kings 22, 23) were only a memory and the land had now turned into a vast wasteland where everything and anything was permissible. As a highly materialistic society, they had not only learned to tolerate evil, they redefined the moral compass by calling evil good and good evil.

In the time preceding the reforms, there was even a hill outside of Jerusalem appropriately called “Hill of Corruption,” where every possible pagan deity had a shrine and some unspeakable acts of debauchery and debasing of human behavior were on display. Josiah’s reforms only lasted twenty years and soon the people reverted to their sinful ways. Now the godly in the nation were asking why God was choosing to be silent.

Habakkuk was not the only one who had a little trouble with God. Jeremiah also lived during the same time and he was not exactly quiet either. But Habakkuk was unique in that while the other prophets spoke about God to the people, Habakkuk spoke about the people to God. He was a pious man who couldn’t understand why a holy God could tolerate so much evil in the world. And like others who feared God, he also felt that it was unfair for him to have to swim in the swamp with the rest of the people.

Yes, the age old question… Sorry to disappoint you, Dr. Dawkins, but you didn’t invent the question about how a good God can permit evil in the world. Neither did Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens (bless his soul) for that matter. You are just some of the most vitriolic questioners in recent memory. That is all.

Anyway, Habakkuk opens up a dialogue with God which is refreshing. He proves that God does not mind when we are brutally honest with Him. He proves that there is a proper context in which it is perfectly fine to go tête-a-tête with God and not feel ashamed. God does not appreciate when we shove our hard questions under the rug and pretend everything is okay. He invites a robust dialogue as long as we allow Him to continue to be God.

And these are some of the thoughts we will be exploring in the new series we are starting this Sunday – “Get Real With God – finding God through pain.” Hope you can join us in the discussion.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, a pioneer surgeon and humanitarian who was one of the first to discover that Hansen’s disease (leprosy) didn’t cause the loss or disfigurement of limbs, once said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.” He co-wrote a book with Philip Yancey titled The Gift of Pain. In this and some of his more autobiographical books, he talks about the valuable properties of pain.

But we don’t often see pain that way, do we? We dread pain, we pray for pain to be gone, and we see people with chronic pain as being worthy of our pity.

And then we come to a text like this one in Philippians, where Paul says, For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29). The word translated as “you’ve been given” is the word Charis in the Greek. It means “gift.” Literally: “you’ve been gifted.” “You’ve been gifted with His salvation and you’ve been gifted with His suffering.”

So, not surprisingly, Peter gives us this “petard”:  “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12). What is he saying? Suffering for the sake of Christ shouldn’t be thought of as out of the ordinary. Hold off the cameras; don’t go live with the “Breaking News;”  stop donning your “deer in the headlights” face. People who follow Christ will experience suffering for Him. Period.

Which takes me back to the idea of pain. The New Testament pages are littered with people whose pain practically jumps off the pages while you are reading them. Physical pain, primarily, but also emotional, spiritual and alienation type of pain that never seems to go away. But that was pain for being born in a messed up world, not pain for being re-born in the world of Messiah. The former is inherited, the latter is chosen. The former is dreaded, the latter is to be embraced.

My message this Sunday will be about the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus on the border  between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-17). These men were outside the reach of any other human being. They were banished from the rest of society. But strangely, their pain was only psychological and emotional. They experienced little or no physical pain. But Jesus understood their plight and felt compassion for them. He restored them to perfect health.

But strangely, only one, a foreigner, and a despised Samaritan at that, returned to give thanks. When he fell at the feet of Jesus, he was now restored body and soul. But strangely again, now that he was whole again, he also had the choice of embracing the possibility of pain in the life of a Messiah-follower. And from all indications, he seemed to have been willing to do just that. He was now free to embrace a suffering of a different kind.

I sometimes wonder what may have happened to that man who returned thanks. Did he become a disciple? Maybe a missionary to those who were outcast? Did he feed the hungry? All those questions I hope to have answered when I see this man in heaven because I believe that Jesus’ words to him, “You have been made well,” mean that I will see this man in heaven one day.

May we all be humble to accept whatever comes our way because we are willingly following this wonderful Messiah we love so much.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade