Life Is Messy
District Fellowship News
January, February 2012
Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy 1-2-3 answer to all of life's problems? What about a universe so simple that you knew every time you did something, it would always bring about the same result? The world isn't like that at all and it can be frustrating because we really have no grasp on its basic function. Scientists keep trying to break it down into smaller and smaller pieces, hoping that if they can get small enough everything will suddenly fall into place. Sooner or later they would come to the smallest pieces, the basic building blocks of the universe, and yet every time they try, it always leads to something smaller, something hinted at but not known. We want to do this with our theology, get to the basics, what are the causes and effects, clean things up. But the truth is life is messy. Things are much more complicated than they seem, and sometimes we don't get to see the good or bad that comes from any event.
Some actions have pretty specific results and/or costs. If I walk off the edge of a cliff, I will fall, I cannot keep walking through thin air until there is ground beneath me again. But all of life is not that simple. Sin is much more subtle than that. Consequences are delayed, so we think that there is no effect to our sin. The same thing happens when we do good things, the reward is not always immediate. A few days ago, my brother was relating a story from Ted Dekker's When Heaven Weeps. A cruel commander in the Balkans at the end of WWII terrorizes a town and their priest. When he is going to hang the priest, a young girl offers to give her life in place of the priest. In our simple understanding of right and wrong, justice and injustice, we would first expect that Abraham's experience with his son Isaac would be repeated here. No innocent life would need to be given, God would intervene. Then if that did not happen we would at least say that the young girl would die but her sacrifice would not be in vain, because the priest would be saved and make an impact for the rest of his life. But life is messy, in this story the cruel and evil soldier kills the young girl and then proceeds to hang the priest as well. There seems to be only negative results from her loving action. It appears her death was in vain, the priest's life is not spared. The simple cause and effect, the do this and then this will come about does not happen.
So we begin to rationalize, bargain, or rant. God you aren't playing by the rules. You aren't keeping Your promise. You don't really exist. But the truth is, things are not as simple as they seem. The Scripture says, "Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for a friend." Notice it doesn't say the friend will be saved, it doesn't say the end will be positive, the emphasis is on the action not the result. What we miss many times is that the end doesn't justify the means, God is looking at how it is accomplished as much as what is accomplished. Yes, he can use anything to bring about his results but for you as a child of God, the how is very important. Moses never entered the Promised Land because of how he brought water from the rock. God said speak but Moses struck.
Illness, accidents, evil, tribulation, all are seemingly unpredictable and almost whimsical, striking at odd times and seemingly not caused by any particular action or position on our part. The book of Job spends all its chapters trying to make sense of great loss and suffering in the life of a man who feared and followed God. There was no cause and effect here. Job wasn't out sinning against God day and night, and now getting what he deserved. The story tells us he prayed and sacrificed for his children every day, and then a windstorm comes and the house falls on them and kills them all. Life is messy. How do we make sense of this?
It is all in our understanding of the world. We can't understand the world better by using science to find the smallest particles. We can understand the world better by getting to know the creator and his purposes. On this earth, this sinful earth, life is messy. It isn't as clean and uneventful as we think it should be. Every prayer doesn't get answered the way we want it to. And God doesn't follow our idea of justice, and fairness. When we realize that the little girl offering her life was the result, that Job continuing to trust his Creator was the end we were looking for, and that losing our life here is the means to the end not the end itself, we will start to make sense of the mess we see in this world. Trust God, He's the One who makes sense of the mess.