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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Month

December 2013

Is “why” the question?

Even at Christmas time, when many of us are celebrating, there are those who are doing it tough and for whom, Christmas is a difficult time.

The speed of communication these days will not allow us to ignore or be ignorant of the pain and hurt that is in our world.

Where is God in all this tragedy and heartache, in the brokenness of life, sickness and suffering?

Why do bad things happen?

We often default to cliché answers in response to these large, uncomfortable questions. Some common ones include:

  1. It must be God’s will
  2. God knows best
  3. Everything happens for a reason
  4. God is teaching us something
  5. We are being tested
  6. We are being punished
  7. God won’t give us more than we can bear

I too have heard myself giving some of these answers over years of supporting others going through hardship.

The problem with these responses is that when there is no rhyme or reason to hardship, we are left high and dry, with little comfort in our present-day pain.  When our circumstances do feel more than we can bear, we could become disheartened in our suffering.

What’s more, they appear to be conditional on our performance, in that once we learn the lesson, or once we pass the test, the trial will end.  Too many times, this is not the case.

When any of these responses are given in isolation or as the universal answer to all suffering – they may only distance us from God at the place of our tragedy, suffering, sickness and heartache.

These answers can leave us blaming ourselves, feeling guilt, or open to manipulation to perform one way or another.

Instead, the very nature of Christ and His message is grace, not blame, guilt or manipulation.  Unlike Karma, the goods news of the gospel is that we don’t get what we deserve!

Psalm 46:1 says:
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.

And Psalm 121:1-2 says:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Instead of asking “WHY” trouble, David asks, “WHERE” does my help come?

Because David had a relationship with God, he turned to God as his refuge and strength.   Relationship enables us to focus on where our help is found and in turn causes us to live through our suffering.

This tells me that when suffering happens, you and I have a choice to make.

Will we deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist, fake it, isolate ourselves, stay numb, get angry, play the blame game or will we seek God’s help and choose to LIVE through it?

Here’s a few thoughts on how we can live through pain and suffering:

1.  With God’s help

God sends help in the form of others. People need consolation more than explanation when going through tragedy.

Caring and loving people can cause us to endure pain longer, better, and more courageously than if we were alone.

2.  By redeeming the tragedy

Many bad things that happen to us do not have meaning attached to them, they do not happen for any good reason which would cause us to accept them willingly. BUT we can give them meaning! We can impose meaning to them.

Don’t ask, why did this happen? Or, what did I do to deserve this? A better question is, now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?

Why not ask, how can I take what was meant for evil and turn it around for good?

3.  By having an eternal perspective

Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

You cannot remove the suffering you face now from the glory that is yours in the future.

If you could put all the difficulties of your life on one side of the scale, and the glory that will someday be revealed to you through Christ on the other side of the scale, the glory would be so much heavier than your present sufferings.

Glory actually has the meaning of being “the weight of Gods presence”.

4.  By living with the presence of Jesus

I love the message and reality of Christmas; it’s about Jesus with us.

He is with us in each and every circumstance of life. He promised He would never leave us.  When we are weak, Jesus is our strength.  When we are confused, Jesus is our comfort.  When we are fearful, Jesus is our peace.  When we are sick, Jesus is our healer.

God loves you, He sees what you are going through and He cares – let Him be your help today.

Phil

P.s. Here are a few photos of our family celebrating Christmas this past week!  I trust you are having a wonderful time with friends and family.

photo (2) photo (3) photo (4) photo (5) photo (6)

A Different Kind of Visa

mnd walkphilandfriendOne year ago, on the Friday before Christmas, I was told I may have what’s called “Motor Neurone Disease” (MND).

I remember that day well.

My physio noticed that there were tremors in my legs.  I had been working with him and my chiropractor over that year to build my core, believing this would help strengthen my legs to run easier, especially up stairs.

He told me I needed to get to the doctor that same day and it was my doctor who explained that MND may be why I was experiencing these symptoms.   After weeks of scans, neurologist consults and painful tests, my doctor presented me with a certificate confirming the diagnosis of MND.

He said I should go home, resign my job and start doing what I have always wanted to do.  Little did he know, I was already doing what I had always wanted to do so it wasn’t quite that simple.

I know that receiving the doctor’s certificate that day should have brought feelings of horror and fear.  But instead I sensed peace and confidence.  A still voice (what I would explain as the voice of God) whispered to me:

“This is not a certificate, it’s a visa. A visa to another country, a country you have never travelled before.”

“You will be a missionary to this world and you will help offer them hope, joy and strength that comes from My Son.”

This country, or world of MND sufferers, has a population of about 1500 people in Australia alone, not to mention their family and careers.

And so, I have been willing to travel to this land with my different kind of visa.  I’m not sure when the expiry date will be, in fact I know that God can cancel the visa at anytime He wants and I will gladly come home with my healing.

I do know that in this past year, I have met the most incredible people and I hope to share about these experiences with you in future posts.

My perspective on my illness has raised different responses from people in my world.  Some feel that by being surrounded by others with the same disease, I am accepting the prognosis as final.  Others feel that by helping to raise awareness and funds for research, I am seeking to confront this disease on a practical front rather than a spiritual front.  I have found these points of view unsettling.

I simply believe that every challenge can be an opportunity for God to reveal His power and presence if we are willing to lean into the pain and discomfort for the sake of others; my hope is for God not just to heal me but by His presence in me touch others who may suffer similar pain and suffering.

One man, Jesus, leaned into His pain at Calvary so that we, the many, would benefit from His pain.  His act of courage became our means of salvation.

 

Phil.

 

[Afterthought: In April 2013, me and about 400 friends “Walked to d’feet MND” raising awareness and funds for research.  Collectively we raised just over $20,000.00for MND New South Wales to go towards research for a cure.]

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