There’s a radio PSA I hear every once in a while that uses humor to make the point that families should have plans about where to go in the event of an emergency situation. A dad asks each of his kids where the meeting point is and what they’re supposed to do, and each kid fires back a different and increasingly ridiculous answer. The father then praises everyone for sticking to “the plan.” Point taken, Ad Council. I should have a plan for where my kids should go in case there’s a tsunami. Got it.
But after I’m done telling them to go the basement if and when they ever hear sirens, I’m going to sit for a second and give my heart a talking to about where it is to go when I am diagnosed with terminal cancer, or I lose a family member, or we go broke.
Because this side of the return of Jesus is laced with all kinds of shadows for all kinds of people. Pain is not restricted to those who self-inflict it.
Good, God-believing people wrote into the book of Psalms (as they were moved by the Holy Spirit) their tears to God. For instance, Psalm 123 (in its entirety):
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.
The Psalms are threaded through and through with this sort of thing. So is Lamentations. And Ecclesiastes. And Job. The sorrows of people who love God and trust in Him, and whose hope in the middle of pain and sadness is Him and Him alone.
The Christian is going to suffer in this life. Maybe not always, and maybe less than a brother or sister nearby him, but he will suffer and struggle. At some point, God’s hand will bring about some affliction for him.
At some point God will allow something awful to happen to me.
I want to plan now for where I’ll run to.
I don’t want to make a good thing an idol on that day. I don’t want to just work a bunch of hours to drown out my pain, or go for a hundred hikes all over tri-state parks while praying little and worshiping less. I don’t want to (merely) cook or write or play games.
I want to prepare myself now to run to my Father on that day.
The promises of God in the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ are the purest hope for a Christian who just found out he has brain cancer. They are what sustained Paul awaiting his execution, what gave Peter and John boldness to proclaim the Good News though they were threatened with death by the authorities in Jerusalem, and what sent our Savior to the Cross on our behalf.
The promise of rescue and eternal life for all who trust in Jesus.
When I’m told terrible news or drowning in terrible thoughts, I want to flee to the certain promise of God that when I die I will be with King Jesus. That when He returns, my body will be resurrected, shed of all its rust and bruises and glistening like clear dew under a new sun.
Sure, I might write and take a hike and learn to cook a new dish, too. But the only thing that’ll slow my heart in the middle of the night, the background music that’ll make the worst of my sufferings less terrifying, is the promise of God in Christ.
After all, if Christ isn’t resurrected, then I of all men should be most pitied when that terminal diagnosis comes.
But praise be to God that lying is one thing this Father can’t do.