For me, Christianity is a perfectly reasonable and logical system of belief. Having weighed (and yes, participated in) other life philosophies prior to coming to a place of faith in God, I can attest that even in times of doubt/weak faith, when I consider the evidence for the existence of God and the historical record of the God/Man, Jesus, I find that nothing else comes close to making sense.
Most of the time my faith is entirely rational. I have openly agreed with a friend and fellow blogger (he’s way out of my league but occasionally we share/exchange thoughts that make me feel wicked smaht) that a major problem with many contemporary worship songs is that they are emotion-based and encourage the believer to have a passionately intimate relationship with Jesus. We agree that this is one reason that many un-churched men are just that, un-churched. They find it strange to relate to another man in such an intimate way. Now before anyone accuses me of being homophobic or sexist or tossing any other labels at me – please just stop. I happily identify with the saying concerning the most interesting man in the world (Think-Dos Equis): “He would be in touch with his feminine side – if he had one.”
Having said all this, I will admit that from time-to-time, I experience the presence of God in such a powerful way that I am overcome with emotion.
One such incident occurred just yesterday and I spent a considerable amount of time in the dark, wee hours this morning contemplating the “what and the why” of my nearly uncontrollable emotions. I’ve been feeling poorly myself for several days and have taken advantage of a fairly low-pressure week to rest and nap during the day. This disruption in my normal sleep/rest cycle, along with waking sometime after midnight in a sweat as my fever broke, got me out of bed.
Rather than switching on lights or any number of electronic distractions – T.V., laptop, tablet – I decided to sit alone with my God and my thoughts. As I sat in the darkness of my living room, listening to the dog snore in the corner, and the sound of the white noise machine through the bedroom wall (which Janet needs in order to sleep through my snoring), several thoughts came to me regarding the awesomeness of God and though I was tempted to grab the computer and start writing then, I wanted instead to just enjoy and treasure the thoughts for myself, figuring that if they were as deep and meaningful to me as I thought, they would stick with me until a more opportune time to write.
A further setting of the stage: I rose yesterday as usual and after a short quiet time to pray and read my Bible, I clicked over to Facebook and found a post from a friend that caused me to dissolve in tears. I had just barely regained my composure when Janet came into the room and I said, “Listen to this.” As I began to read the post aloud I got a few lines in and broke down again, blubbering like a baby.
Not used to seeing her “strong man” so emotional, Janet couldn’t imagine what had me so choked up, but in tender compassion bent down to give me a hug as I struggled on. Rather than paraphrase, let me share Ray’s full post here:
February 15 at 1:59pm ·
“So we left this morning at 5 to go to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to meet with the team of Doctors who were going to perform my Daughter Katlin’s bone marrow transplant on Monday. A couple of couselers came in and talked to us and said the Doctors will be in in a few minutes. We set there for an hour which is very rare for Moffitt. Those guys are so awesome and are right on time for everything. Katlin was getting frustrated because of the wait. Two Doctors came in with a hand full of papers which were test results literally scratching there heads. She said I have no explanation for what I’m about to tell you. She said a few things that didn’t make sense to them and then said YOU DON’T NEED A BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT BECAUSE YOU NO LONGER HAVE CANCER. We set there totally speechless. Katlin said what? She repeated herself and Susan and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and smiled. We knew WHO ALL THE GLORY AND HONOR BELONGS!!! I said to the Doctor that a Miracle has happened and the Doctor said YES IT SURE HAS. We set speachless. The Doctor looks at us and said GET THE HELL OUTA HERE. We are still speechless. FRIENDS THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN PRAYING FOR US THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT TIME. THE LORD JESUS SURE HAS HEARD AND ANSWERED YOUR PRAYERS. SHE IS HEALED BY HIS STRIPS!!! This sure has been a day I will never forget. My heart is full to see my baby smile and laugh all the way home.”
So here’s the thing: I don’t even know Katlin personally, but Ray and Susan are a dear couple I met near the beginning of my Emmaus Road Trip (See the archived post from November 2014, “Just Crazy Enough To Do What God Tells Us To Do”), and while we have had very little personal communication, we’ve kept up on Facebook and I, along with perhaps hundreds of others, have prayed for Katlin and the family as they have faced this frightening thing called cancer. Reading some of their posts it has been clear that these have been scary times and though they all have remained positive, I could tell that the prognosis was not always good.
As a minister of the Gospel, I deal with the sick and dying on a regular basis. In my latest assignment in this little seacoast community church I have already conducted several funerals and ministered to dozens of fearful and/or grieving people. Heck, it was just a few months ago that I walked through end of life issues thanks to this damned disease called cancer, with my own sister who transitioned from the picture of health to death in a matter of weeks.
Through all of these times I am able to express compassion and sympathy for those who are fearful and hurting while managing to rise above much overly emotional demonstration. So why was I sobbing and blubbering as I took in Ray’s post?
I am clearly happy for my friends at the wonderful news they received, but the emotion wasn’t mere happiness, or even joy. What I have come to understand is that I was, and am, overwhelmed by the glory and majesty of God. He is greater, smarter, more powerful and loving than I often give Him credit for. Sure I have read stories of miraculous healing and have been bold enough a time or two to ask for a miracle in my or others’ lives. Goodness, I’ve experienced the miraculous in recent months, but somehow this miracle has hit me deeper and more profoundly.
Perhaps it’s because I have come to trust God more to work out the details. Mostly, I think that’s good, but sometimes it can lead to complacency where I just kind of go along thinking, “It doesn’t really matter if things go the way I want, God can engineer things much better than I can.” Whether you are a person of faith or not, perhaps you’ve seen a motivational poster or a plaque of some sort that states: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
A few years ago while I was going through, what to be gentle I will call, a particularly excrement filled time in my life – you know what, that’s just not doing it, I’m afraid I will have to be a little more graphic because frankly from October 2012 to this past summer 2016 I experienced a SHIT SHOW of immeasurable pain and suffering. During this unrelenting storm I must have received over a dozen cards, plaques and tokens with that verse inscribed from friends and acquaintances. Fact is, that while it did become a bit cliché, I have held to the truth of the Scripture. Furthermore, while the suffering was real, the promise was just as real and never once did I feel abandoned by God – I always knew He had a plan that was good.
The danger, as I say, is in becoming complacent or even going so far as to be a fatalist, which is not even remotely Christian. God invites you and me to become co-laborers with him in this world and that includes ordering our own lives. So in the end, as I analyze my incredibly emotional response, I draw the following conclusions.
First, I am thrilled for my friends and the wonderful miracle they received. Second, I am overwhelmed with the majesty and power of God to do what man and science cannot explain, but more than that, I am struck by His fatherly love, grace and mercy. And finally, I recognize and confess that at times my faith is too small or too simplistic.
I learned through suffering and pain that I’m not God and I’m not in control, yet, as I grow in grace and my knowledge of Him, I find a God who desires to do more in the world than our meager faith will allow Him to do. I am convinced that we – you and I – are allowing the world to fall apart because we’re afraid to ask God for bigger things.
Perhaps it’s time to dust off the old classic “Your God Is Too Small” by J.B. Philips, and begin to develop a more Godly worldview.