“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us?
You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up,
sobs to become humanity's song--all without lifting a finger that we could see.
You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped.
If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear...
The juxtaposition of beauty and despair is a constant for us all. The scales may dip to one side or another, staying down at times longer than anyone would wish or staying up so long the next dip down catches us by surprise more than it should. Growing up you learn in school about America and it's Melting Pot of colors, faces, cultures, foods. I, for one, do not remember specifically being taught that life is also a melting pot of experiences, the good the bad and the ugly as it were. There was always work hard, follow directions, and do your best with either the assumption or adult given guarantee that everything would be okay. But then things do not work out the way you thought. The formula didn't equal the intended result.
Recently I was lying by a pool with a view of Zach in a beautiful pool playing with our boys in the foreground and the mountains of southern Utah in the background while reading a book about a young girl abandoned by her mother, for her own protection, to live in extreme poverty in Nazi Germany yet still understanding compassion for all others when the world around her claimed superiority. Beauty and Despair.
It's difficult to share a cross country experience with your sons the same day you read about Syrian children losing their lives because of chemical warfare. Or checking on social media to look at pictures of a beautiful newborn right next to another showing pictures of their young son diagnosed with cancer. Or feeling helpless as you hear about yet another couple's marriage falling apart because of sin and selfishness when your own, after a similar heartbreak, is full of grace, forgiveness, and healing. Beauty and despair.
There are a few responses our hearts and minds revert to when faced with these two opposites living side by side. There's guilt, much like survivor's guilt, that your life seems easy compared to the struggle of another. There's naivety in believing that another deserves what they're getting while you deserve the rewards you are reaping--consequences are part of actions, but grace is the only reason we see blessing in our lives--Then there is that pesky desire to ignore other's plights while you just concentrate on your "good fortune" doing whatever you can to make sure the tide doesn't turn. You have probably guessed that none of these seem to be the path we should take.
A goal for many in everything life related is calm, peace, no waves, just a constant state of positive. Actions are directed at keeping the scale dipped as low as possible to the side of our earthly vision of beauty. Heaped on top of that plate to weigh it down are a combination material possessions, shared experiences, church visits, donations, and all things that bring a sense of happy no matter how short lived.
But how do we explain with our earthly sense when the scale seemingly stays tipped to the other side whether in our own lives, the lives of our friends, or the lives of strangers on the other side of the world?
The opening quote is one by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his book Lament for a Son. But that is not the full quote. It ends with this, "But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God."
When you picture that balance scale in your mind, and just so you know my picture includes a very LOST like image with black and white stones on either side, picture God, His Son, and His Spirit fully present on both sides so that one never outweighs the other because in every beauty there is an understanding of despair that would come if we did not have Him to call on and in every despair there is an understanding of beauty because He is always with us.
Hope always exists in every place hopelessness tries to overtake.
Emily Freeman said, "By faith, we trust he is building his kingdom even while we wait for the day when we can see with our eyes how he is making all things right again.
Much like my pastor's definition of love, Paul David Tripp has one on Faith that is simple to understand yet full of depth when pondered through. He describes faith as having two parts, both as important as the other. The first is believing that God exists. The second is letting that belief radically change how you live your life.
"Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith that many begin, perhaps by a mighty effort will end, sooner or later, by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul." ~The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life
So how do we explain the reasoning behind beauty and despair living side by side? We don't. Somethings are unexplainable and then again somethings just do not need to be explained. Instead, we just walk in it. Walk in the Faith that believes God exists and then continue that Faith by letting our actions shower Christ over others so that whether they believe themselves to be in a moment of despair or beauty all they will really see is Him.
As Pat Dye is known for saying, "There's going to be a lot of days where you lay your guts on the line and come back empty. Ain't a damn thing you can do about it but go out there and lay them on the line again. And again, and again."
The Truth of it is, you'll never come back empty handed if who you are laying it all down for is Christ.
Praying that in that mix of beauty and despair you can see the Faith in your life growing and the actions of your life being radically changed. Pray for me.