Points to Ponder: Stuff happens
Points to Ponder
Recently I suffered a "small stroke," as the neurologist put it. Only a week after completing 1,071-mile trip to Mississippi on my bicycle and achieving the highest level of fitness I've ever had, I suddenly had no feeling in my left arm and my balance was unsteady. The power and strength I had known was now unavailable to me. Simple tasks like picking up papers or a book, walking through a room, or just getting out of bed in the morning required intentional thought and careful movement. I opted out of serving Holy Communion the following Sunday for fear that I might drop it.
The question was put to me, "Why would God allow this to happen to you?" (as if I was in a special class of folks to whom bad things should not happen). Others were looking for the "reason;" you know, everything happens for a reason. I don't really believe that. Things happen in life--both good and bad. They don't necessarily happen "for a reason;" but God can take what happens to us and use it. He gives a reason and purpose to some of the simplest things, as well as the tragic things that happen along life's journey.
Someone told me "This is a wake up call." I didn't quite get that one. Wake up calls are for people who are asleep. In the spiritual sense I guess we're saying that the sleeper is one who needed to wake up to the realization that life is short, or a new direction is needed, or something that's been going on needs to stop. A stroke can be a wake up call I suppose if it doesn't kill you and you don't wake up at all.
But I thought about that one for a while. I did not need a wake up call, I was not asleep. I recall a man who suffered from a life-threatening infection that had been caught and eliminated in time to spare his life. He said, "This is a wake up call." He admitted that he needed to reevaluate his priorities; his relationship with God had been ignored. He lived for himself and what he loved and treasured on earth. The brief brush with the possibility of dying was a "wake up call" that told him he needed to get things in proper order with God at the head of it all.
Well I think the man hit the snooze button; no noticeable changes happened. Life went on and he resumed his interests and pursuits as before. Then suddenly, he died. Only God knows the hearts, so who can say whether he actually responded to his "wake up call?" But in recognizing his ailment and its cure as such, he saw his life as a whole through the lens of that one incident. And at the time, God was using it to reveal to him a spiritual matter which he otherwise had been ignoring.
Some people don't need wake up calls like these. For these folks, things happen along life's path; it goes with the journey toward Home. Cancer, injuries, heart attacks and strokes happen on earth to these bodies that are fed and grown up from the produce of the earth; then they eventually are returned to the earth. The awake person intuitively knows this because with each passing day, Home is getting a little closer. Stuff happens here, but it is but for a moment.
"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" (Romans 8:18 NKJV)
What is it like to be awake--to live with your eyes wide open? If God has to use some affliction as a wake up call, He will. He loves you enough to give you a swift kick where and when you need it. But wouldn't it be better to live in such a way that no matter what happens He already has your attention? You see, if He already has your attention, then you can see all things in the light of the eternal perspective.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (II Corinthians 4:17-18)
To be fully awake is to have your attitude in conformity with the will of God. How do we do that? Paul puts it simply:
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
* Rejoice: the joy of the Lord is from Him, not from here.
* Pray: keep the line open, not just talking but listening.
* In everything be thank full: not necessarily thankful for the circumstances, but thankful in it. God plus one makes a majority against all odds.
As Paul notes in II Corinthians 4:18, we look at the things that are not seen. Don't let the sights on earth hinder your vision of heaven. Home is closer than you think.
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.