Christianity 201

February 25, 2015

Everybody’s Got a Troubled Heart

Our post title alludes to Bruce Springsteen’s song Hungry Heart. Some have written about the spirituality that people feel at his concerts. But the truth of the lyrics of this song is certainly appropriate to today’s devotional. People think that some of their friends or people in their church have everything so together, but if they were to peel back the layers, they would see that everybody’s got a hungry heart, a hurting heart, a troubled heart.


 

It’s Wednesday which means today’s post is by Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon. Click the link in the title below to read at source, or better yet, if you have the time, listen to the audio of the full sermon at this link. (Choose the sermon titled “Trouble.”)

Trouble!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1 NRSV

This is a verse with no relevance to any of us as we all have perfect lives, right? We all have perfect health, perfect relationships, and perfect families, and so no troubles, and no troubled hearts. Well truth be told there are many things that can cause our hearts to be troubled. In fact, even if the situations of our lives are not troubling, we can still experience a troubled heart as we fret over situations that may never happen. Troubled hearts are a relevant topic for us all.

Troubled hearts are a relevant topic for the disciples in our passage. He has already told them that one of them would betray him, one of them would deny him, and all of them would fall away from him. Oh, and he would be killed. One can only imagine the kind of thoughts that would be troubling the hearts of the disciples as Jesus is arrested, falsely accused, beat up, mocked, and executed. They might obsess over how they had failed Jesus. They might obsess over the possibility that Jesus had failed them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

But that is Friday and Saturday. Sunday comes and Jesus rises from the dead. That should be the end of all troubles, right? Wrong, following Jesus’ ascension to the Father, persecution breaks out against the Jesus followers and it does not go well for them. Study history and you will find much suffering for many Christians. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” Or as one Bible scholar translates it: “Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

But shouldn’t things always go well for those who worship God? Should not their prayers be answered? Isn’t God fixing things? Many well meaning Christians believe that yes, God does fix everything for the true believer, and yes, God does answer every prayer of a good Christian. So if things are broken in your life, or prayers are not being answered; confess more, pray more, be a better Christian.

But what does Jesus say? What did Jesus say to the disciples when thing were about to go oh, so wrong? “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God, keep trusting also in me.” He does not say “now that you are following me, your life will be pain free,” but “do not let your hearts be troubled.” You do not say such a thing unless you know trouble is coming. He does not say “I have now fixed everything,” but “keep trusting in God, keep trusting in me.” You do not call for trust unless you know someone needs to wait. He does not say “today you will be with me in paradise,” but “I am going to prepare a place for you.” Well he did tell one believer that paradise would be his lot that very day, but we all know what came next.

Truth is, we are still living in a messy world. No matter how good a Jesus follower we are, no matter how deep our prayer lives are, no matter how all-encompassing our confession of sin is, we still live in a messy world.

Genesis chapter three outlines the result of the fall. The last time I checked, a Christian woman is as likely to experience pain in childbirth as any other. A Christian farmer needs to work just as hard as any other farmer to produce a potato. And all through history, Christians have been as likely to die as anyone else. This is the mess we live in. As we live in this mess we sometimes would rather treat the symptoms than seek the cure. Jesus does not promise to be a pill that will take away pain. He promises to be the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus meets our greatest need. He fills our biggest hole. He cures our greatest illness. He lifts us up from our hardest fall. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.” Every pain we feel as a Jesus follower is temporary. Jesus dealt with our eternal problem.

But someone will object: “God does fix every problem in our lives in the here and now. If you are experiencing trouble, it is because you are not a good enough Christian.” But are you willing to say that to the apostle Paul?

with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NRSV)

Paul responded to all these troubles, not by blaming himself or God, but with trust: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 NRSV)

Someone else will object: “God answers prayers with miracles, and if you are not receiving them, that is because you are not good enough.” I believe God does miracles today. But I also believe that miracles today serve the same purpose as the miracles of Jesus recorded for us in the New Testament. They point people to the fact that the Kingdom of God is near. They point to the fact that Jesus is the One through whom the Kingdom comes. Notice that in the New Testament, Jesus did not fix every problem of every person in every place. He still doesn’t. God does miracles, but He does not hand them out like candy. The Christian, no matter how devout or righteous, still lives in a messy world. A miracle is not the cure for a troubled heart. Trust is. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

I once took a girl sailing on Chemong Lake. Not being very windy we decided to drop the anchor and go for a swim. If you know Chemong Lake you will know that the middle of the lake is the best place to go swimming for all along the shores are icky, slimy, gross weeds. It came time to head in, and so I got back into the boat. My friend tried to do likewise, but failed. I tried to get her in, but to no avail. So she swam for a bit while I sailed alongside, until she became too tired. With my friend being too tired and my being too weak I had to do something. So I threw a line from the back of the boat and I towed her in. Now do you remember those weeds all along the shoreline? If you could have heard the screams of this poor girl as I pulled her through the weeds! The point is this. Don’t be surprised by the weeds. Trouble will come, even upon the very best Christian. But when they do, don’t let go of the rope. That God in His grace and love will get us to the shore is a sure thing.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

May 9, 2012

Where is God When Chaos is Happening?

Today’s blog post was sourced after the anonymous author left a comment at my other blog. 

I hope this works…we’re going to break the rules today and include a testimony here, but it’s one that’s really worth the reading all the way to the end.  As usual, we’ll post it in full here because statistically many of you don’t click, but please, do the author a favor and read it on her site, okay?

Jack-in-the-Box Moments
 
One Friday morning in 2009, my life was drastically changed. The week before had been filled with Jack-in-the Box moments. These are moments where life jumps out at you and scares you silly. I never did like that toy and can’t even imagine working at a factory that makes them. The song it plays – “Pop Goes the Weasel”- warns you that Jack is about to pop out so you try to prepare yourself for his sudden appearance. Being prepared doesn’t help. I always jump. That Friday morning I was weary from jumping.

On Monday we were a family of four; by Friday we were down to three. On Monday I was a minister’s wife; by Friday he had been fired. On Monday, we were upper middle class; by Friday I could qualify for food stamps. On Monday we had a three bedroom house complete with two kids, two dogs and a fenced in back yard. By Friday we were preparing to move. “Pop Goes the Weasel” became our family song.

Thankfully the scary free-fall we were experiencing was broken by a gracious, loving church and a Sunday School class full of friends. They took the shame and embarrassment we were experiencing and lessened it with graceful love. Our church provided my sons, dogs and me with a house until we could get back on our feet. When we moved in, there were groceries already in the cabinets from my Sunday School class. Meals, cards and monetary gifts came. God provided through his people.

It was during this time that I sat on the edge of my bed asking, “God, HOW do I DO this? How do I DO life?” God drew me to Proverbs over and over again each night. It became my guide for “doing life” as it was at that moment. In Proverbs it shows that there are really only two ways to do life – you do it “with God’ or you do it “without God.” I had a choice to make. Did I want to live with bitterness, revenge, and fear or did I want to be free from those things building up and choking my life? I wanted to be free, so I chose God.

That may sound like a proud bragging proclamation, to say “I chose God.” But it is not. God cries out to be chosen with His arm raised over the worldly crowd. He waves it wildly in the air, hoping to catch our eye. “Pick Me, Pick Me” is His chant. Our eyes scan the crowd of choices and in our brokenness and neediness we point to Him and shout –” I choose Him”. He steps forward and makes the weasel’s song fade and replaces it with a new melody…fresh, clear, compelling, pure and free. It is God, and He is singing.

Zephaniah 3: 17
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

After November of 2009, Jack kept jumping. Our lives had been drastically changed in one week and our lives would change even more as the New Year introduced itself. Thanksgiving and Christmas with family passed and became dear memories…really dear memories.

I started off the New Year by going with my sister to chemo. I had never been in that situation before and seeing the young and old waiting for their turn in treatment was eye opening. When my sister stated that her doctor was the leading specialist in the type of cancer she had and that he only accepted “special” cases, I knew we were heading into a place in life I did not want to go.

As January ended I prepared to budget for February. I pulled up my recent paycheck stub online and noticed that my paycheck had decreased significantly. A phone call informed me that the IRS was garnishing my wages for taxes my husband and I owed. Since he was fired and we were separated, I was the only one with a job…so they came after me. Now my two boys and I had to live for five months on $800.00 a month. This surprise almost put me under, but God held my nose above the water.

Not long after that my son’s car blew up, and then he wrecked mine. My tri-focals broke and had to be replaced. February was the month of broken things that just settled in along side our broken emotions. It was at this time that I noticed laughter…the weird kind of laughter that breaks out when the Jack-in-the-Box toy pops out at a baby. It is a laughter mixed with fear and amazement. I had the laugh, my friends had the laugh and my children had the laugh…what else could go wrong? Well, a phone call can go wrong. My Mother was sick. The day she got out of the hospital was the day she went back in the hospital. The news was not good. We lost her here, but she gained heaven with her Christ-bought soul.

On my birthday in March, we buried Mom and that evening we were told that my sister had three months to live. We lost her in two…May was her date to go home.

Where was God when all this was happening? He was where He has always been..on the throne. I don’t see the throne room of God as a cruel place where He flings out sorrow to earth. There is not a jester standing by Him who is playing around with my life to entertain. Why? Because Death, Decay, and Sorrow are products of this world that I have to wade through. Their flow of muck originated in Eden, but will end with Heaven. It will be clear one day…until then I will by faith see LIFE in death, I will see Hope in decay and I will see Joy in sorrow.

Jack is in his box…eternally confined. God is on His throne….powerfully free.