“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”
How often this little tune plays over our stories during the rocky course of our lives. Our pains individual, our sorrows secret, our hurts tucked beneath the coats we spend so much time weaving. A person holding a sign on the side of the road twitches like a junkie, but weeps for his beloved children five years dead. A bossy neighbor you’d rather avoid has been abandoned over and over since she was a child. The person you cannot forgive cries at night because of the pain you have put them through… Nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen? You don’t know the half of it.
This world is full of lies. These lies are believed. Those believers are hurting. It is easy to consider the world through a single perspective, but to walk in another’s shoes is difficult. If you are reading this blog, chances are you consider yourself a Christian so we will accept the basic assumptions common to Christians: there is a God, He loves us. Beyond that how do we see Him? Is He an angry Warrior-like God? Is He a gentle Parental God? Is He a friend? Is He a Judge? The answer, from what I can tell in Scripture, is yes, He is. All of the above. Perhaps more importantly, how does this God see us? I do not think you have to search very hard to find that He does walk in our shoes – not only that, but He expects us to pay it forward. His greatest concern is for the people He created who are prisoners to those lies.
I hear most frequently a single question posed by people who would otherwise believe in a God who loves: Why is there suffering in the world? But as Francis Chan points out in his book “Crazy Love”, it seems God is asking us the same question. This wasn’t the plan. We weren’t supposed to be hurting each other this way. We were supposed to live in His love and love each other the same. We were supposed to have an intimate relationship based on free will with our Creator. We were supposed to choose Him over ourselves, to trust Him over the doubts, but we didn’t. You think Adam and Eve messed it up? We all messed it up. Satan posed a question, the human doubted God and there you have it. It could have been any of us. That first distrust brought in an ocean of distrusts and here we are, suffering. I see the same pattern in my own life all the time. The questions aren’t dangerous, but my weariness of God is. I cannot wrap my limited mind around His love so I doubt that it exists at all and then before I know it I am caught in a torment of pain.
But it doesn’t end there. I have yet to see God fail to catch me when I fall this way. I have yet to see Him abandon me when I am scared or lonely. Sometimes I feel like a helpless case, but He has yet to give up on me. So how can I so easily give up on the ones He expresses such concern for? In Luke 10 we are told that in order to have eternal life we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A seemingly legalistic man (not unlike myself) asks Jesus who our “neighbors” are. Jesus’ response is the famous parable of the Good Samaritan who stopped to help a complete stranger – making sure the man was fully taken care of before moving on. After telling this story Jesus returns the question and asks the inquirer “Who was the neighbor?” Our legalistic friend replies correctly that it was the person who stopped and helped. Though it appears that he had hoped to get some cut and dry rules, he was instead given a general standard – a symptom of a heart change.
Because that is what it takes to be a Christian. It takes a heart change. It takes the humility to recognize that your position on the totem pole is the worm underneath it. When you realize that and you realize that God wants you anyway, your world changes. This love is ridiculous. It shatters logic and defies human limits. You simply cannot contain a love like this… When you receive it, when you grasp what it means, you are different. I’m not saying you won’t ever have to be reminded… The lies never stop coming and we usually never stop believing at least a few, but God is so faithful. You are His wife and He will do whatever He needs to to get you back – including sending His Son to slaughter.
But again, IT DOESN’T END THERE. He doesn’t just love you this much, He loves everyone this much. He loves that homeless man and that bossy neighbor. He loves the atheist and the Universalist. He loves the widow and the orphan. He loves the depressed and the suicidal. He loves the fascist and the radical. He loves the rapist and the murderer as much as He loves their victims. He loves. And furthermore He knows how we have been lied to and where we have doubted Him. His compassion is deep because He understands His creation. We have to extend that compassion. That’s our calling. In Matthew 25 we see something I think would surprise many evangelicals today. We see a judgment based not on whether or not we belonged to “the church” or talked about loving God, but on our actions toward the needy. We see the King welcome those who served the people around them and we see Him send away those who ignored the hurt experienced by others. Talk about a bleeding heart, God aches for us. He aches for all of us. And when we put on the name of Jesus Christ we commit to taking up His burden and doing something about that ache.