This is part two – have you read part one yet? It’s ok — go ahead. I’ll wait.
We have four children. Our oldest child, Elli, was born with a severely deformed heart, which stopped beating when she was 4 days old. She defied the odds and survived that day, as well as four open-heart surgeries in her first three years of life. She was unable to do anything for herself. I had not known fatigue before we had her and faced round-the-clock care for a medically-fragile child. Elli had a radiant smile and her momma’s spunk, and she delighted in being unpredictable.
In Elli, I came face to face with a God who allowed things that didn’t make sense in the god I thought I knew. I also found my nose pressed into the stench of my desperately-ugly inside, over and over. I was not as independent and autonomous as I thought. I didn’t handle the exhaustion, fear, relentless neediness, and unknown very well.
Then, she died suddenly at the age of 8, and almost immediately after, a major crisis hit the church we were serving in. I plummeted into depression, buffeted by waves of grief, stabs of pain from the church issues, and disorienting confusion at how none of it fit what I thought I knew.
How could a good loving God allow all of this? How could he let my daughter’s heart form the way it did, let it stop and damage her brain, keep her from speaking, and then take her away so suddenly? How could he let the kinds of hurt that we experienced happen inside his church? Wasn’t there a line he wouldn’t cross with his own, especially the ones who followed the rules?
I had bargained on a god who would return favors, and when he didn’t, I felt betrayed. Angry. Bitter. I realized that my faith had been built on flawed information, and it was irreparably unstable.
I tore it down to the ground, to the first question – is there a God? Is that God one I can trust and serve and love? Or is that God a sadistic crazy scientist experimenting on us? (Yeah, I was angry.)
So many things, so many words from you and from books I’ve read and sermons have provided pieces of the puzzle. I’d take up all of Greg’s time to recount them all. But this one was a big piece for me: God’s love is a love that goes to any extreme to bring us to him and to make us like him.
He is not safe. He is not tame. We cannot manipulate him into doing what we want. I can’t live my life a certain way to guarantee a pain-free path.
Jesus told the crowds who followed him that if they would be his disciples, they must take up their cross and follow him.
Jesus is saying that to follow him, we must be so willing and ready to die that we would pick up the gallows at which we may hang, the guillotine which may remove our heads, the wood and stake at which we may burn, and carry it with us as we walk after him.
This is not free. Following Jesus costs everything.
But when I look at Jesus and see his nail-scarred hands, I remember that God’s love for us, for me, cost HIM everything.
God did not exempt himself from pain and suffering, even death. God’s love for us was not safe for him.
To redeem me, one who still struggles to overcome fear of him, to trust him, to love him, Jesus suffered all the way to death, and then in a mystery equally as difficult to comprehend as God allowing evil, Jesus, the God-man, died.
I can trust a God who would go to any length, including dying himself, to redeem me. I can love him and I can serve him.
It has taken many many months to work through all these questions. But God has opened my eyes to my utter helplessness to save myself. He has shown me his most costly love, and he has redeemed me with that love.
Today I declare with all that I am that Jesus is the Messiah, he is the Son of God, he is my Lord and my Savior. He has raised me to life, opened my eyes, and given me a new heart to love and serve and obey.