“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – 1 John 4:20
This past week, the world exploded with news. News channels were abuzz with news of the latest ISIS attack, the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the legalization of same sex marriage, and the capture of one of the escaped convicts from New York. And this was all in one day. It was enough to make my head spin, but the thing that has everyone still talking is the legalization of same sex marriage. Social media exploded with #LoveWins, rainbow colored posts and pictures, and, of course, opposition. Here are a few things I noticed over the past few days pertaining to this topic.
Why does God allow trouble to plague his people? How can it be considered loving for him to permit trials to run wild in our lives?
I gained fresh insight into these questions while watching a spellbinding four-minute video called “How Wolves Change Rivers.”
A slightly-too-exuberant, yet-delightfully-British narrator recounts the changes that resulted from the entrance of a pack of wolves into the eco-system of Yellowstone National Park. It turns out that deer overpopulation had left massive portions of the park barren. Constant grazing had turned valleys into wastelands. The lack of vegetation had caused soil erosion, which destabilized the banks of the river, slowing the flow of water. The lack of sufficient water and vegetation, in turn, forced wildlife to move on. In short, life was fading from the park.
Then a pack of wolves moved in.
Do you think it would be life-enhancing for a pack of predators to be released into a national park? I imagine your initial response would be, like mine, “No, that sounds terrible.”
But it turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened.
Wolves and a World of Good
The wolves predictably killed a few deer, thinning out the population. However, that was not the most significant change. The remaining deer were forced to move to higher terrain and abandon the grasslands of the valleys.
These areas that had been mown down for so long then began to regrow at an accelerated rate. Aspen trees quintupled in size in less than six years. This growth brought back birds to nest in the branches and beavers to eat the wood. The return of the beavers meant the return of beaver dams, which created pools that allowed for the repopulation of fish, otters, ducks, muskrats, reptiles, and amphibians. The wolves also cleared out some of the coyotes, which caused rabbits and mice to return. This change led to the return of hawks, weasel, foxes, and badgers.
Yet the most amazing impact occurred in the river itself. Because grasses were allowed to regrow, the soil collapsed less, allowing for firmer riverbanks. Which gave the river flow greater direction, which reinforced the animal habitats.
In short, the entrance of a few wolves created a whole world of good in Yellowstone National Park, transforming wastelands into lush valleys teeming with life.
So it turns out that the best thing to do to promote life was to release a few wolves into the valley.
Difficulty Brings Blessing
Why mention all of these phenomena? Try for a moment to imagine a board meeting where, after hearing desperate pleas for help to save the aspen trees of Yellowstone, a park ranger responded by saying, “I’ll tell you what will ensure reforestation: a few more wolves around here!” Would anyone have taken him seriously?
In the same way, I think we would accuse God of being insane if we heard him respond to our cries for greater intimacy with our spouse, greater fruit in our ministries, or greater intimacy with him, by saying, “You want more life? I’ll tell you what will give it: a medical emergency. Or losing your job. Or a car accident.” We would think he’s out of his mind.
But search your past and tell me if it isn’t true: Often the introduction of something difficult, and even dangerous, into our lives by the hand of God results in unanticipated, yet undeniable growth. Difficulty brings blessing. Hardship brings joy. Wolves change rivers.
This reality does not mean we should court danger. What it does mean, however, is that we should pause before we accuse God of injustice or indifference when he allows hardship to enter our lives. It just might be the best thing for us. In fact, for those who love him, and are called according to his purposes, it will be his working to produce his best for us.
Count It All Joy
James certainly thought so. In James 1:2–4 he went so far as to say, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James was so certain that the introduction of difficulty into our lives carries the potential to bring blessing that he calls us to rejoice, not only after the trial has ended, but even while we are still in it.
Which does not mean we need to pretend that difficulties are pleasant. They are not. Nor does it mean we should not pray to be delivered from, or seek to remove, hardships from our lives. Both are permissible.
However, we gain much hope from this realization: Often our loving God sees that bringing something unpleasant into our lives will lead to a thousand good consequences. Therefore, as a good caretaker of our souls, he will allow wolves to enter for a season.
So when hardships come, we can cease shaking our fist and yelling at God, and instead lean into him and listen. He is good. He does care. He works all things together for the good of his children — even the arrival of wolves.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
I have been guilty of this a few times. It is normal to want to make a point and listen for anything in the other person’s response that might help validate it. In the end, however, I noticed that I was not learning and coming out the end of the discussion/conversation having learned something new. And I should be striving to learn more and more each day, not shoving the little I know down someone else’s throat. And, in the end, it said more about myself than the other person that I was only countering their points, and not asking more about them or concurring or even conceding.
When we listen to understand, we realize that often no reply is needed.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust Him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Since life, like sport, is messy, full of mistakes and failures, we need hope, a confidence to carry on. Only those who have hope fight on. Those with little hope fight little. Those with no hope don’t fight at all. Romans 15:13 certainly offers hope and carries us in the right direction. Here are five ‘hope-full’ thoughts to help in our journey:
Hope is a person, first and foremost! It is God. Above any words, circumstance or other earthly evidence, hope is found here, in Him.
Joy and peace are the evidence of hope. You know you have hope when you have joy and peace. Remember that.
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17
We all have different callings, God has giving each of us different talents and skills, therefor we all have different expertise and careers. Whatever God has called you to do, use this opportunity to do his will and be an example of Christ.
Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 1 Corinthians 7-18-19
Thru the blood of Jesus the new covenant was established, meaning we are all now Gods people thru Jesus Christ not just Israel. No matter who you…
Sometimes it is for the best
When people need to leave
For their time is up and their
Clocks have stopped ticking
We have to let go even when
We want to do nothing but
Hold on to their hands not
Wanting them to disappear
For forcing their hearts to
Keep beating may cause pain
Such goodbyes run deep and
Painfully in our memories
Those we wish to hold on to
Yet let go of the scars etched
Being in a storm and hoping
It wont end cause when it’s
Over and winds settle, all that’s
Left behind is nothingness in
The air that weighs down on
Your heart like a demon