Rising Again

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Faith | 8 comments

Rising Again

“Good things happen to people who do good.”

I smiled outwardly but winced inwardly as the words rolled casually off her lips. The conversation had nothing to do with me and she was in no way speaking about me, but I felt the familiar sense of condemnation as it hit me again – people believe this. Christian people, it seems, more than any other people.

Because of my own experience, I had a very different perspective on her statement. I had done a lot of good and had a lot of bad things happen. I had wrestled with God on the question of “Why?” for so long that I finally had my own answer on the inside: Shit happens. It just does sometimes. We don’t always know exactly why. And we are often far less powerful to keep it at bay than we wish to imagine. Can God pull us out of the pile and make something good come from all that’s gone wrong, with His power at work in our lives can we overcome and come out better for it? Definitely. But that process is much messier than most people will tell you.

I felt at peace with all of that. But I still struggled with the opinions of others. With the seemingly endless advice about how I may have brought trouble on myself and family and how I could put an end to it if I just prayed right/did right/gave right/talked right/forgave right/etc/etc/etc., I sensed the judgement of others. With the realization that my church, where I had given a lot, served a  lot, and formed a lot of significant relationships for years, would rather distance itself from my family’s needs than get a little messy with us, I was feeling pretty sensitive to any sentiment suggesting the converse of “good things happen to people who do good,” which is “bad things happen to people who do bad.”

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16

Make no mistake, the goodness in people is not measured by the volume of good things that happen to them. Surely we’ve all met wonderful people diagnosed with cancer, betrayed by a loved one, weathering a financial storm, experiencing devastating loss. I’m exhausted of a theology that says we can control our lives if we do certain things or behave a certain way. I’m worn out on all the lies that thinking produces – that if something bad happens we’ve done something bad, that if others are struggling they have failed to live righteously, that God’s ability to work in our lives has more to do with our works than His Grace. I do not believe that good things always happen to people who do good. I believe that God things always happen to people who seek God, and that God things sometimes look more like rising again in the wake of life’s inevitable falls and risks, better, stronger, braver, than it looks like never experiencing difficulty in the first place.

“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Leo Buscaglia

Over the past several years, my eyes have opened to an entire breed of people that at one time I did not know existed: Risk Takers. Courageous souls who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in, sacrifice their comfort to do something significant, speak with boldness in defense of those who can not speak for themselves, love passionately with abandon, and all of this with no regard for fear of failure, rejection, or criticism. I think that as a result of some of the rising again I’ve had to do after taking some painful falls, I’ve become more like these people, and for that I am grateful, for that I would not trade a moment of my own hardship. Here is what I’ve learned about these special people, these Risk Takers: Sometimes the people most passionate for God and others, the people most committed to doing good, no, great things, are the ones who take the biggest risks. From a selfless desire to serve and love comes passion, courage, surrender, willingness to lose everything. And sometimes people who take big risks experience great losses.

We have just got to stop heaping condemnation and unsolicited advice on people who are hurting. We must stop telling them what they did wrong and how they can do right better. We need to throw out the idea that we can know someone else’s heart based solely on what we see in their circumstances, and worse yet, that we can control our own circumstances by thinking we’re better than those people going through hard things. There really is no formula to explain why good or bad things happen, and by trying to apply one using our limited human understanding, we do grave injustice to the mystery of God and to the people around us.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

 


8 Comments

  1. AHHHHHH!!!!! This is so good and the story, our story the last 5 years. Getting past the mess of a collapsed business. I felt at times too like, what we were going through was just too messy to be in it with us. The pain, shame, guilt.Its been easier to stay in my house because I haven’t wanted to explain why we’re “still” where we are. You’re right, shit happens and it’s gross and stinks. But God is faithful and I know what I’ve learned through this is, you never know on the outside what horrible trouble someone is in. Extending love and grace always, always is what we need when we’re getting to the other side. Thank you for saying what’s hard to say. You and Joey are loved and prayed for by the Holland:)

    • Oh, Tracy, this means so much to me – I’m sure you know how lonely and isolating it can feel. I too came to a point where I just didn’t want to go anywhere anymore because I didn’t know how to answer questions and there was so much I couldn’t explain. And yes, love and grace – people need to be loved more than they need to be fixed. You are always an amazing example of graciousness.

  2. Brilliantly and beautifully insightful, my friend. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. We know without doubt that our boys’ illnesses are man-made (as is most of the stuff that’s bringing folks harm these days), so while we know God didn’t cause their illnesses, He has been so faithful in opening our eyes to ways to help them, and His provisions for us as parents and as a family have been breath-taking. I so love everything you’ve said here. You are one amazing girl and I am encouraged by your words. I’m so relieved that God’s grace is not dependent on our futile efforts to earn it. ❤❤❤

    • Sunny, thank you for this. Yes, God’s provision in difficulty is humbling and awe inspiring, that has been my experience too. You and Nick have been an inspiration to me as you’ve walked through your challenges with such grace, positivity, determination, and humor. Your willingness to speak up and take a stand has forever impacted our family and kids.

  3. C, y’all are so real and amazing!!! I know your openness and transparency will bless anyone that reads this. I have been on the side of being judged so much and it isn’t fun. Things seldom are the way they appear and I would guess that may be why God tells us not to judge and to love. Y’all have extended so much love and grace to us as a family. Thank you for your friendship and always giving me such encouragement!!
    I do believe that God works all things for good, even this stinky stuff because we give it to Him. He is using it sister!!! I love you and thank you again for blessing us with your story!!!

    • Shari, most of what I know about how to respond graciously to judgement and criticism I learned from watching you handle your stinky stuff. Thank you for always accepting me right where I am without judging me while at the same time continually spurring me on to better things in a way that’s encouraging – you have such a gift in doing that for people.

  4. Good Word C. As Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me….” (John 9:3-4)

    • Thank you, Ernie – for reading and commenting, and especially for sharing your thoughts. I love this verse.

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