Like all tests our lives begin as unmarked parchments. Requirements are much more than a GradeMaster and number two pencil. Regulations must be observed. Lectures must be heeded. No eraser can help solve the mistake of messing up here. When class concludes, what is done is done. Due dates are non-negotiable, and curves are nonexistent. These stipulations are neither unfair nor unique. Everyone must endure them.
Recently the ending bell rang surprisingly early for several of those very close to me. In His infinite wisdom and love, the Master Tutor collected their papers. From a human perspective it seemed rather premature. Isaac Watts was familiar with this concept of departure as he penned “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.” Life was over for Chad, Courtney, their unborn daughter, and Mrs. Weindorf. In some ways I felt as if mine had just begun. Since their passing one thought has dominated my mind - “Ok, so where do I go from here?” This is an attempt to answer that question.
“Hindsight is always 20/20.” It is an interesting saying, quite witty. Yet in reality, understanding some experiences can be much further down the road than we would prefer. Even for the Christian life is not always “Claritin clear.” At times circumstances in the rearview seem anything but comprehensible, and answers never do come. For many eternity alone may reveal the purposes that God had in mind through their suffering. Every trial we face is a new opportunity to grow. Mine was no exception. I just had no clue how. Until this point I had only dealt in hypotheticals. My experience with personal heartbreak was about as significant as a Peyton Manning led team in January. Prayer requests would go in one ear and out the other. None of them felt real. On July 27, 2013, my paradigm shifted radically. This time as the battle waged on I found myself at its epicenter. While I affirmed God’s omniscience, I doubted His wisdom. Yes He knew everything, but did God really know what He was doing with what He knew? Answer this and it would determine what my reaction ought to be.
“These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776. This introduction to the first of sixteen pamphlets known as The American Crisis was perhaps the most influential instrument in helping reinvigorate the Revolutionary War effort of early American colonists. Never minimizing the difficulty ahead, Paine outlined their ultimate goal: a society free from the tyrannical rule of British Imperialism. He recognized that his readers could not accomplish the task required of them without first fully realizing their objective. Many believers misplace these priorities. Somewhere in the process of performing life’s mission they forget its purpose. When sorrows come, their initial focus is temporal while it ought to be eternal.
Perspective is everything; and before I could be a useful vessel prepared unto every good work, mine had to change drastically (2 Timothy 2:21). Front to back, cover to cover, the entire tenor of Scripture is radical. It is God loving man in spite of himself. Central to that plan stands a Messiah with the Old Testament prophesying Him and the New Testament presenting Him in all of His unbridled glory. This was no ordinary life, however, for its perfect pathway would lead Him up a hill called Calvary where He would be wounded for my transgressions, He would be bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace would be upon Him, and with His stripes I would be healed (Isaiah 53:5). While seeking to understand all of this, I came up empty. Looking for resentment, retribution, and revenge I instead discovered mercy (Titus 3:5), love (John 3:16), and grace (Titus 2:11).
None of it made sense. Then it hit me. The greatest thing to ever happen in the history of humanity took place upon a blood stained tree. God knew what He was doing then, and He has yet to fall asleep at the wheel today. Where was I to go from here? What was my reaction supposed to be? I was to live in light of the struggle, not in spite of it, always keeping Christ my focal point. You see trials for the believer are not just electives. They are core curriculum. Is the student superior to his master? Certainly not! Then take up your cross, oh Christian! The pathway may seem lingering and its burden heavy laden, but a crown awaits you above.
Written by Daniel Phelps