Friday, September 18, 2015

No Pat Answers? ................ Parables 328

July 28, 1992

This morning, with the sun shining brightly through my window, I thanked God that I know Jesus Christ. Without Him, I would hate to think what my life would be like. The trials would be unbearable never mind all the sinful trouble I would get into. He is my Savior, the One who is there for me.

And I know that sounds like sugar, an easy solution, a pat answer to life’s difficulties. For that very reason, it is not easy to write a column like this in 700 words or less. Addressing big issues with Biblical responses in such a short space tends to produce what sounds like pat answers.

I don’t like pat answers myself. My life has been slammed by big issues — horrid events and disappointments that pat answers merely insult, not help or heal. It would be unfair to expect readers to simply accept my bottom line as the cure-all for whatever ails them.

However, with that there are answers. Not simple ones but hard fought and forged answers. From the heat of experience, I knew how to face defeat, struggle with grief, love a prodigal and forgive a betrayer. I know that God can give strength in every kind of weakness. I am also fully aware that He can give joy in unutterable pain and hope when there is no reason to even live. I’ve been weak of body, mind, heart and soul. I have been in pain and without hope — and God has blessed me, and not only me but many others.

So these little parables are not intended to say, “There, there, just trust God and be happy” as if there is nothing to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am one of those stubborn people who only trusts when all my props have been kicked away and I flatly have no other choices. Then, when utterly desperate, I turn to Him and believe.

But is anyone very different? We all struggle with unbelief. We are like the father who brought his tortured, demon-possessed son to Jesus with the cry, “I believe... help my unbelief!” Something inside us wants to trust God but there is this other voice that knows we do not.

We are like the skeptic Nathanael who, when told of Jesus, blurted, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We know if there is a God, He ought to be good yet we look at the Nazareths around us and see little good. How can we believe in Him with so much evidence against it?

And we are like Thomas who declared, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” We must see Jesus, or at least see something, and maybe then we will be certain of Him and believe.

Paradoxically, the more I trust God, the stronger my tendency not to trust. The more I see His goodness, the more I am aware of the evil that is so opposite. The more I see Him with my heart, the less there is to believe with my eyes. Such is the nature of faith — it is the evidence of things unseen, the verification of that which we hope for but cannot touch, taste, smell, or really get our hands on. Faith is a living thing, but not a tangible thing. Yet without faith, no one can see or please God.

If there are any pat answers in life, this must be one of them — GOD IS. Whether or not I can explain Him or make Him real for those who doubt, His existence does not rest on my explanations or anyone’s faith. He is. He exists outside of any attempts to affirm or deny Him, outside of our limited ability to know or understand His ways. Yet He did not stay outside. He stepped into where we live, took on the form of a man, and gave life its necessary answers — not pat answers but real ones that work, answers that make life not only bearable but abundant. Even when doubt persists (and it is persistent) it cannot remove Jesus Christ from existence.

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