Yesterday I watched the most amazing football game I’ve ever seen. Alabama and Auburn are state rivals. We came in toward the end, early enough to see Auburn make about a 95 yard play for a touchdown. Then an interception that led to another full field return by Alabama which tied the game. With only seconds on the clock Alabama had the ball and during a play the runner stepped out-of-bounds. The clock said :00 but the officials declared he went out-of-bounds with one second on the clock. So Alabama attempted an over 60 yard field goal and missed. Instead, an Auburn freshman caught the ball in the end zone and ran that ball all the way to the end zone for the winning touchdown. It was amazing. I may have some numbers wrong cause I’m new to football, but we were all jumping up and down incredulous at what we’d just seen. Even Alabama’s coach said he’d never seen anything like it. Alabama is ranked #1. They were highly favored to win. There was one second on the clock which meant it would likely go into overtime and Alabama would probably win. Can you imagine being that freshman? Can you imagine the rush knowing you brought down Alabama? Wow. So unlikely. So amazing in the best way possible for that Auburn team.
And yet, also yesterday one of the most handsome men in Hollywood stepped into a car at a charity event, driven by a professional race car driver. The car spun out of control somehow, hit a light pole and exploded into flames trapping the driver and actor, Paul Walker in the vehicle killing both. Beautifully handsome and talented and apparently giving, Paul Walker, whose 15 year-old daughter just moved from Hawaii to California to live with him, is dead. So unlikely. So unbelievable in the worst way possible for that man and family.
You truly just never know. We are not given any guarantees in life no matter how many statistics we know. No matter how good we are, or how much better someone else is. One of the things promised to us by God, our Father, our Maker, is that we little humans, will never know certain things. With our intellect wise enough to understand scientific laws, our hearts big enough to love the unlovable, and our need as humans to rank, order, and categorize…we are forced to accept the fact that we are nowhere near in control of what happens to us or those around us. A hard lesson.
At any moment we could die. Any of us. So why not descend into a puddle of negativity and a sense of doom and despair? Why not give-in to the ultimate impending end that is surely coming?
I say, because thank GOD we don’t know. If we did we’d base every decision on that knowledge. If we did know the future and all that would happen to us and our loved ones we’d run around trying to make it happen differently. We’d become obsessed with changing our destiny instead of living it. God in his infinite wisdom knew that we couldn’t handle that level of truth and knowing. It would be a burden beyond any other burden in life.
Instead, we are free to live and make decisions in the moment. To savor the moment for what it is. I don’t believe for one second that means that because good things happen to teams like Auburn that they prayed harder than Alabama. I also don’t believe that Paul Walker was being punished for anything by his early death. And equally important, I don’t believe that means God doesn’t care about what happens to us. It’s just that we live in a fallen world and bad things will happen on this earth that bring pain, death, destruction and demise. And good things will also happen to bring us hope, comfort, joy, and motivate us toward good. That’s life. God’s job is not to be our little Genie in a bottle fulfilling our every desire. His goal is that we be conformed to HIS desire instead.
Discouragement, disappointment, and any other negative thing that happens in this world is meant to teach us dependence and trust. It’s meant to give us a heavenly perspective whereby we see the nudging of our hearts toward eternal matters instead of temporal ones. Yes…admittedly a hard lesson.
If only good things happened, we would as humans quickly come to expect the best and take for granted every good thing we receive. If I created the world, I’m not sure I would have thought about the delicate balance between despair and hope and how each motivates humanity toward seeking God and doing good. And how the drama that ensues in this life causes us in submission and humility to want to connect through prayer, through the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures with a holy, powerful, awesome God. Likewise how stubbornness, pride, and arrogance can keep us away from enjoying that communion that God wants to share with us.
I can’t blame God for the ills of this world, or for the bad things that have happened to me while I’ve lived. Ultimately, I am bound for heaven which is a far better place that will last forever. This life as the Bible describes will seem like a vapor and my present sufferings so minor compared to the reward. Instead, I see how God uses everything, the good and the bad to somehow give us a dramatic and sometimes sorrowful picture of ourselves in order to give us an accurate picture of who we really are in this world and who He is.
The “good” that God speaks about in Romans 8:28 that comes from things meant for evil is not what we think of as good. It is described as conforming us to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate good that should come from hardship. That is a very hard lesson to accept when we just want to celebrate at the end of games hard-fought and won…not lost.
Since I have not been given the burden of knowing my future, I will live today with the expectation that whatever happens to me and the people I love, however difficult, or beautiful will result in my appreciation to God for the life I’ve been gifted to live.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. God Bless you!