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How do we hold on to faith when life is so hard?

Sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe you don’t, either.

Why would God allow the mass bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka which killed 253 people and wounded 500 others? Why would God not stop a gunman from killing one and injuring three more in a California synagogue? Why didn’t God stop the cyclones in Mozambique that have killed 38 people?

There are no easy answers, are there?

Vance Havner lost his wife to disease, and he was disconsolate. Years later, he was able to write:

When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith—that all things work together for good in His eternal purpose. No longer will we cry “My God, why?” Instead, “alas” will become “Alleluia,” all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise (Playing Marbles with Diamonds, 97).

Did you notice the reference to “years later”? Even for the die-hard believer, overcoming pain, grief, loss, and sorrow does not happen overnight. Sometimes the pain may never be fully assuaged. Many live with chronic pain or depression that affects them every . . . single . . . day.

During the Korean War, Pastor Im was torn from his family and imprisoned for years, locked in a dark cell with only a small bowl of soup to eat every day. He kept his sanity by reciting Scripture, especially John 13:7, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this” (The Red Sea Rules, 104).

We only see through a darkened mirror, but one day we will see face to face. We only know in part, but one day we will know fully, as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). So, how do we hold on to faith when life is so hard?

William Cowper, an eighteenth-century English poet, struggled with depression his entire life. On one of his darkest days, he hired a carriage to drive him to the Ouse River, three miles away, where he intended to kill himself. A dense fog enveloped the area, and the driver, sensing that something was wrong with his passenger, purposely lost his way only to return back to Cowper’s home. Cowper realized his life had been spared, and that same evening in 1774, at age 43, he wrote these words:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread;
And big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head (ibid., 105).

Believe. Trust. And know that God is with you in the pain. He is with you in the struggle. He is with you in the hurt. “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), and He will never leave you nor forsake you, even in the pain (Hebrews 13:5).  

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Gather Around the Table

For those with young children, I imagine you want to see your children grow and flourish in all that God has for them. For those who have some type of leadership role where you work or worship, I’m sure you want to see your company or church thrive.

So how do you get there?

I’m all for the fundamentals of education, leadership training, strategic planning, and the like. We need discipline, character, mentoring and coaching. Tutoring, extracurricular activities, and career planning are all helpful practices.

But what about eating?

Sociologist Cody C. Delistraty researched recent scientific literature on childrearing and discovered that the single most crucial element in raising kids to be drug-free, healthy, intelligent, respectful and kind is frequent family dinners.

His research demonstrates that “the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners. The primary factor in shaping vocabulary for younger children is frequent family dinners. The key variable most associated with a lower incidence of depressive and suicidal thoughts among eleven- to eighteen-year-olds is frequent family dinners” (Smith, The Hospitable Leader, 52-53).

Sharing meals at a table is a gift of grace. It creates an environment for listening, laughing, and learning, which are all acts of grace. Anytime we gather around a table to share with one another, an environment of home is created. We participate in a sacrament of breaking bread (Acts 2:42).

A sacrament is where the physical embodies the spiritual. Unseeing eyes only look upon bread and wine to nourish the body. Eyes that see (Mark 8:18) look upon food as a way also to nourish the soul. As we share in the sacrament of the table, we share in the gift of fellowship. Children learn from parents, and parents listen to children. We serve one another. We participate in the joy of conversation.

What happens around the family table can happen around any table where friends, co-workers and fellow travelers gather. Better workplaces and churches begin at the same place as better homes—around the table.

If the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners, maybe businesses and churches should instill a higher value for joining around the table, and not just to watch a PowerPoint presentation or even just to share in communion.

As N. T. Wright once wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal” (Jones, Dwell, 180).

Not bad advice for us all. The next time you want to pass something along to a family member, co-worker or friend, why not do it over a meal?

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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