Jesus - Strong & Kind
Life is full of the unexpected. Full of things that are out of our control.
Where can we turn in the middle of unexpected tragedies - funerals that last from 10:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M. and we sing and share memories, and we can't quite just all go home and get back to our business. Because we are shell-shocked. We just want it to all be over sometimes - this world where so many are in so much pain. We feel the fear - who will be next? And the future seems dark.
Where can we turn on days when thousands gather at a dark house with a locked gate to begin the slow march down to the only clinic in their mountain town. The clinic is silent too - the tall white nurse who has listened to their many and varied ailments, sewed up machete wounds from drunken fights, and held their tiny black babies in his long white arms is resting now - high on another mountain - the mountain of God.
And they must wonder - is God strong enough to work in the hearts of another family and actually convince them to come to their mountain? To walk the dirt roads every day with sunglasses and backpack? To stay, even thru kidnappings and political unrest? Is he strong enough to send more nurses - a nurse willing to skip showers and use the cold outhouse at night when the cistern is low on water? A girl willing to give up her American independence and fit it with a family and a congregation that she has never met? Is God strong enough?
And is God kind enough to send someone who will really take an interest when they complain of aches and pains and the strange mountain "maladi" like "pa ka pale" (someone that is in mental distress and cannot speak) and learn their language and remember their names? Is God kind enough to send people that will fit into their congregation and do their part, yet not try to change everything to the "blan" or white way. Who will come? Can God find people that will quietly educate without making fun of the superstition, people that view everyone and their tremendous, overwhelming needs thru eyes of love?
And in the meantime, what will happen when their baby is running a fever, or their aging father is having stroke symptoms, or their teenage boy has a motorcycle wreck? Where will they turn?
How strong and how kind is our God?
We struggle to believe when life is so out of control. When the person most important to us is called home to heaven and we are left behind. When God decides that the baby that we never even got to hold and snuggle would be better off with him in heaven. When we sit beside the bed of a loved one who is so sick that even the most modern science cannot give us a sure answer on what will be the outcome. When we send our husbands out into the dangerous streets, and two hours later they are not answering their phone and the panic is rising. When late at night, there is machine gun fire and we know the flimsy padlocks on the gate are nothing. When we feel earthquake tremors - literally the whole world is moving underneath us, neighbors crying out. When a child makes decisions we know will hurt them, but nothing we say can change their mind. When we see a skinny child begging in the streets of Port au Prince, or an old man climbing out of a Houston dumpster.
These things are too big for us. It is when we experience things like this that we realize how small we really are - how little we can control. And all of us hate that feeling.
In these situations, we have two choices. We can run away from this God whose ways are past finding out. We can fear him and wonder what will he do next. We can lock our hearts up tight and try to live above all the messy feelings and say we don't care if our heart shrivels up like a tiny dried-up raisin.
We can run away from this big, all-powerful, scary God.
Or we can follow the words of the song that simply says, "You can always run to Jesus, Jesus strong and kind."
And I think it is only in the running towards Jesus that we can begin to see him for who he really is. When we are running away from the big and scary God - he stays that way. We catch frightening glimpses of his power as we look over our shoulder - and we shudder. "This God," we say, "this God who can controls my life, how will I ever escape this God?"
And when we run towards Jesus like a little child, we see that he is, indeed strong, but also kind.
We see that he has the power to move a mountain and cast it into the sea, but that sometimes he chooses to leave the mountain there. We don't exactly know the reason, but maybe he wants to spend more time with us. Because one thing is sure, if he asks us to climb a mountain, he will always walk beside us. And when we reach the top, he'll put his arm around our shoulders as we enjoy the view.
We see that Jesus is strong enough to calm the sea, but sometimes he stays asleep in the boat for awhile. We don't know exactly why. But one thing is sure, we will always find Jesus out in the middle of the ocean, and never sleeping in a hammock strung between the palms on the beach.
Our Jesus is strong enough to change the hearts of wicked men intent on exploiting the poor, men who take another person's life as easily as they down a Barbancourt or injest cocaine. He is strong enough to heal congregations divided by misunderstanding. He's strong enough to make the money you have somehow pay the bills. He's strong enough to cure the cancer or give you the baby you're praying for.
Our Jesus is kind enough to answer your little prayer on the day when you desperately need a faith boost. He is kind enough to silence the voices in your head when you whisper to him in the middle of a sleepless night. He is kind enough to get you through long, lonely days and to send a friend to check on you when you didn't want to bother anyone with your problems.
You can run away from God. You might find yourself in the belly of a whale or suddenly struck blind in the middle of your smooth, safe road. Always, you will be in a place of unrest and fear. Always, you will be desperately trying for more control.
Or you can run to Jesus. Ask him to show you that he really is strong and kind. Your life will still be out of control - maybe even more so than ever. God never promises that a Christian life will be safe and secure according to the world's standards. But you will always have his peace and his presence.
And that is what I want to do. No matter what - run to Jesus. Jesus - strong and kind.