Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Blessing of God in Growth and Tragedy

I have been reflecting lately about the dichotomy of what is happening at Arrowsmith in these days - as we are a season of great growth (in spirit and in attendance) while at the same time also experiencing a tremendous amount of struggle, pain, tragedy and death. The reality is both of these are from God’s sovereign loving hand. He is using both the joy of growth and the pain of tragedy to only develop our hearts and mold our character, but also to keep us from sliding too far off of either side of these of these issues; growth can slide into comfort, laziness and ingratitude, and tragedy can result in despair, depression and hopelessness.

Pastor Lee Boehm and I were witnesses to see the blessing God gives in joy and tragedy in the lives of Alvin and Judi Schulz during our visit with them yesterday in Vancouver. In spite of the tragedy of a severed spine, they are rejoicing in God because of who He is and what He is doing in their own lives, and the lives of others. They both recognize that God has a glorious plan and purpose in the midst of their tragic circumstance. In observing them I thought of Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 6:10 where he reflects that we are to be people who in Christ should be known "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

John Piper mirrored a similar thought on his blog from August 27, 2008. Here it is:

The Strange Pair of Joy and Tragedy

Soren Kierkegaard said, “When the age loses the tragic, it gains despair.”

This sounds profoundly right.

The elements of life that make tragedy possible are the same as the ones that fight off despair. For tragedy to be real there has to be something hugely precious, and there has to be the capacity to feel a great emotion. When these are both present, tragedy can happen.

Despair is the horrible blankness that settles over us when nothing is seen as precious anymore and there is no capacity to feel it anyway.

As great as our tragedy may be, if we feel it to the full, it is a sign that the weapons against despair are still in place.

Often the gifts of God come in strange pairs. “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

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