As a full-time working mom of three boys, there’s a sacred few times a week I’m able to put down the laptop, bust out the guacamole and happily float off for an hour of blessed entertainment. I usually run to the Roku with the giddiness of a child at Disney’s gates. A recent Saturday night was no different as I buckled up for the latest season of my favorite show, Nashville. However, my joy quickly turned to sorrow as I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the very unexpected loss of country queen, Rayna James. She was shockingly killed off by the team of writers-turned-assassins who thought it would be a good idea to exterminate an actress I’ve loved ever since she became a UN ambassador ... and publically refused to Botox away her hard-won laugh lines. I heart you, Connie Britton.
Although I was legitimately sad so see my favorite character written off, the tears also streamed for a bit more serious reason: a scene in her funeral when the characters questioned, “Why do bad things happen here?” ... “I don’t know,” they said.
Anyone, believer or non-believer, going through serious pain has said this. Totally natural. What struck me though, is how wrongly we sometimes view life here on Earth, even as Christians. It may sound pessimistic without biblical context, but my answer to confusion over why bad things happen is, “Why on Earth do good things happen?" We live in a world where power over everything was literally given to the enemy. Sickness, evil, greed, and self-absorption have run rampant since sin entered the world in Eden. The Bible says there’ll be many trials and sorrows in this life (John 16:33 NLT). Most everyone in the Bible had trials and suffered loss, even though they were called and blessed by God. David, Moses, Paul, Ruth, Joseph, and Daniel suffered loss and heartache, and all of Jesus' friends were eventually killed for their belief. Hard to complain about the irritatingly loud neighbors in the light of that truth.
I believe so much disappointment, disillusionment, and confusion over God’s goodness stems from a misguided expectation that life should be easy, pain-free, and fair. I can’t find any evidence of this in the Bible. What he does promise is that He’ll be with us, comfort and provide for us, lead us and protect us when we go through the valley—not float over it in our newly leased SUV’s.
I think so many of us miss out on the freedom and joy Jesus promises, because we’ve come to undervalue or appreciate ... Him. I know this topic is a bit heavy for a story that started out with a woman huffing rice chips in the glow of her Hulu screen, but that scene really made me grieve for how much joy and satisfaction we miss in life by under-valuing the gift of our salvation.
Of course we get frustrated with dashed hopes and failed ventures. We mourn losses of life, relationships, unanswered prayers ... and pain hurts. God understands. He promises to be closest to the broken-hearted and gives extra comfort to those who suffer. But it’s when we continually feel disappointed in others, like we’ve been unfairly treated, and find it difficult to worship Him, there’s a problem that God wants to solve.
If we honestly believe that in order to go to heaven we need a whole-hearted, authentic relationship with Jesus, and contemplate how many of those in our life don’t, how could we not live life every day in total gratitude and awe that we’ve found Him? It should be a perpetual reality in our hearts that defines our approach to life here.
Of course we’ll have favor, blessings, and wonderful experiences on Earth, because God promises abundant life. He wants us to live fully, achieving dreams and goals, and enjoying family and friends. He never stops working for the greatest good. But this is all just frosting on the cake compared to knowing Him.
If we live in the truth that despite our circumstances or surroundings, God is good, and loves us intimately, it should be more difficult, than easy, to feel negative and question when things go wrong. I can’t even imagine how disappointing life must be without His presence. I’m typing this at the Department of Motor Vehicles with two toddlers sneezing for the past 90 minutes. Life would be rough.
This truth should leave us feeling hopeful and liberated, not guilty. Life can be difficult. It’s so easy to feel disappointed, frustrated, and lose hope in this life when we’re not "pressing in" enough with our relationship with Jesus. I have totally been there, going through plateaus and valleys with my walk with Him. But our relationship is a journey, and the more we know and trust him, the less we’ll be affected by this world. When our security and happiness are derived more from Him, the "bad things" affect us less, and good things are just extra great blessings we enjoy because of grace and his goodness.
So after much resistance, I forgive you CMT, for taking away my weekly time with Rayna James and a show I have sadly boycotted. I have Jesus. That’s enough. But dang, I’ll miss her.