Things actually started on Tuesday. Art, who is serving our country in Kuwait, hooked me up with WhatsApp. We made plans for him to join our men’s FHL group the following morning. Wednesday morning, checking on the Tiger’s late night game as I got up, the first thing I noticed was the score … and then I saw that the Tiger’s pitcher had thrown a no-hitter. At 6:30 a.m. WhatsApp worked like a charm for the entire hour we met.
The roll continued as the day went on, filling the early hours with productive and encouraging conversations, activities, and responses. As 2:00 p.m. eased past 3:00, I had a peaceful smile on my face. Sunday’s sermon was written, many ducks were pleasingly lined up, and I was enjoying a face-face catch-up conversation with a friend of nearly 45 years.
But then I was reminded very clearly that life is not all sunshine and roses, and that every moment we enjoy at that same moment there are other people who are hurting – just as every moment we are hurting there are others around us who are laughing and smiling. My final visit of the day was with a friend who lost his wife a year ago, in a very quick and tragic way. And before I reached home, I was informed that another friend’s son – who I also know very well – was diagnosed with cancer.
What’s Up?! Can’t I just live forever on an isolated island and never encounter difficulty again? Or build a mile-hedge so that no pain can find me? No, No, No – one hundred times no. There is no such island, just as there is no perfect panacea on this earth. Whether alone in the tropics or surrounded by the best of the best, troubles will still find us … and more importantly than that, running away from the problems of others is tantamount to running away from Jesus! What’s up with that?!
That is, of course, if one could really run away from Jesus. David acknowledges as much as he says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139.7-10)
What’s up with that? It sounds like good news to me … no matter where I venture geographically or emotionally, Jesus will be there. And he is with me, not to increase my pain, magnify my guilt, or push the punishment button. He is there simply to lead me and to hold on to me. David goes on to say, “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness Is as light to you.” (Psalm 139.12) Even in our darkest moments he is there – whether we sense it or not – holding us secure in his loving arms and leading us with his light into light.
And, as we become increasingly aware of his loving grip, we also recognize that he often leads us right into troubling situations and into the lives of troubled people? What’s up with that? Is our Savior pulling a fast “bait and switch” replacing a pseudo blessing with a curse? Hardly. Paul explains, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted my God.” (1 Corinthians 1.3-4) That’s what’s up! Neither isolated islands nor mile-high hedges are the cure. In fact hiding from troubles (either our own or those of others) generally has the opposite effect. Knowing this, Jesus, as he holds us in his comforting arms, leads us into the lives and troubles of other people, that we may be able to comfort them – no matter what’s up.