Another Year Older
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Last week I celebrated my 40th birthday, but it was a bittersweet celebration. See, as I was celebrating my birthday, I was mourning the death of two friends. The passing of my friends could not have been more different. One, a 20-year-old former student whose life was cut short due to addiction. The second, a former co-worker who retired just over a year ago. She lived a healthy life and only ten months ago was given a clean bill of health and yet just months later she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took her life.
On the night of my 40th birthday, after trick-or-treating, I tucked my kids in bed, and as I did, I couldn’t help but think about how fragile life is. As I snuggled with my children I thought about the words of Job, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Despite what has gone on during the day, every night when I tuck my kids into bed I look at them, and I thank God for the gift that they are in my life. I know that they do not belong to me, but to God, but it is my job to protect, love, and guide them as long as they are under my care.
In light of all of this on Sunday night at youth group, we were talking about doubt. The question we discussed was “Is it okay to doubt God?” Some students said “yes,” and some said “no” so a discussion ensued. In our discussion, we talked about the difference between questioning God and doubting God, and are they the same?
As I have been pondering the difference, I realized that despite the recent events, my faith in God hasn’t changed. God is still my hope and my strength. However, I don’t have to like events that happen in life. It is okay to ask God why? Why does a 20-year-old have to die? Why does someone who just recently retired and was planning on enjoying retirement have to die? Why do 26 people in Texas who were attending church have to be killed? Why?
If you are one that believes that God is the cause of these events and others like them, I can understand how you might doubt the existence of God. However, pain and suffering was never God’s plan. The plan was that everything was “good” but then sin and suffering entered the picture. During our discussion, I was reminded that even in the moment that Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the middle of the garden and they realized they were naked, God loved them so much that he provided clothing for them. After Cain kills his brother, God puts a mark of protection on him so that no one will harm him. Even in our worst moments, God’s love is there. We look and see how God, despite his actions, protected Cain, but we are left with the question, what about his brother Abel, whom he killed? Where was God’s protection for him?
Bad things happen in the world, and it seems like there is more and more bad things happening each day, yet that was not God’s plan. God did not want pain and suffering in the world, yet it has become part of our daily lives. Of the 150 Psalms in the Bible, 65 of them are considered Psalms of lament. One third are Psalms that cry out to God from times of grief and crises, “why?” Despite not ever having a response from God, most end in a similar fashion to Psalm 13, “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” I hope.
Each year as I turn another year older, I am reminded of my own mortality. I am reminded that each day is precious, every moment is fading, and every breath could be my last. In those moments I am reminded of the important things in life, the things that truly matter. It is funny that the things we often put so much time and effort into like work, school, and sports, don't mean as much as loving and being loved. As I get older, I realize more each day that the love I share and the love I experience can only be done in the light of my relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Life is fragile. Life is a short. Life is a gift given to us by God. It is too short to live with hate and fear, so I choose to love. I choose to live life in the hope that is in Jesus Christ, who told us to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And to love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is ok to be angry and to be sad. It is ok to ask God, “Why?” But it is also important to remember that our hope comes from the Lord, who came to the earth out of love, and died so that we might live. Let us not waste another moment in fear or hate, but live and love, so that when our time on earth comes to an end, people might know God, through the love of Christ that we lived out in our lives.