King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” Mark 6:14
Friends, I feel like I have been learning so much! And this passage, that is next in my study of Mark, goes right along with what I am learning.
It’s horrible that John the Baptist was put to death in this way. I mean, he did so many good things, he was totally focused on serving God, and his reward was to get his head chopped off!
Why does God allow such things to happen?
I’ve been thinking about this lately. Why does God allow us to go through tough situations? On one level we know that life is hard, and there will be challenging times. But on the other hand, we struggle when they happen to us.
On the cross, Jesus prayed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
And that is what we all ask when we go through trials, “God, why are you allowing me to suffer like this? I thought you loved me. Where are you?”
It’s funny, because I think I’m a good Christian. I think I know how to have the right attitude in suffering. I apply verses like I would take ibuprofen, and they dull the pain for awhile. But deep down, I’m still angry.
And now I’m realizing that I’m still angry because I haven’t wrestled it through with God. I haven’t been completely honest with him. I tell myself that my struggle is due to situations or people. But my struggle is really with God.
So last week, I got down on my knees and dug through my heart in prayer.
I uncovered layers of hidden thoughts and emotions, and bared them to God. I realized what I was really feeling was, “God, I’ve been trying so very hard to do all the right things. Why do I have to deal with this? It feels wrong.” It wasn’t just that I didn’t like dealing with what was going on. It was that I felt like I shouldn’t have to go through it because of my constant striving to be what I should be.
Once I saw that, I could feel the Spirit begin to respond to the question with the answer, “Because I am God. I will do what I will do, and I don’t have to give a reason. It is not your right to be free of this struggle.”
Ken and I just just took a little vacation trip down to Jacksonville to see his dad and stepmom.
It gave us a good chance to talk in the car. It was Father’s Day, and we were discussing how many people attribute their emotional angst to wounds they received from their relationship with their dad. Ken said that while he knows his father wasn’t perfect and this has an affect on him, he sees much more that he, himself, made bad choices, and suffers the consequences of those choices.
I told him that the difference between me and him is that when I look at myself, I don’t see all the bad choices I’ve made (although I know there are there) as much as I see how hard I’ve tried hard to make a lot of good choices. So it’s easy for me to get resentful or even blame someone when things go wrong. Why would it be my fault?. I was trying hard. I was doing good.
What a Pharisee I am!!! Pride in doing the right thing is every bit as destructive as it is to do the wrong thing. It’s deceptive. It keeps me from taking personal responsibility. It makes me feel entitled. It opens me up to become paralyzed by anger for long periods of my life.
“In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” Ps. 36:2
Pride keeps me from being able to deal with the worst. I think I have my armor on. I think I’m ready. But Satan always manages to hit me with that one thing I didn’t anticipate, that one thing that strikes me where I am most vulnerable, that one thing that I’m sure God shouldn’t allow to happen.
And there’s that word that becomes a stumbling block for prideful people like me: “shouldn’t.” As soon as I think God “shouldn’t” do something, I’m in trouble, because I start thinking I know better than God.
God is God. It’s not for us to question or criticize. All through the Bible we see how he protected his people, but also sometimes allowed the worst to happen. John the Baptist was beheaded. Herod had all of the boys aged 2 and younger to be slaughtered. James the apostle was executed by the sword.
“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.” Hebrews 11:35-37
I’ve been reading church history. It amazes me and appalls me how many people died over the course of history for their faith. It didn’t just happen in the early church, with the Romans. It didn’t just happen during the reformation, when Catholics killed Protestants, and vice versa. There is a copious trail of blood ALL through the history of Christianity. People of faith were always killing other people of faith who had different beliefs. .
Why would God allow his people to go through this? We’re back to the question again.
One thing we do begin to see is that see that we’re not a special case. If people all through ages endured this, how can we feel entitled to be exempt from suffering? Let’s face the fact that God sometimes allows bad stuff to happen to others, and to us, things that wound us, things that seem wrong and make us feel abandoned.
And when the bad stuff does happen, our job is to wrestle through it with God.
“Not one thing in your life is more important that figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.” (Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way)
We need to fight that battle in prayer to figure it out. Figure out how to let our light shine when the world is dark and broken. How to face hardship with integrity instead of bitterness, anger, avoidance or self medication. How to live out the cross.
I’ve been fighting that battle, and I’m finding that the battle makes me dig deeper to find peace, joy and affirmation in HIM, and not in my efforts to do the right thing.
I really don’t understand why God allows us to go through tough situations. I have verses I could quote that would be a partial answer.
But this much I do know: the more Satan tries to shut us down, the more we find regeneration in Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. . .
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! II Cor 4:7-10, 16-17