I recently spent some time with a young woman who has seen her share of life’s troubles. Even though she was sort of involved in church as a young person, she had never really heard how much God loved her before she met a neighbor who told her about Jesus. As a result of her conversations with her neighbor, she became very interested in learning more.
At her request, I was privileged to enter into their spiritual conversation. When I told her that the Bible is an unfolding story of God’s work to reach out in love and restore relationships with those who have turned away from Him, she was amazed. When I told her that the gospel tells how God wants to enfold her in His story, she was utterly astounded. The essence of our exchange which followed is:
“God wants a relationship with me?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “God wants a relationship with you. And, there is no telling who God will use you to share His story with.”
She was in shock. Tears welled up in her eyes. She then said, “I want to know more about this story.”
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to our next meeting when I hope to share more of the story of God’s great love for her.
As I drove back to my office, I began to reflect on the many things she has experienced in her relatively short life. In my estimation, it appears that she has seen more trouble than most people twice her age. And, yet, as I navigated the busy streets I could still see her in my mind’s eye sitting across the table from me listening intently to every word. I really think that she was imagining herself fitting into God’s story for the first time in her life. She has a long ways to travel, in my estimation, but her journey has begun.
As I reflect on this young person’s life, I’m reminded of a story that first crossed my desktop years ago. Unfortunately, I do not know the source. It is a story about an old Hebrew rabbi. The message seems so appropriate that I’d like to share it with you:
An old rabbi was compelled by persecution to wander far from his native land. Other than the clothes he wore and the Jewish Scriptures he carried, his only possessions were a lamp by which he studied the Scriptures and a donkey upon which he rode.
Late one evening, after a long day’s travel, he came to a village and there sought shelter. The villagers refused him lodging. The only shelter he could find was inside a well-curbing at the edge of the village. Making the best of his situation he lit his lamp and began to read from the Scriptures. But a violent wind arose and blew out his lamp and all his efforts to relight it failed.
Unable to read he lay down to sleep. But his rest was disturbed by the roar of a lion. He aroused himself and, looking up in horror, he saw a lion seize his donkey and drag it into the underbrush. By this time the poor rabbi was beside himself with grief over his losses. He tried to pray to God, but complaints over his misfortunes, rather than prayers, escaped from his lips. Finally, in exhaustion the poor rabbi fell into a deep sleep.
The first rays of morning sun awakened him to a shocking sight. On the streets and in the huts of the village lay the evidence that a band of vicious marauders had swept through the village during the night. They left only death and destruction in their wake.
As he surveyed the carnage, he began to understand. If the villagers had received him, he would have been numbered among the robbers’ victims. If the wind had not blown out his lamp, the robbers would have seen it and found him. If his donkey had not been killed, it might have betrayed him, as well. Thus, he painfully learned that deliverance sometimes comes through losses.
My best judgment is that this is just a story—one of those moral stories designed to reinforce the idea that there may be a greater good that arises, even out of the bad things that happen in our lives. Looking beyond the here-and-now and thinking about life with an eye towards eternity, causes me to realize that spiritual deliverance is offered to us, but only through a loss. That loss was the death of the one and only Son of God. His loss is our salvation. Therefore, let us look above and move beyond life’s troubles and see the eternal good that God holds out to each one who calls on the name of the Lord. If we can get our minds around this idea, I’m convinced it will give every day of the rest of our lives greater meaning and purpose. What do you think?
© Bill Williams, September 14, 2006