Earthly Problems and Eternal Promises

The new decade arrived with violent turbulence and waves of suffering,
sweeping across our world. Uncontainable wildfires breathe destruction in
Australia. Unexpected earthquakes shake the ground and shake the hope of the people in an already devastated Puerto Rico. Coronavirus lurks ominously in bodies, with the threat of spreading. Unfathomable grief surrounds a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter, and the other seven, valuable people who anticipated returning home to their families. 

Perhaps the beginning of this year has caused you to witness turbulent waves crashing on the shore a bit closer to home. A loved one passing away. The
dreadful phone call from a friend or relative confirming that the cancer diagnosis is positive. A stack of bills that is growing larger, while funds to pay them seem to be growing smaller. The declining health of yourself or of someone in your household. 

Painful news is near and far and our world is hurting deeply. Humans, animals, trees, and all of creation are groaning in unison- releasing a desperate cry for help and hope.  

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my
bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?”(Psalm 6:2-3).

In the midst of bleak circumstances, I am cultivating the practice of finding
the lesson in everything. There may not always be beauty in the bleak, but there is always a lesson. 2020 is revealing the lesson that earthly problems are inevitable. But for every earthly problem, there is an eternal promise.

Here are three eternal promises that we can lean on when earthly problems
appear to be drowning us:

[1] The problem: Uncontrollable suffering is happening all around us.
The promise: Control can be surrendered to the one who is equipped to
handle it. 

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
were created through him and for him. And he is before all things,
and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

We did not place the sun in the sky, nor did we hang the moon. We did not
breathe life into the lungs of the human race. We do not order day and night
to fall at their appointed times. We cannot create the brilliant hues of a sunset
or the rhythmic pattern of rainfall. We cannot will a person into existence
or will ourselves to exist on this earth forever.

Creation belongs to him. It obeys his orders, answers his calls, and yields to 
his eternal timeline. How can we try to control systems that we did not
create? We were designed to loosen our grips in surrender and pass the
weight of the world into the hands of the one who holds the world in
his palms. Release a sigh of relief as you consider that the functionality
of the world does not depend on us. God doesn’t need our help. Each
story of suffering illuminates the reality that God is God and we are not.
He sits on the throne- sovereign and all knowing. We journey on the earth
– little people with limited perspective. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,    neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

[2] The problem: Pain is a part of the human experience of every person born
into this world.
The promise: God will provide comfort, as we draw near to him with
broken hearts. 
When pain pierces our hearts, we can’t help but feel as if it is unfair. Forgetting
that we live in a fallen world leads us to a sense of entitlement, believing  that
we all deserve to live a life that is void of deep pain or discomfort. This attitude is contrary to what we observe in scriptures. God’s word reveals that pain is a promised part of our human experience. 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world
you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”
(John 16:33).

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test
you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar
as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when
his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

In these scriptures, the bad news (promise of pain) is followed by the good
news about why we can have hope (promise of Jesus). God whispers the
reminder that we will have trouble, but he has overcome.God whispers the
reminder that we should not be surprised when we are tested by trials, 
but glory awaits us. 

Relatable stories of loss and pain fill the pages of the Bible -loss of
possessions, people, physical abilities, expectations, faith, and hope. These
stories were not included in the Bible by chance. Our God is an intentional
God who made sure that these stories of hardship would be beautifully and strategically woven into the text. The God who formed our very bodies knows that we gain encouragement through the testimonies of ordinary brothers and sisters who experienced deep pain and received extraordinary comfort, through it all.

“…he 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 by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

The life of the Believer is not distinguished by lack of pain, but rather,
the assurance of comfort.

It is knowing that God’s light and love overshadow life’s letdowns. It is
knowing God’s promises overshadow life’s problems. It is knowing that God’s blessings overshadow life’s burdens.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these
things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure
that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor
things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus
our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

[3] The problem: Life on this earth is unpredictable.
The promise: This world is not our home. Heaven awaits us. 
It is in unexpected moments that we begin to ponder the meaning of life. Is the pain and suffering worth it? Does it have meaning? And if it does, why is it so hard to find? If our earthly lives were altogether lovely, we would never long for our eternal lives. 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into
man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

If we could place complete hope in earthly things or people, would we
willingly choose to place hope in God? If people never hurt us or never passed away, we would cling to our loved ones for eternal hope. If possessions could never be destroyed, we would cling to our things for eternal hope. If pleasures were not temporary, we would cling to fun moments and memories for eternal hope. If we could be altogether “good” and void of fault or sin, we would cling to ourselves for eternal hope. The very realization that earthly things cannot fully satisfy is what leads us to crave a taste of something eternal that can.

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the
will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin
destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures
in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break
in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the
Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

My friend, I am not diminishing your pain and suffering. I know that it cuts
deep down to the core. I’ve been there. I want to give you a big hug, grab your hands tightly, and pray with you. I am here to remind you, as the old hymn says, to “build your hope on things eternal and hold to God’s unchanging hand.” Because in a world plagued by earthly problems, we can fight the good fight of faith and grab hold of eternal promises. These promises will be the fuel that keeps us moving forward when we feel like we are stalling out. These truths will remain, when all else has been lost. 

“The grass withers, the flower fades,    but the word of our God will stand
forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Every bit of this earthly life is directing our gaze upward, so that we can lift our eyes to the glory of the eternal one. 

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.


Simone G.          

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