Heart in the Clouds

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts from a gurney...

While I was lying in the ER earlier this week, waiting for the doctor to figure out what manner of incredibly painful craziness was occurring in my kidneys, the person in the curtained room next to mine died. Over the next hour or so, I watched the person's loved ones file in. I heard sobbing. I heard praying. I heard laughter. I saw people hugging each other, smiling while wiping tears. I saw a woman on her knees on the floor, unable to stand in her grief. It made me wonder who this person was and what had caused their death. But less than 15 minutes after their loved ones left, the room had been cleared and cleaned, and there was a new person in the room, with an emergency of his own, waiting to be seen by the doctor. Life moves on, and how quickly its direction can change!

As I lay there after watching this situation unfold, I thought about the odd mixture of circumstances that have recently been visited on my life and the lives of people I care about. I thought about the ways I've seen God's hand working and the ways I may not have even looked for His hand, and it occurred to me that I generally seem to trust God pretty well except in a couple of specific areas.

Many of us have areas where we don't really trust that God is on our side. Maybe it's finances. Maybe it's relationships. Maybe it's a career. Maybe it's more vague or more specific, but everyone has something. If a person says they fully trust God in everything, they're lying.

The most faith-filled people I know have had many of their own moments of fear, anxiety and doubt.

That thought helps give me peace. None of us is "there" yet. I'm not less of a Christian because I have doubts or fears. Denying your doubt is the first step to becoming religious, and not in a good way (if there IS a good way). A real relationship with God means asking questions like a child. There's one question our little ones (and sometimes bigger ones) ask more often than any other...Why?

That's the human condition. We need to have a WHY behind everything. Why is the sky blue? Why are the clouds white? Why do innocent children die of starvation every day? Why do bad things happen to good people?

In Matthew 5, right after Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (yeah, I know), He says that the sun rises on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Great things happen to good and bad people. Terrible things happen to good and bad people. It's part of being human. In many ways, we are subject to our humanity. We are subject to the laws and desires of other people. There isn't always a WHY.

There are corrupt governments that withhold resources, funds and medical care from their people, causing widespread starvation and disease. There are people who plan to hijack airplanes and use them to kill as many people as they can. There are cells in our bodies that have the possibility of mutation and the ability to kill us. Being subject to all of those things is part of being human.

God doesn't promise us an easy path. The fact that we have faith doesn't make us exempt from life's ills. But having God means we have a hand to hold through the struggle--the hand of Someone bigger, stronger and so far beyond our timeline of mortality that we can have a peace that makes no sense. But He's not only far beyond our mortality, He's closer than our next breath. That's the comfort of knowing a loving God. He's here. Right here. He's behind us and in front of us and above us and below us.

I know He's here, even when I don't feel Him. I'm one of those people who can't look at the world and all the beauty and the creativity expressed in it and believe that it just "happened." I can't. I've tried. 

Life moves quickly and things can turn on a dime. One minute you're alive in the hospital, waiting to see an expert to tell you what's happening to you. The next minute your body shuts down and your loved ones come and go and grieve. The next minute your room is cleared and another person is lying in your bed, waiting for help. But the unconditional love of God is the blessed assurance that adds a layer of peace and permanence under all the craziness and the sense of impermanence.

Why did God send Jesus? He sent Jesus to be the answer to our questions and our fears. He came to show us that we are fully loved and accepted by our Creator, and all we have to do is believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus endured rejection, love, anxiety, joy, loneliness, persecution, pain and death so that you and I would have no reason to say that God hasn't been where we are or felt our pain. He has, and more. He endured all of those things, taking on humanity, because He loves US!

Using John Mark McMillan's words, Jesus is God's way of giving us a "sloppy, wet kiss" and of breaking the barrier that lay between God and man. The curtain that separated us from God was torn, allowing us to see His LOVE face-to-face in Jesus, the One who traded His life for ours. The fact that He destroyed all of those constraints on our humanity by his death is what gives us hope for a future. There are moments in life where all you can do is "wholly lean on Jesus' name," and you can do so with the confidence that comes from knowing you're loved and that He'll never let go.

So lying there on my gurney, I thought about all of these things, and I felt a sense of peace because I looked for it. For once, I looked for it.

If you're going through craziness right now, whether you're lying on a gurney or not, realize that there's a layer of God's peace somewhere under all of it. Look for it because it's there. Dig it up and drink it in. God is with you and you're not alone. Life is fleeting and it's hard, but God is good and there's hope beyond what we see now!


One of my favorite hymns was written by a man named Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters in a shipwreck. He wrote the lyrics as his ship was sailing over the spot where theirs had gone down. If you read the lyrics, you'll understand why it's one of my favorites. For a person who suffers with random bouts of anxiety, it's a good reminder that no matter what happens, God is with me and "it is well with my soul."

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
  2. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well, with my soul,
      It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  3. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  4. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  5. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  6. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  7. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

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