I don’t like walking into a room without any light. You know, pitch black. I will carefully and fully caress the walls around my entry point, searching for the light switch that makes navigating the room possible. And if children have been in the room before me, then I know there are toys and kid-built structures lurking that either I will break or which will hurt me when I step on them. Landmines.
If I have to go forward without light because I can’t find the switch, then I take on the “I am a shuffling ninja!”posture. I slide my feet as if ice-skating on the floor, wary of damaging plastic toys and little cars, and extend my arms as if Kato from the Pink Panther movies is about to attack. I go all kinds of crazy.
Yes, I am Peter Sellers—Inspector Clouseau—when the lights are out. Frankly, even when they’re on.
The truth is that everyday is like walking into a dark room of unknown danger, and there’s never enough light, never enough understanding or ninja skill to avoid pain. However, there is one thing, one amazing, better-than-anything-ever-invented piece of reality that you and I do get: God’s love. That keeps and enables us through it all. I’m serious.
In the last 24 hours here’s what I have encountered: a woman who is enduring the pain of having recently lost a twin in childbirth. She wonders, “Why me?” On the way home from a church gathering, I passed by a five car accident, and saw the pain of a woman holding her face with blood-stained hands. And she wonders, “Why me?” And just now I saw on the news that an amazing, one of a kind, rookie baseball pitcher, who came to the big leagues right out of high school, has torn the muscles and ligaments of his shoulder and will require immediate surgery. He will be kept out of baseball for 12-18 months, and it may well be that his career is over before it begins. You know he has to wonder, “Why me?”
We know that we will all meet with pain and stunned questioning throughout our days—there is no escaping it. Work as hard as we can, pray as hard as we might, and “Why me?” events will break through anyway. What will get you and me through all of it is God’s love. While a good attitude, a solid support group, and decent health care help in times of trouble, it has been and always will be knowing God’s love that makes noble conquerors out of victims.
Love is famously described in 1 Corinthians 13: love is patient and kind, it doesn’t envy or boast, it isn’t proud or rude, it isn’t self-seeking or easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, and it always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres—it never fails.
Be sure to notice that love described in the passage is not what we’re supposed to do; it’s not an assignment—Here’s how Christians should behave. That’s not it. This is a description of what love is. Love is wonderful! And love, God’s love, is most obvious, powerful and best known in calamity. Consider what the apostle Paul, the expert on calamity, wrote about God’s love in Romans 8. That’s the passage that describes what keeps us and makes us spectacular during the “Why me?” events of our days.
The apostle Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Look, there’s a lot about sorrow and suffering in the New Testament, some of which comes with the specific purpose that Jesus’ life—His loves and desires and feelings and abilities—may be revealed in us and through us (see 2 Corinthians 4:7-12). That’s an amazing reality and an incredibly honorable fact of our days in this age. Really! Christ in us. Him. And much of the stuff that goes on around us is getting at Him in us. But what keeps us secure and noble as we face death and are considered by some as “sheep to be slaughtered,” is knowing and trusting God’s love for us—especially, knowing it for yourself.
Wanting to know His love is the best desire and prize of my life. It shapes my days, channels my efforts and focuses my hopes in the midst of uncertain, dangerous and ugly times. God’s love—for me and for you—is my favorite benefit of having Him living in me right now. Frankly, I wish that after God first made His home in me in 1980, that His entrance meant I could figure out and avoid all of the ugly and painful pitfalls of my days. I have even attempted to employ angels and God Himself toward making my days entirely painless and free of “Why me?” events. That would be a life worthy of a major movie memorial, wouldn’t it? — “Ralph Harris: A man who motivated God to give him a pain free life.”
Unfortunately, I would have gone through this world’s not-so-painless death experience in order to get that title, so I think I’m giving up on it. Yeah. That’s not happening.
What is happening, however, is that I am growing in the joy, grace and purpose of God’s love for me. God’s love always affects the people who know it best. It won’t be hidden, it won’t be denied, and it won’t fail. Not ever.
And for this shuffling ninja, this stumbling man who is so loved, God’s love is the way forward. I suspect it’s yours, too.