[This week, a new feature … a video version of my blog, or my vlog 😎 ]
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most amazing sports moments I think I’ve ever seen. Anthony “Spud” Webb, with the Atlanta Hawks but originally from Texas, was participating in the annual NBA slam dunk contest, which on its face isn’t a particularly big deal. That is, until you consider that Spud Webb was 5’7” tall. One of the smallest players ever to play pro basketball and definitely one of the smallest participants in the slam dunk contest. Despite his diminutive stature, Spud Webb beat his teammate to win the 1986 NBA slam dunk contest. Talk about an incredible athlete! It’s one thing to be 5’7” and play in the NBA, let along to be able to dunk a basketball when he can’t even palm the ball, let alone be able to WIN the slam dunk contest! It makes you wonder about athletes of that caliber … how do they do it?
Do you ever wonder how people do some of the amazing, crazy, miraculous things they do? We see some incredible talent, or feats of strength, balance or endurance in our world. At times it’s almost impossible to believe they can do whatever it is we see them do. It’s like, “How can they possibly do that? I could NEVER do that!” And in most respects it’s probably true. If I were 5’7” like Spud Webb, I can assure you that I couldn’t dunk a basketball … given that I’m 6’1” and could never do it.
Think about some of the amazing accomplishments we’ve heard or seen people do. I don’t know how they do it and there’s no way that I could. That thought rattled around in my brain as I read this past week through Isaiah 5 – 34, Amos 1 – 9, 2 Chronicles 27 – 31, 2 Kings 16 – 18, Hosea 1 – 14, Psalms 48, and Micah 1 – 7. Specifically, when I read Amos 8:11-13 …
“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day, thirsting for the Lord’s word.
Reading through the prophecy God laid upon Amos’s heart and through Amos’s words gave me a bit of a shiver. Essentially, God is saying to Israel, “okay, you don’t want to listen to my words, how about if I just take my words away?” I can’t imagine how the Israelites could manage to go on for a single moment, let alone a prolonged time, not hearing the word of God or having God residing and presiding over them. It begged the question … how do (did) they do it?
To me, the same is true about how people can go through the hardships and challenges in life without the Lord in their life. Honestly, it’s not really all that long ago that I was in those shoes. Going through the ups and downs of life without hearing – that is, being willing to hear – from God is a dismal, depressing, dark reality. I guess what’s all the more dismal, dark, and depressing about it is not knowing it.
On the one hand, I used to fool myself into thinking that I was free to do whatever I wanted without having the accountability to anyone else, God included. Yet on the other hand, there was nothing free about it. Frankly, I wasn’t free, I was bound. Bound to choices and a life that had no context, no backdrop, no foundation to rely on in order to feel any protection or safety from the potential ramifications of my choices. Worse yet, the tough situations in my life – without the knowledge of a benevolent, loving, all-knowing God – were no more than a product of absolute randomness and unfortunate luck. Horrific.
We have a really dear friend going through a radically challenging diagnosis of brain cancer. It’s the type that doctors say gives someone a life expectancy of 18 to 24 months. As we talked about her ordeal and her incredibly positive perspective, strength – and the fact that she’s going to kick her cancer’s butt – we marveled, understandably, at how so many people go through disease, trials, turmoil, tragedy, etc., without God at their helm. How do they do it? I wish I could tell you. I truly don’t know.
Because our friend has been a follower of Christ for so long there’s a “one way or another,” sense she and her husband have about her current season. That is, they have conviction that one way or another, God is at work. Whether or not she truly kicks her cancer’s butt, they know that one way or another they can trust God. Somehow, God has a plan, God is using her diagnosis, God is working in and through them. This is NOT to say that they are all fine and dandy with this gnarly brain cancer, because that’s not real life. They have sadness, fear, confusion, anger, and all the other emotions God created us with, and which every one of us as normal humans would experience. However, they know that they know the God who created not just the universe but everything in it, including people, bodies, brains, cells, DNA, and everything else. So maybe He will heal her through doctors and treatment, or maybe He will heal her miraculously, or maybe He won’t. In the face of that harshest of realities, our friends stand tall, nose to nose with their reality, confident that they are where they’re supposed to be, dead center in the bullseye of our loving and sovereign God’s will. That’s how they do it.
Friends, if you’re going through the tough stuff of life, and you’re trying to do it without a relationship with Jesus, I have to wonder how in the world you can do it. I honestly do not think it’s possible. The God I know, follow, and trust gives me assurance that He’ll never leave us, fail us or abandon us (Joshua 1:5). That God wants you to know the same thing. He is the Foundation, He is the Context, He is the Reason. Of and for everything. Yeah, I realize that means the bad stuff as well as the good stuff, but in all honesty I can’t imagine the bad stuff without Him or the good stuff without Him. He understands, controls, ordains all that happens to us … and it’s all – whether we understand it or not – a direct result of His unimaginable, unquantifiable, unconstrainable, and unconditional love.
Soli Deo gloria!