Repost: Giving Thanks in Spite of and As a Result of Many Trials

In light of yesterday's horrific tragedy in Connecticut, I am reposting something I wrote about four years ago on the depth of human suffering and the different ways we can respond to it. May God have mercy on us all.


November 23, 2008: Giving Thanks in Spite of and As a Result of Many Trials

The longer I live, the more aware I am of the great depravity of
mankind, the deep wounds sin inflicts on its victims, and the ways in
which I participate in all this as both sinner and sinned against. In
the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to offer two analogies by which I
understand the role of suffering in the believer's journey.

First, consider your world to be a bubble, within which you understand
how things work. Every so often, tragedy pierces that bubble, and you
are forced towards one of three outcomes. You can let all the air
seep out, and think the whole world a chaotic mess either governed by
a God who isn't all-powerful or all-loving, or else not governed by
any sort of god at all. You can feverishly rebuild that bubble,
reinforcing it against future piercings but simultaneously closing
yourself off to new experiences. Or you can let God build you a
bigger bubble, big enough to include that painful piercing and still
have room to accept His goodness and love. If you let God get you to
door number three, the direct effect of the piercing is a bigger
bubble, and a bigger view of God.

Second, consider your life journey as a series of promotions from the
minor leagues to the major leagues. Along the way, you face stiffer
and stiffer competition, and it is easy to wonder if you are up for
the challenge. So I believe God sends us trials that remind us of how
stiff the competition truly is. We can get numbed by our comfortable
religious lives into thinking that life is all about walking a
relatively straight path, staying out of trouble, and doing a few good
deeds along the way. The Bible describes a far more significant
journey, one fraught with enemies far fiercer than we can stand on our
own, and one far narrower and windy than we'd like to imagine. But as
we pass each level, we are strengthened in our spirit, not because of
our might and wit, but because our God has proven Himself up for each

A deeper experience of the unspeakable evil things people can do to
others, of the terrible hurts endured by far too many, and of the ways
in which we too are guilty of and damaged by sinning (others' and our
own) can make for a contentious fork in our roads. We can go
backwards, to simpler times; or off the path altogether, cynical that
God is powerful or good in all this. Or we can go boldly forward, our
dependence on and thanksgiving for God all the more bolstered by many
piercings and stiffer competition, our awe of God deepened by the
rock-solid fact that for every new fearsome thing that comes our way,
He is yet bigger. This season, through whatever you are struggling
with, whether sinning or sinned against, whether hurting yourself or
hurting for the hurts of others, I pray you'll go boldly forward, with
thanksgiving in your heart in spite of, and as a result of, many

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