I’m happy to be able to repost the following newsletter article by Pastor Jim Abernathy of the Westwood Baptist Church, Springfield, VA. I always appreciate Pastor Jim’s writing and this article in particular will make it clear why I look forward to his newsletters. As a matter of interest, Pastor Jim and I share a common “fanship” for the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team and the Washington Nationals baseball team. Go Cats and Nats. RMF
Navigating the Murky Waters of Human Confusion
By Pastor Jim Abernathy
I am often asked to help navigate the murky waters of human confusion. When questions of “why” and “how” are found in the same sentence with the Almighty, I rarely offer an answer that is completely satisfying, either to the one who inquires, or to myself. There is obviously something empowering in the confidence of an indisputable answer, but the complexity of our modern world, and the relationship we share by faith with the Creator God, often positions us in a place of mystery. This doesn’t imply that truth is negotiable nor does it ultimately threaten faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews defines faith as, “…the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1, CEB) That’s not exactly the irrefutable endorsement for the certainty we crave, that black and white answer that sets everything in its proper place…or is it?
Perhaps one by-product of the ever-changing landscape of human experience for the maturing Christian is the realization that finding answers may not be the greatest quest of this life’s journey. Such a statement should not be seen as anti-intellectual or resignedly fatalistic. Wisdom, maturity, and persistence in personal and corporate learning are laudable traits in scripture, bestowed by the Creator. Questions stirred by frustration, wonder, or confusion are therefore sparks that enable conversation that move us along this pathway of faith. Embracing the incarnate love of God at work in Jesus, the Christ, whose death and resurrection are the centerpiece of that “reality…we hope for,” mentioned in Hebrews 11:1, allows us to wander through difficult questions that are ever before us.
Closely associated with the questions of “why” and “how” is the question of, “where,” as in, “Where was God during…9/11, or the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, or the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, or when my father or mother or child, or grandchild died?” Perhaps the “where” is as important as the “why” or “how.” Here again is the assurance of what we do not see. The record of scripture is replete with assurances of God’s presence, often in the midst of uncertainty. The promise of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,” is echoed in the words of God in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” The promise then is not deliverance from every heartache or threat, but presence in the midst of heartache and threat, God’s presence.
I readily admit the challenge presented us in the great mysteries of faith. The questions of “why,” “how,” and “where” are legitimate in the context of our human stories. They cannot be easily explained or simply brushed over with the shallow axioms of religious-speak. But hope, the reality of the unseen, the example of God’s love in the incarnation of Christ, and the promised presence of God empower next step living, even in the murky waters of human confusion. For today, that is enough.