I hear the sentiment "How could God let this happen?" whenever a tragedy happens. Columbine, 9/11, Oklahoma City Bombing and now Newtown. That frustrates me so. How could He prevent it? How many of us turn to Him in the midst of our every day joy? How many of us turn to Him in our time of need? How many of us get up each morning and say a prayer for Him to guide us through all that which is in store for us on this day.
Look at it this way. In the beginning there was only one, a man and here's what happened. God said to him, eat from any tree in the garden, except that one. Genesis 2:16-17 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die." Except that ONE, Adam heard Him say it. Here's a garden of trees, full of fruit, ready to nourish you and I tell you to eat of them, enjoy them, please just don't eat the fruit of that one tree. It's your choice which fruit you eat, how much you eat, when you eat and why you eat that which you choose for the day. I just ask that you refrain from eating of this one tree, that's all.
God also says it is not good for man to be alone and after much thought creates woman. God leaves man and woman to their FREE WILL and goes back to His duties. Now, let me ask you this. Why did He not prevent the following then? Genesis 3:1-6 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Ah, yes, if He can prevent anything from happening, why not that? Why not prevent the first sin, the first time man and woman fail to do as He asks, why "let" the serpent trick His precious creation? Because with the first words He spoke He gave man FREE WILL, "You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden..." Yes, I take this discussion very seriously.
God did not breathe life into the man and directly tell him, you may eat of this tree on Monday, sweep the pathway on Tuesday, water the flowers on Wednesday and so forth. He gave man free will to tend and watch over the garden in the way the man saw fit. God believed in man, believed in his ability to make wise choices and in order for man to make those choices, God blessed him with freedom and a brain. Need more proof that God immediately blessed man with a mind of his own? Genesis 2:19-20 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. See, we already made it back to the freedom thing, God let man name the creatures, every single one, God didn't do it, didn't tell man what to call the creatures, God simply created and trusted man to manage the rest.
Okay, so back to the forbidden fruit. Even then, in those early days of creation man and woman couldn't help but want that which they couldn't have. Genesis 3:6a The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. Smooth talking and convincing got through to the woman that the forbidden fruit wouldn't kill her, but give her wisdom and knowledge of right and wrong. She quite likely had no clue what that even meant but just the same longed to have it. We've all heard the phrase, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." Is this where the phrase began? I'm serious, Genesis 3:6b So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. Think about it, he didn't question her, making sure the fruit she was giving him was from the appropriate trees, he just accepted and ate it. We are still the same way, surrounded by advertising, media and peer pressure that says "this is acceptable", "this is normal", and "everyone else is doing it" so we can hardly help ourselves but to do it as well. Think of all the things that we try and willingly accept because it was recommended. Exactly like Adam when Eve handed him the forbidden fruit, we simply accept and consume because surely whatever we're given is always given to us with our best interests in mind.
This is where we are falling into brokenness. Instead of establishing our values and morals upon Biblical principals we are constantly bombarded with the ways of the world. In turn if you don't "accept" the ways of the world you're being intolerant, close-minded and even prejudicial. We are born as imperfect, broken human beings into a world of chaos and distress. As a parent it is my responsibility to raise my child into a responsible, caring, giving and serving individual. It is also my responsibility to teach them that even though we are broken and sinners we are loved and forgiven. God has given me a list of commandments that He holds most important and it is my best interests to follow these commands. These commands are not outdated and antiquated but the are still a standard in which we should treat and hold our family, friends and neighbors accountable. We are faced with a million obstacles in life that make us who we are, I see these obstacles as the crosses we've been given to bear. The crosses we bear in life are not excuses to live by but reasons to live on. Live on, because you don't even have to bear the crosses in your life alone, God is always willing to take it upon himself for you. Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Your Father doesn't want you lost and burdened, He wants you to turn to Him and let Him guide you through this broken world.
These crosses we bear, sins we commit and pain we face is where we fail each other. We accept that which is around us in abundance is what we should also want and do. We instinctively know the difference between right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, where we all differ is how we view these differences. This is why I'm praying for you today. I pray that the next time you see someone you know and say the standard "hi, how are you" to them that you pause long enough to look them in the face and see if their "pretty good, you?" response is an honest one. In turn if someone does the same to you and you're not "pretty good" then please don't say you are. If your day has been rough, say so, we all end up there at some point and need to be heard when we're crying and broken. The other problem is we live in a "me" world and it's easy to look around and think that everyone else has it together and "I'm" the only one that doesn't when in all honesty the reality is quite likely the opposite. Know that we're all broken, we're all hurting sometimes and we all need to know someone cares. So rather than point a finger at guns and mental illness when tragedies occur, see the fingers on your own hand that are pointed back at you and ask yourself what you can do in your own neighborhood to prevent another one.
God gave us all free will to use as we see fit. We are still living in the "garden of Eden" only it has developed into December 2012 and it is our responsibility to tend this land we are on. It is our responsibility to come together as a community, taking care of each other, helping each other and serving each other. Does a nation come together in celebration at the end of a beautiful December day? Does a community come together in awe of a rainbow? Does a family come together in joy over a meal at the dinner table? These are the beautiful things that God blesses us with regularly but do we notice and rejoice over them as we should? We usually keep on going, caught up in our own little worlds, focusing on tomorrow before today even ends. How many parents hugged their children tighter and made sure to share kisses good-night with their families last Friday? Did they do that Thursday night in the midst of "normal"? The real problem with tragedy is that we have to face one in order to be thankful for all that we have. God knows the number of our days before we are even born, of each and every single one of us. No matter if you are blessed with 95 years, 32 years, 6 years, 5 weeks, 2 days or even just hours of life, they are the ultimate gift God has given you and your loved ones. If you had known the way these lives would end would you sacrifice even knowing these lives?
We choose to make each day everything that it is. We choose, not God, every step we take and the direction we go. Here is my prayer for you, starting today and every day I pray this for you. I pray that you can go forward today not wondering at how God could let this tragedy happen but that you forge ahead living and loving more passionately because of it. I pray that you see not the pain in the tragedy but the blessing in the love that pours out afterward. I pray that you hug the friend with sad eyes, even if they say they're doing "pretty good" because you know that there is more to life than just words spoken in casual conversation. I pray that your neighbor takes notice when you're struggling with what life has tossed your way and reaches out to hold your hand in that time of need. I pray that you see the wonder and glory of God when you're knocked to your knees with no air in your lungs and yet you know He is hearing every word you're crying out. I pray that you can feel how truly close to Him you are when you're kneeling there at His feet. I pray that you know that you are never alone, your Father is beside you, I am thinking of you and you are, without question, absolutely loved in all your beautiful imperfection. (I know that you are because I know that I am.) I pray that you feel in your heart that you and your story has value, impact and power in this world. I pray that you use that amazing power to share your Father's love, absolutely amazing love, to all those you touch every day. I pray that you believe everything I have written here, whether I know your name or not, I love you and appreciate the impact you leave on my life. Most importantly I pray that you go and be the change you want to see in this world. That truly is how to change this world, start right there at home, within the walls that you exercise your amazing and beautiful free will.
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Deo Volente - NMV