I didn’t know what to say except, "I’m so sorry." There we were, standing in my doorway with tears streaming down her face and a look of confusion that asked a hundred questions in an instant. She told me she discovered her boyfriend of several years had suddenly left the country to be with another girl he had met over the Internet. After sharing a brief hug, I listened to the frustration, pain and confusion of a heart freshly broken. She’s already been through so much, why is this happening to her? I wondered. I knew she was going through a lot already because only a few days previous to this one, she told me about a letter she received in the mail informing her she was being sued for more than $2 million.
Perhaps now one can see why I didn’t know what to say to her. Life indeed is not as simple or painless as we often portray it to be to others in our church foyers or when we bump into an acquaintance in the grocery store. While we live in this broken, fallen, pain-filled world, sometimes life just really sucks. And there’s no hiding it—the 11 o’clock news is daily proof.
One of the oldest questions ever asked and wrestled with has been, "How can a good God allow evil to exist?" With all the heartbreak, starvation, genocide and lawsuits colliding with the daily lives of people around the world, I know I’m inadequate to offer explanations as to why things are exactly the way they are. Yes, our separation from God that began in the Garden of Eden is at the root of the problem. Yet it seems there is this mysterious tension between what we were intended for and the way things are now; this “human predicament” can’t fully be explained or solved … by us.
It seems however that there is a growing popularity within the North American Christian culture to forsake the idea that many things in life will be a mystery to us and instead, adopt (seemingly) predictable methods of solving life’s problems. If there is any kind of book I’m suspicious of, it’s the kind that tells us our lives can be improved one way or another if we just follow, for example, "seven easy steps." Yesterday I made a search in an online Christian book distributor using the keyword: "step." Within minutes, I had counted nearly 50 books that offered solutions to life’s problems if only specific steps were followed.
Do you have a $16 thousand college debt (or a $2.5 million lawsuit)? Don’t worry; there are only X-number steps to financial liberty. Do you have issues with intimacy? No problem, there are a few steps to follow until you can truly experience it. Apparently there are only a few steps to discovering the answer to the question it seems nearly every twentysomething these days is wondering and feels pressure to figure out—and quick: "What is God’s will for my life?"
With the popularity of "seven steps to …" books, I wonder if there is increasingly more discomfort with the notion that life is more of a mystery to us, at least until we get to heaven. Yet life’s problems and circumstances can’t be solved with a few steps, like a cook follows steps out of a recipe book to create a meal.
Standing in front of that girl who had just lost someone she had loved for years (not to mention the threat of financial insecurity for the rest of her life), I am sure recommending the book that promised a great life in 10 easy steps was not going to be very helpful.
Jesus once stood in front of a man who had lost an extremely precious person in his life too. Jairus was on his knees as he asked Jesus to come save the life of his dying girl. As they walked towards Jairus’ house, men came with the news that his little girl had died … "Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed" (Luke 8:50, TNIV).
"Just believe." They are such simple words. Jesus always kept it straightforward for us: "Repent. Love others. Love God. Give your money to the poor. Don’t be afraid, just believe." Jesus never offered this man a four-step plan to “solve” the tension and mystery involved in why his daughter was dying, and was now dead. Jesus told the man he only needed to believe Him. On another occasion, Jesus told two blind men as He healed them, "According to your faith let it be done to you" (Matthew 9:28-30, TNIV).
When we hear from authors and leaders that life’s questions can be answered and our difficulties solved as quickly as a three-point sermon can be preached, if only certain steps are followed, then waiting on God in a believing dependence on Him seems like a less than desirable option. Yet, perhaps nothing can be better for us to do.
Jesus is "The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 21:6, TNIV). He is in control of everything amidst all the painful mysteries and seemingly unanswerable "Why" questions of our lives. He is the only One who is and was and will be able to provide us with answers and healing to our hurting hearts before any possible, first "Step 1" and concluding "Step 7" is ever written.