A Deep Hole ( by Carley Evans )

Giorgio Vasari: An angel strengthens Jesus pra...

In Robert Redford’s film ORDINARY PEOPLE, the main character describes what it is like to be depressed to the point of suicidal. He speaks of falling into a deep, dark hole. Unable to climb out, eventually he becomes the hole. His eyes widen. The girl he speaks to of this darkness suddenly giggles, as she is incapable of understanding this darkness and she is embarrassed.

Jesus understands this darkness — this hole that He becomes on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, who witnesses Jesus’ prayer for deliverance from this coming blackness? Jesus prays for this deliverance because, of course, Jesus is not suicidal. But, who hears His prayer? Every one who enters the garden with Him sleeps while He prays alone. A major part of the deep hole is loneliness.

Perhaps Jesus tells His disciples after His resurrection of the mighty struggle He undergoes before He submits to the Father’s will. I can imagine Thomas giggling in embarrassment and disbelief. “Lord, how could You feel so low? How can You be lonely? You are the God of the universe!”

Jesus shows Thomas the wounds on His hands — “Yes, I Am who I say I Am.” But, not only that, Jesus’ wounds show Thomas that God suffers. God falls into a deep hole, becomes the hole, and emerges triumphant.

Pure Joy ( by Carley Evans )

In my Life Application New International Version black leather Bible are many stickers such as the one above. Some are little stars; others are from the Hello Kitty collection of Sanrio characters. A few allow for a short comment, again as in the Badz-Maru angel you see here. My NIV Bible is full of colorful highlights and scribbles in the margins. Someone picking it up might believe I read this book; they’d be correct.

James speaks in his letter about considering trials of all kinds as “pure joy.”

Today, on NPR, I heard the story of a teenager in Tibet whose burnt body lay in the street while his family and friends cried aloud in the agony of the loss of a young loved one. This young man to protest — what? China’s ongoing oppression of his country — doused himself with fuel and set himself on fire. I wonder if he considered his suffering as “pure joy?” — if his family and friends considered their suffering as “pure joy?”

You protest, do you not? This young man and his loved ones, you say, are not Christian. Their suffering is different than ours — i.e. than those of us who call ourselves “born-again” believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This young man, on the other hand, followed the teachings of the Dalai Lama as do his family and friends most likely.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth of his many trials. And he also says,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)

After hearing of this teenager’s horrific death by his own hand in an effort to change a political system oppressing his people, I wished — prayed — that the comfort of the Lord Jesus might rain down on his loved ones whether or not they believe as I do.

Tried by Fire ( by Carley Evans )

That God perfects us – His children – through loving yet sometimes harsh discipline is a truth worth mentioning in the context of suffering all of us experience to some degree.

But to say Christians suffer more than non-believers is a misnomer.

All human beings suffer by virtue of the fall and the sinful nature. No one escapes pain while here on this earth. Christians actually should perceptually suffer less as we know a bigger purpose exists and we know the Hand who allows the pain is of a perfect and loving Creator.

Non-believers are awash in a senseless, meaningless agony without explanation! On the other hand we know that discipline, though unpleasant, yields the good to eat fruit of holiness.

Thank You Father God for Your loving discipline! May we always know how kind and merciful You are! In Jesus’ Name, amen!

Who Does Sin? ( by Carley Evans )

Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Master, who does sin, this man, or his parents, that he is born blind?” [The disciples might just as well ask, “Master, why is this man born blind?]

Jesus responds that neither the sins of the man born blind nor of his parents cause his blindness. Rather the man’s blindness is a vehicle to show forth the work of the Son of God — the work which God the Father sends Jesus to perform.

This work is to be performed in the daytime  — the three or so years Jesus walks the earth in ministry — during which Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus says, “As long as I Am in the world, I Am the light of the world.” (John 9:5, KJV)

Then Jesus spits on the ground, makes a clay and anoints the eyes of the blind man. He commands the man to go to the pool of Siloam to wash. The man obeys, and “comes seeing.” (John 9:7)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that suffering in this world is not always the result of sin; that often You use situations, including great physical pain, to reveal Your glory not only to Your people but to a lost and dying world. Help us to trust You in every circumstance. In Jesus’ Name, amen.


Casting a Literal Weight (by Carley Evans)

A few days ago, I experienced a literal weight on my chest — no, I’m fairly certain I was not having a heart attack. The weight was a tightness above my rib cage at body mid-line. Uncomfortable, for sure.

Up to that point, my profound disappointment that my daughter’s dream was crushed had been expressed, yet not to anyone other than to her and to myself and to God. I’d certainly spoken of and written of my disappointment, but I’d not released any emotion to any one other than those three — i.e. to my self, to my daughter, and to our Lord. Speaking my disappointment to the Lord is always tricky for me — I admit that I have in the past expressed anger toward God, but this time I have held back. I feel I have no right to be angry with God, not this time! As to whether anyone ever has a right to be angry with God — well, that’s a whole other post, isn’t it?

Yesterday, at work, I spoke to someone I like very much — a fellow Christian and work colleague and friend — about my pain that my daughter’s dream was crushed; and I cried oh so briefly — just a rush of emotion and a slight watering of the eyes. Since then, the weight is lifted from my chest and I no longer feel the same sadness I did the day before.

“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, HCSB) “There is no division in the body [of Christ], but that the members should have the same concern for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25, HCSB)

Thank You, Lord that You understand our need to express pain to one another so that we may pray one for the other. Help us to fully let go of our hurts so that You may heal us completely. In Jesus’ Name, amen.


Each Time Unbearable-Extraordinary

Each time an event which is almost unbearable occurs in our lives, we learn something extraordinary — we learn that we survive. And we discover a strength within us we might not have known before.

At least, this has been true for me.

The strength I have within is not my own. This strength comes from God, who lives within me. The odd thing is that, for me at least, I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of that strength until an almost unbearable event occurred. At this time, the crushing pain was overwhelming, but the strength within became apparent. Not immediately, but over time. And no, it was not that ‘time heals all wounds;’ rather, this strength grew from my reliance upon the truth that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)

I Stretch Out My Hand

Moses questions, even accuses God. “O Lord, why have You done this evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?” (Exodus 5:22, ESV) Moses is disturbed because Pharaoh commands that the people of Israel make as many bricks as usual — i.e. they must meet their previous quota — only now without straw being provided. Pharaoh commands this impossible task to punish Moses and Aaron for telling him that God wants His people to come into the wilderness so “that they may hold a feast to Me.” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharaoh calls the people of Israel lazy liars — “lying” and “idle.” (Exodus 5:9,17) The people turn on Moses, saying, “You make us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:21)

And Moses turns on God.

And God tells Moses, “See, I make you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron is your prophet. You are to speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I am to harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh is not going to listen to you. Then I am to lay My hand on Egypt and bring My hosts, My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians are to know that I Am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:1-5)

Ten plagues later, Pharaoh still refuses to let the people of Israel go out from Egypt, just as God says. And God delivers Israel from “the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.” No doubt, both the Egyptians and the people of Israel discover God is the Lord of all.

Dear Heavenly Father, open our eyes that we may understand that Your ways are not our ways, that sometimes Your plans are difficult for us to fully comprehend. Help us to remember that You are perfect, and that everything You plan is perfect. Give us the ability to trust You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Jesus Weeps

Imagine — see in your mind’s eye — Jesus at the site of the burial of one of His best friends, Lazarus. Jesus is feeling the loss, and knows the pain of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. Fully human, Jesus’ emotions are torn. He’s waited several days since hearing of Lazarus’ death before coming to the grave. Now He stands beside Mary. She’s crying. The Jews who are there with her to support her are also crying. Everyone is weeping; Jesus also weeps with them.

Jesus allows Himself the human luxury of sadness, of grief. Yes, luxury. If you’ve ever needed to cry and found yourself unable to do so, you know what I mean by the ‘luxury of sadness, of grief.’ Jesus cries.

Jesus is also subject to the criticism of the friends of Lazarus. Some of them want to know why Jesus did not “keep this man from dying.” (John 11:37, ESV)

Of course, Jesus does the opposite — He allows His friend to die, then raises him from the dead, calling him forth from the grave. Then, Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha celebrate. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with an expensive ointment, wiping them with her hair. And, Jesus knows the joy of fellowship and friendship.

Lord God, our father and brother, thank You for friendship. Thank You for allowing us to serve You and one another in love, love capable of knowing both suffering and joy. In Jesus’ Name, amen.