2. Why, Why , Why

5 01 2017

img_9655Chapter 1: Why, Why, Why — “Affliction” By Edith Schaeffer, 1978.

(Part 2 of 13 posts)

If, out of the whole book, I had only read this chapter it would have been worth the purchase. As I am re-reading what I underlined, the truth of what Edith writes about, grabs me all over again!

As children, we drove our parents crazy with the question Why? and as teenagers we often rebelled against them because their answers didn’t make sense. As adults, we continue to wrestle with what we don’t understand and therefore we wrestle with God. We keep asking Why? to see if He will come up with an answer that is good enough (a measurement that differs for each person).

There are a lot of things we wonder about and Edith begins the chapter with plenty of true stories that naturally leave people asking Why? Why do children suffer, why is someone murdered, why is happy event ruined by a tragedy, why are there such injustices, betrayal, rebellion, broken dreams and so much sorrow and pain? Why is there…affliction?

Let’s talk about death.

For me, this chapter said what I have felt about it and took it further to affirm some amazing things about the God who made us. This chapter left me so THANKFUL!!

Enjoy these beautiful words Edith wrote:

“Death was not what God made man and woman to experience….” Can we just stop there for a moment? How many things do we assign to God (ie. blame God for) that are misplaced? Let’s just start here. Imagine God creating the first man and woman and the astounding detail He put into them. Look at us! We are not some experiment. We are crafted! Your fingers are amazing. Your eyes are astonishing. The way your “mind” works is confounding. Notice I said “mind” not brain because how do you even explain “the mind?” You know when you say, “I changed my mind.” What is that?!?!? And how, when you look upon a tree laden with snow, do those images float through some processor that whispers to your emotions that this beauty makes you want to cry? Do you think for a second that you are living and breathing and feeling without the pure delight of your Creator? Do you think He did all this and is content to see you decay? Is any one of us satisfied to see what we love, falter? No. Death is not what God made us to experience.

Is it just me or does that make your existence feel so ROYAL? Continue…

“Death was not what God made man and woman to experience. Body and spirit were made to be one, not to be torn apart. The body is a marvellous creation more intricate than any other individual part of the created universe. The body is precious, not only to each total personality of which each body is a part, but to God who created the body to fulfill the capacities of the whole person — to taste, smell, feel, hear, see, think, love, communicate, choose, and be creative. The body is involved along with the spirit in the oneness of the whole person to fulfill the possibility of expression in art and music, science and literature, agriculture and forestry, food preparation and architecture, and so many other areas something of the tremendous scope which Man — male or female — has been given to enjoy. Eyes can express love or scorn, response or revulsion. The vocal cords can communicate a fantastic range of things which seem to be intangible. The tongue and lips are important but cannot replace hands or feet…”

Stop for another minute. I don’t know how you felt reading that, but I just felt so much relief that ALL OF ME matters to God. I think people get this idea that this “spirit” we have, our “soul” is what is precious to God. That’s cool. But I am so thankful that my whole person matters to God. If this body is a throw-away, couldn’t all of me be? But it’s not. God did not give us a vehicle He was content to discard after a time. We are going to read more about that, but you and I in our entirety are precious to Him. He gave us these abilities, these human abilities, and is proud of them! He gave us a personality and never wanted one to be just like another. Taste and eyesight mattered to Him, vocal cords and facial expressions and the ability to run our hand over a surface and glean information, this all matters to Him.

“Yet, as we stand beside a body which has been separated from the spirit in death, although perhaps the physical parts are intact, one knows the person has gone…the body is there, but the person is not there to use it.” (18)

When my mom died, she did not die in pain. She did not die disfigured. She did not die alone. One might say she died a “good death” but as I stood beside her, as I touched her face and realized she was gone there was not one single good thing about it. I did not move quickly to the more comforting truths but stared at death, my enemy. It was abundantly clear to me in that moment that death was a vandal.

Why do we think death is just a part of our normal existence? “Death has been thought of as ‘normal’ only because it has taken place throughout all history” (19) but we need to stare at it and not be fooled. God did not include death as His plan. When He poured Himself, literally, into His creation and most distinctly into the creation of Man and Woman, He did not write death into it. For me, that is a very beautiful thing to reflect on. God’s plan for us was entirely good. That was the only time we could say that all was right in the world.

“Adam and Eve experienced the transition from living in a perfect world to living in a spoiled world. Adam and Eve had known what it was to be ‘normal human beings’ living in the ‘normal world,’ but they were the only ones who were able to compare by personal experience what ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ were like. Their choice to act upon the lie of Satan, as if it were the truth, brought about the result that God had predicted. The world became abnormal. We have lived — and do live in — an abnormal world. Things have been spoiled, vandalized by Satan…” (19)

When we ask Why? we need to travel way back to this point.

If you have ever lived with or walked with people who are stuck in a place of blame, you know what it feels like to think, “I wish they would just take responsibility for their behaviour!” It is so frustrating to listen to them, day after day, blame everyone but themselves. If only they would own what they have done, there would be a new freedom for them and they could move forward.

This very same principle as true for us. Why are we in such a mess? Because we made it. Why is there such evil?  Why does one person cause another pain? Why is the environment in ruins? Why are we getting sick all the time? Why is there such division? Why? Because we chose this over the loving guidance and boundaries our Good Father set for us. To ask Why? can only be answered “in the concept of the total picture of what history has been since the Fall…” (26).

We have what Edith calls a cause and effect history. It quickly became apparent to Eve what the “spoiled Creation” would mean for all relationships. When her eldest son murdered his brother, she knew as she stood before the inert body of her son that death was “now to be a part of the human experience, but was not normal. God had created the body and spirit to be one…” (20).

The ramifications of the literal Fall are terrible. We have got to wrap our minds around all of this causing an abnormal tilt to our planet. We shouldn’t get comfortable and think that the best that life has to offer, is actually the best.

What is our highest achievement? Some measure of wealth?

What is our greatest satisfaction? Some measure of beauty or recognition?

What gives us joy? A functional family around the dinner table?

What is a lifetime to us so that we feel OK at “the end”?

Friend, we live in an abnormal world and everything we think is everything is only a fraction of what God originally gave us. Is 85 years a good long life? Friend, death is an enemy. The end, is an enemy. Don’t settle!  We, as believers, “do not need to pretend that it is ‘lovely’ to feel the harshness of suddenly being out of communication…” (22) we can acknowledge “Death is an enemy, and it is something which God hates too. Death is a part of the battle between Satan and God — and the final victory will be God’s” (21). When I read this, I was so glad to reflect that God hates what we hate!

When I stood by my mom’s body, that is what I felt. I felt angry at the destruction and I felt worship for the Rescuer Who defied the enemy at the very same time: “The victory which Christ died to give us has a future aspect…that victory is the one that will destroy death”(25).

I so agree with Edith when she says when someone dies and the others stand about, “Smiling and saying, ‘It’s all so lovely and peaceful…'[it] is a type of hardness and coldness to the enemy death. Christians are blending into the truth of what exists in this fallen, abnormal world when they experience the emptiness of a room which a person has just left…Christians are behaving as God describes in His Word as ‘natural’ when they weep as a result of death. It is God who will wipe away all tears — not another human being” (21). Yes! Truth! Death highlights that we are waiting, consciously waiting for something FAR BETTER THAN THIS!

“True hope changes sorrow, but does not obliterate it. Death is not to be taken as a ‘normal, beautiful release’ but as an enemy which separates body from spirit and human beings from each other. It spoils the beautiful Creation of God. It is so basically an enemy that God says that He will pay a great price, a ransom, to deliver us from death’s power” (22). This idea that the body and spirit were meant to be together affects our whole view of death. God is not content to have these two things separated and that is why it necessitates new bodies. Have you thought about this? This idea that being a “spirit being” of some sort, floating around in the universe, is anti-good. Good is body and spirit, whole. If you want to know the difference between eastern religious thought and God’s truth, here is one distinct difference. Our highest attainment is not to be “one with the universe,”it is to be present with the Lord, intact as His creation: body, soul and spirit.

And here is where the most amazing truth ought to land on us, I mean really LAND ON US. If all this is true, that God loves us so much that he created us to be physical beings, valued us enough to put His breath in us and give us life — then our very worst thing, the thing that we ought to fear the most, is our total destruction through death. Death is our worst thing. Why did Jesus have to die? Why? Why? Why? He died to CONQUER OUR WORST THING. When death — death introduced by Satan — entered the world, we were in bondage to it. We had no way to escape death. It was coming, it was coming for every one of us but Jesus, through death, “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14-16

The devil is the one who brought about death, he has the power of death, but as Edith writes, “It is conclusive that death is a terrible enemy, since it could not be put out of the way, except by the coming of the Second Person of the Trinity as truly man — so that He could ‘taste death’ in our place. John 1:14 says: ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”…He experienced death in order to abolish its sting” (23). Jesus took that sting, He took the worst thing we have, death!!

“To ignore the reality of death as an enemy is also to diminish the wonder of the available victory over sin and the permanent results of death” (23). When we comfort each other, “the comfort carries with it a reality of waiting, not only waiting to ‘go’ also — to depart for the same place someday — but a waiting for the return of Jesus which will finish the whole abnormality of the body’s being someplace other than with the spirit” (24).

So where does that leave us?

First, we need to remember our first mistake. It happened before, and it is still happening. We are finite and human, and we still are rebelling — creatures against Creator. We still demand equality because we still demand that God meet our demands. The old word is the word for today: we need to repent of this. We need to remember God is our Father and we are His children and no matter how much we don’t understand His ways, we must not think we can switch places.

Second, we need to recognize that this is an abnormal universe. We must not get comfortable with what we see now. We must not think that out of these ruins, we are going to build some perfect life. This is a false-hood we tell ourselves and then get angry at God for not giving us what we want. He is too good for that. His plans are too good for that. We need to stop being tempted by and lulled into a paltry satisfaction.

Third, we need to stop trying to come up with a genius answer for everything. We need to be willing to let God be God, and to stay in our own place as human beings. It is not necessary for us to give an explanation for everything that happens, good or bad (more about this in later chapters). Affliction is made up of many aspects, concentrating on one area is apt to be out of balance or tune. As we study Scripture about our lives here, “God’s Word picks up first one note, then another, but we are meant to consider it over a lifetime, with a growing understanding that never comes to a point of completion” (28). As we continue to walk with our Father “we ask for a measure of balance (a measure since none of us can ever have perfect balance in any other area of life, until Jesus returns)” (27).

On that same note, we need to stop analyzing everything to find the “key” so that from that point on everything will work out much better. Was it this decision that brought affliction? Was it that one? Sometimes we do make poor choices, but as we will see in the coming chapters, affliction is going to be with us, no matter what. “We cannot compare our own pattern to someone else’s to discover whether or not we are in the Lord’s will. God has individual and very diverse plans for the lives of His children, and Satan’s attempts to turn us aside are also diverse. Poverty can be an attack, but so can affluence. Hardship can be an attack, but so can ease. And when we face the death of a loved one, the attempt to twist us into bitterness can be an attack, but so can a false covering up of sorrow.” (29)

There is soooooo much I could write about this one quote, it could be a whole other blog. Think about it: do you look at people’s lives that seem so “perfect” and think they are really doing things right? What if their very ease is their spiritual undoing? What if it is destroying their character? What if their paradise is keeping them from fulfilling Jesus’ call to reach the lost? On the other hand, do you look at people’s lives who are struggling and naturally try to explain it/judge it? Their problems are their fault, it’s a punishment from God, it is cruel bad luck, it is a spiritual attack? — ponder that for a while and think about how the enemy, at this moment, might be trying to fool you.

Fourth, we need to help each other overcome. Edith writes, “There is no place to go for a vacation from the abnormality of the universe, from the effects of the Fall upon every area of life, and from the conflict of the ages. Persecution and affliction are a normal part of the Christian life. We need not be surprised or ashamed when our work, our family, our church, or our individual person is hit by some form of affliction, Satan does not fight against himself” (28). We need to stop being so private and separate from one another. Our desire “should be to help each other find victory in hidden places and ‘overcome him by the blood of the Lamb’ in very practical moment-by-moment happenings in our day-to-day lives” (29).

There is so much to think about here, but here is the most important thing, the thing Edith closes with and so will I. Friend, don’t let the question Why? create a wall for you for the rest of your life. We have an adequate answer to the main problem:

We messed up. Messing up caused a ripple effect, by a million ripple effects. The more “astray” things went, the more we forgot that things were normal once and what we have preferred abnormal over God ever since. Own it, but remember: That is not the end of the story.

“The enemy — death — has an end. Satan’s long attempts to separate every living being from God (and to separate every person from his or her own body in some sort of agonizing tearing apart) is not going to succeed. Death does not kill the spirit, nor does it spoil the truth.” (30)

— Teresa Klassen

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