This morning, though, the words came with this little headline: "Dear Christians, please stop saying everything happens for a reason...."
Yes, please do.
Sometimes the reason things happen is because they are the consequences of a series of stupid decisions. Sometimes the reason things happen is because they are the consequences of a series of sacrificial choices in the moment in the hopes of a better outcome down the road - and then, they are. Sometimes the reason things happen is because of sin, brokenness, hurt, and death. Sometimes the reason things happen is because in this life, we will have trouble. (because of those aforementioned)
In this life, you will have trouble....
Jesus himself told us so. In this life, we will have trouble. For some reason, I thought that if God was really good, though, He would exempt me from this. If God were really good, if God really loved me - then, He would demonstrate his love for me in this: Jessica would not know suffering.
So, when Dan would repeatedly get sick, and after every single judging trip come home sick and be sick for a week...and doctors just kept saying it was a sinus infection because he "worked in a petri dish"...my trust in God waivered. ...and by waiver, I mean, I put a strong-arm up to keep God from getting too close. I still practiced my faith, still sought him...but at a reasonable distance.
Why? Why would I do that? ...it was a natural response to fear.
When we are afraid, we put up a defense. We build a wall. We hunker down.
...but why were you afraid of God, Jessica? I thought you loved him.
I thought I did, too. ...but, I think I was more in love with the idea of God than the reality. ...and, I put parameters on God's goodness.
(and, to be honest, I'd been doing this since I was in college. My response to someone challenging my prayer request for a farmer-husband: 'what if God doesn't want that for you?' "Well, of course, he does - God loves me!" ...eventually, I worked through that one)
Because I'd worked through one parameter, I thought I was done. I thought I'd entered into the pasture of my rest.
As we neared closer and closer to Dan's diagnosis, the fear was overwhelming. Not only were we about to have breakthrough - we were also moving 2000 miles - "home". The day that we received Dan's official diagnosis, the same day that our house was loaded onto a moving truck, I finally broke. In the car, driving to Dan's appointment (where we were late because of the whole house being packed up, thing), I broke.
At Mayo, you can't be more than 10 minutes late. If you are, then, you are rescheduled. Well, we couldn't be rescheduled. We were leaving the state - that day - (by original plans) - and it was literally impossible that we would make it anywhere near a 10-minute mark. It would be at least 30.
We were screwed. At that realization, (while driving), I yelled and remember hitting an empty, plastic water bottle against the steering wheel at the injustice of it all.
In that moment of sheer anger and fear, I yelled to God that HE ALONE had to fix this. He HAD to do something. This was absolutely impossible for us to remedy. I could do nothing else. Nothing. I could do nothing. I was powerless...He alone was the only one who could open a door - a window - anything. He alone was the only one who could take the wheel, and lead us forward.
take heart! I have overcome the world.
Miraculously, when Dan called Mayo back (he had already called once when he was told about the ten-minute rule leading to Jessica's breakdown)...they told him that the doctor would see us whenever we arrived. Whenever - we - arrived. Whenever.
(Maybe I should have taken that as a sign things were serious?)
In that moment, I knew that I had crossed over the threshold. The walls were broken down. The Light had come. God heard my prayer. God saw me. God was not distance. He was here.
He was really for us.
That was the moment that my life changed. Yes, I had been walking with God my whole life, really. Yes, at the age of 20, the Holy Spirit "turned on the light" and I knew that Jesus loved me - and I understood what it meant to "be in relationship" with him; to love him meant to live for him. I understood it. I lived it to the best of my ability. ...but, I had only let God in so far.
There was still so much about him that I didn't understand - but could only be learned through entering more fully into His presence...which meant allowing Him to enter more fully into my heart. To come into the rooms that I didn't really want him to know about; to shine light into the corners.
Being accepted has always been the deepest cry of my heart, and I was convinced that if Jesus were to really see the depths, there'd be no hope for me.
But, in that moment, I knew: Jesus
was is my only hope.
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
It would be absolutely ridiculous at this point to say, "Well, Jessica, there is your reason. Dan got cancer so that you could come closer to Jesus. See? Everything does happen for a reason." What sort of backward world do you live in? What sort of cruel God is this? Who causes cancer just so we can get outside our petty selves for a moment to see the bigger picture?
Cancer, evil, sickness, disease, death - these are not created by God who because of His nature of goodness can only create what aligns with himself.
Instead, when we allow God into a situation, He can work those events together for good. (Romans 8:28)
When we allow God into a situation, He can bring good from it - because He is all Goodness.
When we allow God into the darkness, He always brings light - because He is Light. When we allow God in, He brings His full nature.
When God enters into a situation, He redeems it. Because Jesus himself suffered, suffering can be redemptive for us...but, it is dependent upon us. We have been given free will, and we can choose in our moments of suffering, doubt, darkness, temptation, fear, grief - if we are going to allow God to cross the threshold or not. Even when He has entered, it is still entirely dependent upon us whether we show him around the place and let ourselves be seen, known, and accepted as we truly are - or whether we just keep him to the safe spaces.
God will not push you. He will wait in the sitting room for you. He will wait in the alley. He will throw rocks at your window. He will hold a boombox over his shoulders. He will let you rail against him and hit a water bottle on the steering wheel: but when you lift up your tearful eyes, and give him permission to come close - he will.
While he might be thinking, "what took you so long?" He'll wait to say it until you know that you are loved, cared for, and held. ...and then whisper with a twinkle in his eyes, "I've always been here. I've just been waiting for your, 'yes.'"