You know that feeling you get when you put the key in the ignition of your car, turn it and nothing happens? I had that feeling a few days ago. I would have taken care of matters all by myself but I gave up working on my car for Lent. In 1976.
It turns out that my truck was suffering from what the experts call a dead battery. Or did bat-tree if you live in certain parts of the southeastern United States.
It was 6:00 in the morning and nothing was open. Finally, at 7:00, the mechanic that I use opened up his shop. This meant that I sat in my truck for an hour, waiting for a jump start and listening to what sounded like my truck’s version of the death rattle.
It was around 8:00 by the time I had my new battery and was heading home. I started thinking about how much money I just spent and how I could have used it on something else. And that’s when my perspective changed.
I thought about how one of the owners of the mechanic shop I use was inside the gym where I had just finished working out.
I thought about how he’s the one that jump started my truck for me and followed me to his shop.
I thought about how his shop was no more than 100 yards away from the parking lot where my truck slipped into a coma.
If I had to plan a dead battery, I could not have done it better than this.
I have a tendency to be a glass is half empty kind of a guy. In fact, sometimes I’m even worse than that. The glass is half empty and what water is already in there is probably poisoned. This focus on the negative is very harmful because it highlights, underscores and circles all of the bad things that are or could be happening while blinding me to the grace of God that’s all around me. It’s sort of like being one the the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and waking up every morning with food that just fell from the sky and worrying about what I’m going to eat for breakfast and who’s going to get all of this white bread-like stuff off of my lawn.
Perspective goes a long way.
But what if the problem is something much worse than a dead battery? When we lose a loved one, should we just cheer up, look on the bright side and find the silver lining? Absolutely not! We should mourn. But as believers, we do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
David is a good example here.
There are two ways that you could tell David’s story. One way is to focus on his agony, mistakes and suffering. We could say something like, “David was a shepherd boy who became king of Israel, was almost killed by Israel’s first king, essentially raped one of the citizens he was commissioned to govern, killed her husband to cover it up, lost the child that resulted from the affair and saw his family fall to pieces.” Or we could say, “David was a shepherd boy who killed Goliath, ruled Israel for many years and is one of Jesus’ ancestors.”
Both summaries are true.
In David’s life, it’s as if you are seeing two rivers. One river is filled with dangerous rapids of murder, greed and heartache. The other river sometimes seems more like a creek. Both rivers are leading to the cross. It is at the cross where the first river is dammed. Sin and death have been defeated. And it is here where the second river turns into a mighty force because it takes us to the real King and his eventual restoration of all creation. This river will flow forever for those who have come to Christ in faith and repentance.
I don’t know why God allowed my parents to get divorced while I was still a toddler. I don’t know why God allowed my mom to be sick for her whole life and not live long enough to see her grandchildren. And I don’t know why a friend in my church is watching his dad die of cancer. Frankly, looking on the bright side of things isn’t a good enough answer.
But just like the Israelites that wandered through the wilderness, God’s grace is all around me. And in the end that’s the only answer I need.
“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'” Exodus 16:12