Tag Archives: crossroads

Death Sucks, Life is Hard, God is Good

death sucks

By Jordan Rice

Today marks one year since I lost my wife, my best friend and my lover, Danielle. And over this past year I’ve learned a number of things. Honestly, there are very few things I can say that I really know. Divorce rates in this country alone are evidence that what we think we know and what we actually know are two very different things. We’re taught a lot of things in school, from our parents, but we really don’t know too much. However, the following are three things in particular that I know to be true.

DEATH SUCKS

All of us have felt this sting to some degree. I won’t attempt to sanitize my thoughts on this, it won’t help me or you. I get countless e-mails from people who are experiencing grief on one level or another and feel guilty for hurting as bad as they are. They try to rush and stop hurting so that they can appear faithful to some of their Christian comrades, who continually insinuate that the pain they feel and the faith they proclaim are mutually exclusive. In my own experience, I’ve had the reservoir of clichés poured out over my wounds and each proved to be as completely ineffective as the next. Death sucks. It stings, it hurts, it confuses and it leaves a void in the life of the loved ones that hurts more than I could have ever imagined. Most importantly, it should feel that way.

America is great, perhaps the greatest country to ever exist, but one thing we don’t have a good grasp on is death and grief. Maybe because technology is so great, we can download 10 songs in a minute or email a friend 3,000 miles away in seconds, but we’ve lost a grip on the beauty and necessity of slowly processing things. Quick fixes like xanax or a drunken night are the go-to for many, mostly because above all, we want what we want, now. Grief doesn’t work that way; healing happens in time. Clichés or a million Facebook likes won’t lessen the pain any. Above is a picture from a funeral procession in Haiti. Most of the people in this line stayed up all night the night before to mourn and remember the lost. The village shut down to mourn with those that mourned, and that is what helped in the time of need. They get it. There’s no quick fix. There’s no rush to attempt to hurriedly quench the fires of pain. It’s normal.

Sadly, the American Psychiatric Association has now started to classify grief related depression as actual clinical depression as soon as three days to a month after a serious loss. Three days! If you’re sad and depressed two weeks after losing a loved one to a car accident, at that point they could start you on a pill regiment to alleviate your pain. Now, I’m not saying that medication is wrong in all instances, but this is just incredibly sad and telling of how much of a microwave generation we’ve become. Have we become that shallow as a society to the point where we are incapable of dealing with the inevitability of death? I’m afraid we’re heading in that direction.

LIFE IS HARD

Despite what prosperity preachers would have you to believe, life is hard. It’s not perfect now, nor will it ever be. Now, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s purposeless, but Jesus taught that in this world you will have trouble. Whether it’s a brain tumor, an economic recession, hemorrhoids, a root canal or anything in between, you’re going to have difficulties. Nobody stays young forever, despite all of our cosmetic attempts to the contrary. One day Halle Berry will be no more attractive than Chuck Berry, (OK, maybe not, but just go with me).

This is not to say that you can’t have a good life, but good and perfect are quite different. Suffering is a part of life; if you suffer it’s because you’re human, not necessarily because you’ve done wrong. It’s a part of the human experience. Not only that, but God uses our sufferings, difficulties, and obstacles to allow us to know Him. Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 12

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

GOD IS GOOD

Kudos to you if you kept reading to this point, I have a shiny star to put on your notebook. But I know, I know, this is the way a Christian blogger is supposed to end each blog — with some reassurance that God is good despite the turmoil that we face in our lives. That’s partly true, but rest assured, I am not saying this to make anyone feel better; on the contrary, to boast that God that really is with us. Before you applaud me for my attempt at piety, know that at times during my wife’s illness, I thought that I would be so angry at God for letting my wife die that to spite Him, the first thing I was going to do is to fly to Amsterdam to party like never before. The crazy part is that the opposite happened, and I was (and still am) so trapped in the grip of God’s grace that I couldn’t walk away from God even if I wanted to. He is always with us, especially when life is hard, and because of His great love and care for me, I’m closer to Christ than I’ve ever been. He uses pain, suffering, desperation as a master potter uses his tools to make beautiful things. When I say that God is good, I’m not regurgitating something I read about in a book or heard in a church service, but because I know He’s faithful, loving, forgiving, caring and empowering. He’s everything He’s promised, and I hope I can live my life to make that known to anyone that will listen.

More importantly, God’s goodness has absolutely nothing to do with how great or terrible your life is. To say God is good is akin to saying I’m an African-American male. No matter what happens, I will always be that. It’s an immutable characteristic. The same is true for God, He’s good. Period. In times past I’ve flippantly correlated God’s goodness to how fortunate my circumstances were. We’ve all heard it said: “Got a new job, God is good!” or “the test came back clean, God is good!” While those are true statements, the insinuation is that God’s goodness depends, even so slightly on our situation. The opposite is true. God is good, period. Without a doubt, the statement “just found out my wife has cancer, God is good” is equally as true, and is more likely to put us in the situation to see how truly long-suffering, kind, loving, compassionate and with us He truly is. The old saints have it right when they say “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.”

All that being said, over this last year, my pain has greatly subsided and I’m overwhelmed by what God has done in me, to heal my wounds and walk with me. I wish I wasn’t as familiar with how much death sucks, or how difficult life can be at times, but I’m grateful to have learned that in spite of everything, God is good.

 

Jordan Rice blogs at www.jordanlrice.com, where this article first appeared. 

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Trapped in the Grip of Grace

By Jordan Rice

Sunday after church I saw a once in a lifetime thing. A friend and I were hanging out in Brooklyn, and on my way home we saw a guy trying to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. For whatever reason, as much as I wanted to turn away, I just couldn’t. As the police talked to the guy on the ledge, I watched hoping that this would have a good ending. And it did. As you can see in the picture, the cops grabbed him, and against his will, pulled him to safety. That dude couldn’t get away even if he wanted to. That got me thinking a lot in how God relates to us. In Philippians 3:12 Paul says one of the most amazing things in the Bible, something I’ve never really understood until now. It reads: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Plainly stated, Paul was reaching out to a God that already had him firmly in His grip. This Christian walk is full of uncertainty on our side, but there is no question about one thing. If you are one of God’s children, He has you, firmly in His grip of grace, and nothing will be able to snatch you out. Not money problems, the death of a loved one, an adulterous spouse, sickness, the loss of your job or a million other things that can shake us to our cores.

I don’t believe at all that my wife Danielle died to teach me a series of lessons, but, over this last year I’ve learned a great deal nonetheless. If I never learn anything else in life, I’ve discovered in these last weeks, that even when we can’t stand on our own, God’s hand is firmly on us, holding us up, and I’m assured that He’s never left, and He never will. I’ve never physically felt like the guy in the pic, but spiritually, I know what it feels like to have one sock on dangling over a bridge. But thanks be to God that I’m trapped in the grip of His grace. And despite how painful my position is right now, I don’t know if there’s a better place in this world to be.

Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Am I a strong guy? No where near it, not now at least, but “when I am weak, then I am strong” and that’s because God’s got me, right in the grip of His grace.

Jordan Rice blogs at www.jordanlrice.com, where this article first appeared. It is republished on Transparency with permission.

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The death of my god

death of my god

By Jordan L. Rice

“Good Friday,” as it is known among Christians today is perhaps the most important event in Christianity for me. I’ve always looked at Good Friday from the perspective of God’s immense love for His children, in that He did not spare Jesus who died as a ransom for our sins. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “it costs God nothing so far as we know to create nice things; but to convert rebellious souls cost Him crucifixion.” While that perspective is eternally true, this year, I’ve had the “privilege” of seeing Good Friday in a completely and equally true perspective; that of the disciples watching their master and savior die on the cross.

If we look at the situation from their perspective, and force ourselves to pause long enough to walk in their shoes, Good Friday to them wasn’t a story about love; it was a time of pure chaos, shock and most importantly, disappointment. Think about it, from the time that Jesus called his disciples to follow Him, they were no doubt amazed by all the things that He did. He routinely healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, spoke with authority and uttered the most profound truths ever known.

This Jesus was the man. In the three years that He performed his public ministry of healings, miracles and sermons, I’m sure His disciples were overwhelmed and thrilled at the prospect of being his follower. Jesus’ triumphant entry on Palm Sunday solidified their confidence in Him as He was celebrated wildly as soon as he entered the town. Jesus was more popular than a rock star.

The real story here is in the disciples’ expectations of Jesus. As you read through the gospel accounts, it’s abundantly clear that the Jews at that time, a once proud and sovereign nation were no longer in control; rather, they were under the direct rule of the Roman empire. For centuries Rome ruled over Judea and although there were short lived periods of successful Jewish revolt, eventually Rome regained control. More than anything, Jewish people wanted the Kingdom to be restored in which Roman rule would be ended and Israel would be a sovereign nation once again. As devout and nationalistic Jews, Jesus’ disciples wanted the same thing: restore the Kingdom to Jewish rule.

But on Good Friday, Jesus would fall short of their expectations of him…way short. Instead of Jesus leading a revolt against the Roman empire, on Good Friday when they witnessed Jesus being beaten and eventually gasping for air on a cross, love wasn’t the message they immediately received, this Jesus was a failure. Not believing that Jesus would be resurrected a couple days later, all they could see is their hope for a brighter future bloodied and wounded beyond recognition. The triumphant Jesus that they once heralded as Lord was now nothing more than a common man, next to common criminals, dying a gruesome death. They had to be thinking, “I gave up everything I had to follow Jesus and this is how it ends?”

Shockingly, this disappointment is the same event upon which God built the Church.

Fast forward about 2,000 years to the present day Good Friday. In some ways today I myself, and many of my readers might be in a season of life where you identify more so with the disciples perspective of unmet expectations, unanswered requests and confusion than that of God’s unending love for His children. The Jesus I had known and followed, that has always “blessed” me with health, prosperity and favor is no longer riding on a donkey to cheers and applause. Now, the triumphant Jesus I once knew is barely gasping for air on a cross, robbing me of all of my earthly aspirations and dreams.

For those who don’t know, my wife was diagnosed with a very rare and very malignant cancer in June 2010. Despite the dismal prognosis initially, by the mercy of God in a matter of weeks, her tumor, previously encasing her entire heart, was no longer visible. Our doctors were thrilled and told us her case was truly miraculous. Jesus, my Jesus was the man. He was victorious over cancer and my wife and I were getting our lives back, but most importantly, Jesus met my expectations.

The problem was our victory was short lived. Triumph was replaced with tears and heartache when we discovered that her tumor was back, and stronger than ever. We were both disappointed beyond measure; and above all, in a state of shock. Jesus, my Jesus was a failure. He didn’t meet our expectations. I was clueless why He was allowing this to happen in my life. My version of Jesus, was dying.

I don’t think that I’m alone in this world in terms of having expectations go unmet or having been disappointed. If you’ve ever lived through the disappointment of a miscarriage, sudden death of a loved one, loss of a job, or any other unanswered prayer, and I’m sure you felt the sting of disappointment and confusion.

But here’s the good news, your story, or my story doesn’t end at the disappointment. (Are you ready for a cliche?) God is eternal, and God is sovereign. Plainly stated, that means that God is in control over everything. Every atom in the entire universe is under the direct control of God, whose plans can never be thwarted. God’s plans for you and for me existed before the world was ever formed, and the same eternal God that created millions of galaxies allowed everything that has happened in your life. To state the obvious, God is much bigger than you or I can understand. And this God, though he may not have met every one of your expectations is in complete control, and still possesses all power, even when He seems to be gasping for air. He had it planned all along. Even if we live through the pain of a crucifixion, there is something better, MUCH better around the corner…the resurrection. God can use an earthly bad and turn it into an eternal good.

Hold on, don’t prematurely judge what God is doing in your life, even if it makes no sense. He’s making all things new. God can use your greatest pain and turn it to be for your good and His glory (Rom 8:28).

If God didn’t meet your expectations of Him, that’s fine. If God “failed” you by letting you get sexually assaulted, get cheated on by your spouse, be infertile, lose a loved one or a host of other things that happen in life, my heart breaks with yours for your pain. Just know that you’re not the first person to feel that way, and, more importantly, there’s more to the story than you can see at the moment. Your expectations of God may have failed, but God NEVER fails. In your weakness, God’s strength will be made perfect.

I’m not a betting man, but if I were I’d bet the house that if you asked Jesus’ disciples what was the worst, most confusing time of their lives, it was watching Jesus be crucified. But that moment is the turning point in human history.

God is sovereign, He knows what He’s doing.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

(Special shout out to my friend Brian Moll at Forefront Church for preaching a great sermon on suffering which helped me in my “Good Friday” experience.)

{EDITOR’S NOTE: Two days after Jordan published this post, his wife passed away from cancer. Please keep Jordan and his family in your prayers. God is in control.}

Jordan Rice blogs at www.jordanlrice.com, where this article first appeared. It is republished on Transparency with permission.

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