When Jesus first told His disciples that he would soon be leaving them, they were greatly perplexed and asked Him all kinds of questions. The thought of Him leaving them was almost too much to bear.
He comforted them with the words, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”1
As I write this a very good friend of mine is struggling with wave after wave of hard news. Her husband has been laid off from a job he held for 27 years, she had a suspicious mammogram, their home AC has gone out, and they had to put down a family pet. No tragedies, yet, but plenty of hard stuff—the stuff that makes you ask “Why, God?” or “Are You there, God? Do You notice these things? Do You care?”
Most people try not to think about it more than they have to, but there’s no denying it: There’s a lot of suffering in the world. Innocents are killed, maimed, and made homeless in cruel and unjust wars. More suffer the same in natural or manmade disasters. Cancer, AIDS, and other diseases claim millions of lives each year, often after months or years of pain. There’s no end to it. Why does life have to be this way? It’s the age-old question: Why does God allow suffering?
Have you ever tried sleeping with a fly or mosquito in the room? You’re lying there, nearly asleep, when bzzzzzzz—the fly dive-bombs your face. Some flies are even bold enough (or obnoxious enough) to land on your face or ear.
You’re drifting off again, when bzzz … SLAP! You’re too tired to get up and kill the thing, but you can’t sleep because of it.
In John 14:26, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to comfort His followers after His departure from this world. “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”1
This promise has been etched into my memory since childhood. But it wasn’t until I reached my midtwenties that I encountered “the Comforter” for myself.
If you’ve ever felt like your whole life has been uprooted and you have no idea how you’ll make it to the next day, take heart from the Turner’s Oak—a 16-meter-tall giant planted in 1798 and now thriving in the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens, just south of London. In the 1980s, it was sickly and looked like it might die. Then on the 16th of October, 1987, the Great Storm hit parts of the United Kingdom, France, and the Channel Islands. It may have been the worst storm to hit since 1703 and knocked over 15 million trees in the south of England in just one hour. Among its victims was the Turner’s Oak. The wind lifted the tree by its shallow root plate completely out of the ground, violently shook it, and then set it back down again like a giant hand lifting a wine glass up by its stem and then plopping it back on the table.
Some degree of color blindness affects around 8% of men and less than 1% of women. The degree of disability ranges from mild inability to differentiate between certain colors to achromatopsia or total color blindness. This means that there are some people among us that cannot enjoy the full spectrum of beautiful colors that God has splashed into His creation.
When I first saw him coming down the street I was tempted to look away. He was ugly, dirty, and clearly asking for money. Maybe if I would just look the other way, he would pass me by and I wouldn’t have to deal with him.