Saturday, June 26, 2010

God Is Not A Talisman

God is not a respecter of persons.   Christians do not have a special "get out of jail" free card for suffering.  All human beings want to avoid suffering, as do all animals.  No living creature naturally wants to cause himself pain or wishes pain to happen to him. 

Just read the New Testament.  All the Apostles, with the possible exception of John, were murdered, killed - crucifixion, beheading - all horrific ways to die.  There also may have been torture first, since the Romans were great at that.

We are talking about the Apostles here.  The friends of Jesus.  The carriers of the Word to the world.  The first impetus of what became Christianity.  And they were NOT immune to the world they lived in.  Far from it.  Because of their faith they brought a great deal of extra suffering down on themselves.

In the first century, people who minded their own business could die in many ways without the assistance of the law of the land.  They could get - God forbid - leprosy - a living death.  They could get intestinal worms, any number of diseases.  The flu could kill, become pneumonia, as it still can today despite all our medical advances. 

In the first century, under Roman rule, if you rocked the boat, made whole groups of important people angry, such as the Jewish authorities, you then added to how you could die.  You could be beaten up, stoned - as Paul was and had the first recorded near-death experience.  You could be a bad word under everyone's breath, while not physically painful, was certainly wearying after a while.  And last, of course, you could be taken prisoner by the Roman authorities for spreading insurrection - and put to death. 

In Acts, the Lord does indeed save Paul and Peter a few times in a miraculous way - they still had work to do for the Word.  But eventually all men die.

All men die.  They die based on when and where they live, what their DNA is, and what they do to their own bodies to either slow or speed things along.

Christians are no exception.  I have to remind myself of this continuously.  Somewhere in my Christian walk, I imbibed the idea that I had a "wall of fire" around me that would protect me.  Possibly, this is true - for whatever period of time the Lord needs me to accomplish something and "fire" would hinder that. 

But this is what I have learned to be true:

All men are doomed to die, unless the Rapture occurs.  Believers and unbelievers alike will be affected by the times in which they live.  During the first century through the third century, there was persecution of Christians, so they were MORE likely than the ordinary man to suffer and die prematurely at the hands of others.  Today, in other countries, primarily Muslim countries, it is open season on Christians, both foreign missionaries and indigenous peoples who accept the Christian message and believe in Jesus Christ.

If you were alive from 1933 through 1945 and you lived in Europe - well, you were included in whatever befell the rest of the people around you, believer and unbeliever. 

Yes, God has a plan for your life as a believer.  He knew in eternity past which sperm and which egg would come together to make you - and He foreordained that, put His seal of approval on that occurrence. 

Included in this foreknowledge is everything that makes up you - not just personality and physical appearance, but what your DNA will produce.  You may have a gene that gives you cancer at age 35.  This is certainly not what a Christian wants to happen - just like every other person, he wants to live a full life and does not wish for an early death.  Cancer is just about as feared as leprosy was in ancient times.  Cancer eats you alive, and, at the end, often if takes you into the afterlife screaming in pain.  No one wants this and sometimes part of the reason for belief in God in the first place is as a kind of Talisman to ward off all the evil of this life. 

There were Christians in concentration camps in WWII.  Some died, full of disease and starvation and some survived.  It was God's will that those that died, died and those that lived, lived. 

Today, I live in the 21st century.  I am a 54 year old woman.  If catastrophe happens now, I am a lot less likely to survive because of my age.  My body is not resilient as it was at age 20.  Just as in the Holocaust, most of those over 25 died, while children and young people's bodies were more likely to be able to bounce back, to fight off the horrific conditions.

I could get cancer - only the Lord knows what my DNA holds - the "gene pool crapshoot", as one pastor I've listened to puts it.  I could be murdered by robbers or some other sick person.  I am not immune to the society and it's attendant ills because I am Christian.

I have to keep reminding myself of this because when I first accepted Christ, I had just gotten over a severe illness.  I was frightened I was dying and I was only 23.  I was left with panic attacks and depression for a while after I recovered, and one of the reasons I married my first husband was because I just didn't feel I could cope with the world alone.  It was at that time that, after hearing the Gospel and always having been interested in who God was from childhood in Catholic school, I accepted Christ as my Savior.  I had no idea what this meant, but I know deep down I thought perhaps because I had chosen the "right" side, I would be rewarded with protection. 

I wrote this down so that I would remember this fact and stop the inadvertent thoughts that say, "I hope I'm protected from THIS type of occurrance," after I read something particularly awful in the news that happened to someone.  Sometimes I find myself thinking - well, maybe they weren't faithful believers, or maybe they weren't believers at all.  I'm not sure where this thinking comes from, but it is false.

Our bodies are of this world and are subject to it.  It is our spirits and souls that have eternal life and will not suffer death.  Our bodies will suffer death and they will be affected by what happens around them in whatever society and time they happen to be in.  Yes, I know that our bodies will one day be resurrected and recreated to live in eternity, but first we have to be planted in the ground like a seed. 

May I not live in fear or seek God as a talisman against evil, but live the fullness He has promised, unafraid of what evil can do to this body.

Let me also hasten to say that, on the other hand, as children of the Lord, He has promised to be with us and to help us.  He will direct our paths.  He most likely will not rescue us out of whatever history holds, but He will be with His children throughout their experience.


Anonymous said...

Just curious - WHAT prompted this???????

Island Rider said...

You are correct that we are not immune to the evils of this world and its impact upon our bodies. However, what gives me comfort is knowing that nothing comes into my life that God does not allow to teach me and mold me. And that He will be with me no matter what happens. I once told a friend, I am not afraid of death, but am afraid of dying. As I have gotten older, I think of dying as walking through a door. I may stumble over the sill, but I will eventually end up in Heaven. And as your header reminds us, we are just passing through!

Susan Humeston said...

You are right Cathy - He will be with us and He has a plan for our lives. I know this post concentrated a bit too much on the negative aspects of my thinking - the positive is that this life is not all there's just a testing and growing place, really. Thanks for your response!!

Susan Humeston said...

Anonymous - Cheryl - you know, you have a gmail account and you can use that to identify who you are so it doesn't say "anonymous".

Anyway - I have a tendency to focus on the negatives in this world a lot - it is part of my "make-up", I think.