May 13, 2013
The age-old Question that everyone asks
“Why?” Just three letters and a question mark. But it’s the age-old question that everyone asks at one time or another and some people ask quite often. We are baffled by life’s seeming inequities and scream out our protest, or we quietly move our lips and ask, “Why?”
Oh, how it hurts to see our loved ones leave this world. How it tears at our hearts to see them suffering. Even though we might pray for them to be released from pain, we are never quite prepared enough for that final parting. Death is so final.
Or is it?
We ponder what appears to be senseless suffering – that emotional, psychological, physical, or spiritual affliction that comes in many forms. We wonder about death, especially the death of the very young. We feel they have not lived long enough. We speak of the “waste” of so much human potential. The “whys” escape from our lips – even from the lips of those who should have all the answers. We do not like to see suffering, much less encounter it ourselves.
We shove thoughts of death from our thinking. When we do have to confront death, we find ourselves at a loss for words to express our deepest feelings.
Confronting the Eternal Question: Why?
Is there an answer to the eternal question, “Why?” Clergymen and men and women in ministries such as ours are often confronted with that question. Sometimes we have answers. More often we have no pat answers. And pat answers are usually what the one asking the question wants.
The longer I live, the more I observe the human scene, and the more I study the Word of God, the more I am convinced that these difficult experiences we all encounter in some form or another are unique opportunities God has given us to help us grow in faith. There are no pat answers. That may seem too simplistic for some, but it’s true.
Because of your own experiences with pain, are you not much more sensitive to the pain of others?
Because of your own encounter with tragedy, are you not much more understanding of the trauma others are enduring?
Because of your walk through the valley of the shadow of death, can you not enter into the grief of others with more compassion (see 2 Corinthians 1:4)?
Whatever your personal experience with human suffering has been, have you not found it to be a faith-stretching exercise? You had to use your faith because there was nothing else you could do. There was no one who could fill the void left by the death of a loved one. There were no medical procedures that could alter the situation for that one (or yourself) who heard the dread word “cancer” or some other irreversible condition. At those times you found yourself reaching out and crying, “Oh, God, I need Your help!” And can you honestly say it did not come?
That help is there, always near at hand and always made adequate. Sometimes it appears slow at easing the heartaches, but even then, it is there. If you question that, ponder these truths:
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Isaiah 43:2) .
. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).
Pain, suffering, and death do not cancel out the truths of God’s Word.
Rabbi Harold S. Cushner caught the attention of the reading public with his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. When bad things happen to otherwise seemingly “good people,” the first thought that comes to mind is, “If there is a God, then what kind of a God is He to allow this to happen? Isn’t God big enough to do something about the ‘bad things’?”
My wife and I have known sorrow and weeping. We stood clinging to each other outside the door of the Intensive Care Ward as the time for her father’s death drew near. We, too, are so very human, and we long to hold onto those who have meant so much to us. We’ve been through the same kinds of things you have. So what I am saying to you in these pages is not without personal feeling and experience.
Yet, I know that God is a good God. Bad things do happen – not because He is an uncaring and an unfeeling “Vast Imbecility,” as Thomas Hardy suggested in his pessimistic poem, “Nature’s Questioning.” We have found Him to be a compassionate Heavenly Father. He is a God who loves and cares and feels for us when we are hurting or sorrowing.
Jesus Also Asked “Why?”
Jesus himself uttered an anguished, “Why?” Both gospel writers Matthew and Mark record His question, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
With these words He was expressing His loneliness. It was an emotion with which we can all identify. All of us, at some time and possibly at many times, feel lonely and wonder about the “why” of things.
Jesus was hanging on a cross when He cried out His “Why?” Is there any death more cruel and violent than crucifixion? In one sense, I believe Jesus was expressing grief because He was so very human as the God-man. He was showing us that grief is a very natural reaction to death. Remember, Jesus also wept at Lazarus’ grave (see John 11:35). This shows us that we need to express our feelings, ask our questions, and get our thoughts out into the open. Doing so is healthier than putting on a pious pretense and holding back one’s tears and grief.
Even while Jesus was experiencing grief through agony, however, He was showing His concern and love. It was directed toward His mother and her immediate needs. As He hung there dying, He asked John, one of His disciples, to care for her. In a much broader sense, Jesus’ cry of “Why?” was one brief word in a statement that was overshadowed by His love for all mankind.
I heard the story of an angry young man who cried out at a memorial service, “Where was God when this happened?” It seemed there had been a tragic mid-air plane collision and some of his friends had been killed. The minister in charge of that service repeated the young man’s question and then answered it. “God was in the same place He was when cruel men took His only Son and crucified Him on a cross.”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
There is no place on the face of this earth where we can get away from the realities of suffering and death. We live in a fallen universe. It is the old, old story which took place in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and listened instead to the voice of the tempter. Because of that, the effects of the Fall of man are felt in every area of life. It is the conflict of the ages. We may not like it. Some may protest that God is an unfair God, and they may even shake their fists at heaven. But that will never alter the fact that because of our original parents’ disobedience, the whole world forevermore will suffer. The apostle Paul explains it like this:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many . . .)
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous . . . But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:12-15,19,20,21).
So while there is conflict here on planet earth – and there always has been – with persecution, affliction, and death ever present, God has provided a “gift of grace” in Christ. We can go through these hard times, these “battles,” and the many devastating things that come our way. Through it all we can trust God, and we can help each other to trust Him more and more. We can be overcomers. Revelation 12:11 shows us how that can be accomplished:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Revelation 12:11).
We will never know the answers to all the whys that are asked and that have been asked through the ages. But one thing we do know – we, too, can overcome. We are reminded daily that we have not been promised immunity from suffering and death. However, God has promised that we can abound (exist, survive) and be overflowing with hope, joy, and peace. How? By faith believing and trusting that what God says in His Word is true.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore 1 take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
God has promised to provide strength for us in our times of weakness – His strength through the “blood of the Lamb.” His Son.
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
Just to Say, “Thank You!”
No story in the Bible more movingly pictures human gratitude than the healing of ten lepers in Luke 17:12-18 . . .
And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
And when He saw them, He said unto them, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God. And he fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? They are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”
Have you too found that sometimes when a person gets what he wants, he forgets to say thank you? Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He was giving examples of how we should live. He knew – as He knew all things – that only one man would return to express appreciation. Thus, Christ wanted this story of the ten lepers recorded for future generations, so that we would know the importance of giving thanks.
Give Without Expecting Thanks?
I’ve heard it said that we should not “expect” thanks in return for the kindnesses we show. If we don’t expect it, we will never be disappointed in our fellow man. However, I believe that the attitude of being grateful and showing it is a biblical principle. Notice verse 17; it seems as if Jesus expected a “thank-you” from all ten lepers. He said, “But where are the nine?‘
Jesus was showing us a practical example of Colossians 3:15, “Be ye thankful.” Obviously, thanksgiving is expected of us. This is one reason mothers and fathers, while teaching their children to speak, emphasize the importance of saying “please” and “thank you.”
We expect such “common” courtesies even from toddlers. Naturally, it is disconcerting when adults are ungrateful in response to God’s kindnesses to them. How many of us follow the dictum of Colossians 3:15, “Be ye thankful“?
Bless the LORD, O My Soul!
In Psalm 103, we read a beautiful song of thanksgiving:
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;
Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executeth righteousness. . . (Psalm 103:1-6)
Notice in this text that the psalmist recalls the “benefits” of serving God, and even lists them in his song of praise. Have you ever created such a list? The little Sunday School song that I learned as a child implores us to “count your blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” When we pray and give thanks to God, let us remember all the wonderful blessings He has bestowed on us!
I want to extend my gratitude to every supporter and friend of our ministry. Thank you all, dear ones, for your financial help, prayers, letters and encouragement.
We especially thank you whose lives have been changed for your notes and letters of testimony. Jack and I have had many praise sessions because of God’s word in your hearts.
The Impact of Encouragement
It would be virtually impossible to carry on this ministry to which God has called us without help and encouragement from precious friends like you. We need your encouragement: we thrive upon hearing about your triumphs and victories because God used our ministry to reach you. It is difficult to express the impact we feel as we receive hundreds of thousands of letters each year sharing such blessings. It is like a warm ray of sunshine on a cold winter’s day.
At His last supper, Jesus showed us exactly how important encouragement is at the darkest hours of our life. When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (John 13:21-23).
John could feel the Master’s burdened spirit and leaned his head on Jesus to express his love and concern. John wanted to give his Lord a measure of additional strength and encouragement. This example of human love from this disciple is so beautiful that it cannot be overlooked.
I am sure Jesus absorbed a great deal of love and respect from His apostles. I do believe, however. God laid it on their hearts to be extremely compassionate and supportive of the Lord Jesus especially because of the agony which lay ahead.
The Most Important Person on Earth
Jack and I thank you for the encouragement you have been to us. May our example help you to express appreciation to special people in your life for the blessings they have been to you.
For instance, when was the last time you said “thank you” to the person you hold dearest on earth? Remember your mate is a gift from God, and the Bible teaches us to love and respect each other. Read Ephesians 5:20, 25, and 28.
Ladies, when the man in your life opens the door for you, do you say, “Thank you, sweetheart”? Gentlemen, when the lady of your dreams fixes your favorite meal, do you remember to say, “Thank you honey, that was delicious!” (You might even say “thank you” when the roast is tough, especially when you have only been married for 10 weeks!) When your son or daughter plans a surprise birthday party for you, do you give him or her a loving hug and express gratitude? Oh how important it is to be mindful to say “thank you,” especially to those closest to us.
Thanks for the Memories
Parents, also, deserve our thanks. In fact, the edict to honor our father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments – and it is the first commandment with a promise. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12).
I am sure that there are many people who made an infinitely important impact upon your life, but who probably are not aware of it. Perhaps there was a teacher somewhere along the line who captured your imagination and helped you to learn. Would it not be a wonderful idea to write a thank-you note telling him or her of the great contribution that they made toward the success of your career and personal life?
I heard the story of a grown man who remembered his best school teacher from years past, and sent her a letter thanking her for all she had given him and his classmates. The teacher was in her 80’s now, and gratefully replied, saying: “I taught school for 50 years, and this is the first note of gratitude I have ever received!”
Likewise, your thank-you note would mean so much to someone today.
Most of us don’t take the time to thank our pastors or Sunday School teachers or ministers of music and youth for the hours they spent studying and preparing to help us in our spiritual walk. I feel confident they would appreciate knowing you are grateful and have been blessed by their ministry.
Saying “thank-you” will also enhance your opportunities to witness for Christ. When the clerk at the supermarket is helpful, look that person right in the eye and say, “Thank you.”
I know this is appreciated, because one young lady who has helped me many times at the store said to me, “You know, Rexella, you are the only customer who really looks at me, and this tells me I’m important to you.” I pray she sees more than just a look, but that through my eyes she sees Someone who cares for her deeply.
Of course, we could go on and on with a list of people who deserve our thanks, but as you open your horizon of opportunities to show appreciation, let me assure you that you will experience a great sense of satisfaction in expressing it.
H.W. Beecher said, “Pride slays thanksgiving. A proud man never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”
The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In light of eternity, none of us “deserves” the many wonderful blessings which have been bestowed on us. Our sinful humanity deserves only eternal punishment.
Yet Christ in His infinite mercy provided a way of escape for us through His shed blood, and rewards us with eternal life. How can we not be thankful every moment of our lives? We did nothing to deserve all of His blessing; Christ did it all.
So there is no room for pride in our lives, and oh – so much room for thanksgiving! Let us rejoice this day and obey the command of Colossians 3:15: “Be ye thankful.”
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
I am from England in the United Kingdom. I watch your program every week. And I have to tell you its wonderful. You are fantastic and doing fantastic work for Jesus. We love you and your wife over here. I look at you and wish I had a dad just like you. I have seen the silly comments evil fools have said about you on YouTube and the internet. But you take no notice. They will have to answer to god one day. You keep doing what youre doing jack you are covered in the blood and the world needs you right now in these last days. God bless you jack and hid Angels take charge over you and keep you covered in Gods protection. Lots of love and hugs to you both
Hello Jack and Rexella
Yes indeed I enjoy my letter I get from you it really helps me to understand things in my spiritual growth. I watch you on TV also when I can catch you I just love you two so much and you are so spirit filled and never back down. Please dont ever stop sending me your newsletter I learn so much from it.
May God richly bless you both and may we fight the battle that is to come together in Jesus name.
With love in Christ
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