Call me jaded, but I just don’t watch television news. That’s mostly because I spent the first six years of my career working at a couple of local TV stations and then a national news organization. Clif gives me a hard time for being so critical of the stories that frequently pass for news like “Hair Spray: The Hidden Dangers!” or “Is Furniture Polish Endangering Your Children?” Really? I just can’t stand that pseudo-news stuff, so I just prefer reading my news instead of watching it.
Last week, however, was an exception. There was so much real news going on that it was hard to stay away from the television. The bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the ensuing manhunt and capture riveted the collective attention of the entire nation for almost five full days. Then, right in the middle of that drama, the fertilizer plant in Texas exploded, devastating that community. It would be difficult to calculate how many lives were completely altered in the matter of seconds in those two locations alone.
While you were watching all those events unfold, did you ever wonder how the victims and their families would emotionally survive such tragedies? I did. As I saw all those shocking images, I tried to put myself in their situation. I mean, Wow! The faces on the screen were just normal people who have plans, dreams, hopes and goals, and then, Bam! Their lives were jumbled in an instant. Then, as I thought a little more, I realized you don’t have to be in the blast radius of a bomb or in a factory explosion to feel the weight of tragedy. A car accident. A bad doctor’s report. A poor financial investment. Or a broken relationship and your whole world can be transformed. Of course, those kinds of things don’t make the news, but they change people’s lives every day. How can we make it through events like these without collapsing?
Scripture has something to say about almost everything and dealing with disaster isn’t an exception. Matthew 7 contains a parable about two home builders, and in four simple verses, Jesus lays out the secret to enduring any of the crazy, unexpected things that happen to us.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice
is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house;
yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice
is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house,
and it fell with a great crash.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27
In this straightforward story, we find the most basic principle that will help us to survive (and thrive) during calamity. Look back at verse 24 and 26. Here Jesus tells us that it’s not enough to have good intentions about living a godly life. It’s not enough to have a lot of knowledge about spiritual things. It’s not enough to just be aware of God’s instructions. And it’s not even enough to read books, take notes and teach others what He says about how to live. Jesus says if you want to endure, you must follow through and actually DO what He says.
Now, I know there are a lot of skeptics who don’t understand how following God’s rules could possibly make any difference when it comes to getting through a tragedy on the scale of what happened to people in Boston, or Texas. How could following moral guidelines, being financially responsible or learning how to forgive have any bearing on a coping with such loss? The connection might not be immediately obvious, but it’s extremely important. Enduring tragedy of any kind is wholly dependent on knowing the Lord. He’s the only One who can turn bad into good (Rom 8:28) and help us see how our right response to difficulties can be profitable to us in the long run. (James 1:2-4) Without His perspective, we’ll end up blaming Him and forever pondering the question “Why Me?”
So how do you get this all-important viewpoint? I mentioned John 14:21 last week, but it’s such a pivotal verse, I’ll go back to it again. Jesus said, “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them. This verse points to the inseparable link between our obedience and knowing God in a deeper way.
Now why is doing what He says such a big deal to God? It’s because obedience emphatically says that we respect Him and that we give Him priority in our lives. It’s a non-verbal way of stating to Him, “I believe what You say even when it doesn’t make any sense to me.” That’s what faith is really all about… trusting when you don’t understand. (Heb 11:1; 2 Cor. 5:7) When that becomes the thrust of your life, it’s as if you move into a different level with God. He shows you Himself, and you, in turn, learn to trust Him more. It’s this intimacy and personal experience with Jesus that becomes the foundation that will sustain you through anything that comes your way.
God is 100% faithful. He can lead you safely through any set of circumstances. But… you won’t follow Him if you don’t trust Him. You won’t trust Him if you don’t know Him. And you won’t know Him if you don’t obey Him.
So the question is… Do you want to be ready to face the difficulties life may throw at you? The single most important thing you can do to prepare for the unknown is to know God better by beginning today to live a life of faithful obedience.