You have certainly seen the headlines by now.
The question has surely come up in your mind: What in the world is going on in Orlando? After all, you understand the basics of math. y=mx + B. With three plot points, one can see the forming of a line that appears to be sloping in the negative direction and that only can mean a downward spiral for Orlando. It’s over. Get outta the city as fast as you can. There is no hope. There is no opportunity for rebound.
As a Baylor grad and former Waco resident, I have wrestled with similar headlines before. Branch Davidians, Baylor Basketball Scandal, Baylor Football Scandal. And, I have asked, What in the world is going on in Waco?
But perhaps I could even ask this question in general — what are we to do when we experience a series of common events occurring in rapid succession in one particular area of life? Because, this is much bigger than Orlando. And this is much bigger than Waco. This is a downward spiral of Job-like proportions. And, it is far more common to life than many of us may realize.
Consider this common scenario: A woman comes home to find that her mate has walked out on her and the children. As divorce papers are finalizing, the woman learns that her job is being eliminated. As the woman is putting their for sale sign in the front lawn, headlines indicate a cooling of the housing market. When crying on the phone with her lawyer, the woman learns that one of her children is sick with a cold. What is she to do?
Or this scenario: Its an election year and supreme court nominations and who do I vote for and where is our country heading? What are people to do?
So. What should we do with these kinds of plot points in life? And is there anything that can inform the way we live so that we don’t end up in a massive depression?
The Bible And God’s Providence
The place to begin is with Truth. In the time when Jesus walked the earth, people in these types of situations would often ask, “Who sinned, this man or his family?” In their superstitious worldview, they would interpret these kinds of successive events as eternal punishments from an angry God in response to one’s personal holiness, cleanliness, or obedience. This is not unlike the eastern notion of Karma, where good deeds are rewarded with good fortune and bad deeds in kind.
But Jesus doesn’t respond to this question with affirmation. Instead he answered:
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:3-5 (ESV)
In this short reply, Jesus reminds us of several important ideas which speak to Orlando, Waco, and our own plot points of despair:
- God’s got this. God is sovereign. He is in charge. Nothing, and I mean nothing, occurs without His permission. And He is working in this for His glory and for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). This idea reminds us that even when events prompt hopelessness, we can still have hope in Jesus.
- We don’t live in Paradise yet. In Genesis 3 we learn that humanity was removed from the perfect garden because of their willful choice to exalt self over God. When sin entered the world, the world fell in every way. This idea helps us to understand why there is so much animosity between mankind. This idea helps us to understand why there is so much animosity between man and beast. This idea helps provide a framework for mental illness, for evil choices, hate crimes, and for tragedy.
- There is still work to do. Jesus says later in John 10:10, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The fact that so much evil exists, in part, reminds us of the Jesus work Christians have to do. The reason we are still alive is to help make others alive in Jesus.
Processing The Plot Points
So with this truth from John 9 in mind, I want to offer some thoughts on how to process through the plot points, whether you are thinking about Orlando, or whether you are thinking about your own personal downward spiral.
- Anxiety is normal, but don’t let it master you. I want to encourage us with what Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Anxiety often accompanies plot points of despair. And God knows this. That is why he has given us an antidote called prayer. In praying to God, we get to do two significant things:
- We get to thank Him for everything he has given us. With a background of thankfulness in view, our three measly plot points don’t get to seem so unbearable. We remember that God has taken care of us in the past and God will take care of us in the future.
- We get to make prayer requests to God. Supplication (Asking for God to supply) is a really good discipline because it reminds your soul as it reminds God that He is the only one who can really help you. When you request things of God, you basically praise Him for his sole helpful ability.
- The slippery slope feels real, but it is not. Fatalism is the idea that we are all trolly cars linked to a defined route on a street and that once we jump on the trolly car of life, God is moving us towards a predefined point that we can’t change. This view makes us prisoners of life on a slippery slope. The only problem with this view is that it A: has been disproven in the experienced lives of far too many people to be a comprehensive explanation of reality and B: is not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that God provides for creation in a way that a father provides for his children (Matthew 7:7). Within the framework of a father/child relationship we know that sometimes a child goes through rough season, but that never hinders a father from providing for his children.
The Big Take Away
Three plot points are not enough to invalidate the amazing, surpassing, sovereign work of the Creator of the universe. Even though it is tragic, scary, and unnerving to read the news today, know this Christian: God’s got this. And, He will continue to provide for and care for His children. And He will continue to give His children opportunities to share Christ so that they can bring friends with them to be with Him in Heaven.