The hard thing about doing a sermon series based on a book of the Bible is that you are forced to talk about things you may not feel like preaching on that week. That, I’m sure from God’s perspective, is the benefit to such a series.
Why, for example was I forced to discuss the miraculous healing of a man the same week that my wife had one of the worst migraines she has had in months? Why that week? I mean, I’m glad the guy was healed in Acts, but what about my wife who wasn’t? What about all of the people who ask and aren’t healed?
If the book of Acts was made into a movie, it would have to be an action film. On almost every page a person is healed, a miracle takes place, or someone faces persecution for their faith. At times when reading it can seem like a story of a completely different world. From the believers in the upper room speaking in tongues and having fire placed on their heads, to the dramatic story of Saul becoming Paul and sharing the gospel with the known world, the book stands apart as uniquely filled with power. Observing the work of God seemed like an everyday occurrence and it begs the question, why don't we see that now?
Of course I’m not the first to feel this way or ask these questions, and I’m certain I haven’t found the best answers, but I have found some comfort. I realized in these questions I unknowingly revealed my own questions about God and his character. Of course it’s normal to wonder why someone I love is in pain, but the frustration I felt when I read this passage was bigger than that.
Her migraines, along with other suffering I see, forces me to grapple with the idea of a God who is loving, able, and yet sometimes unwilling to remove suffering. Of course on paper I unquestionably trust this God, but my frustration reveals the truth. I either allow myself to believe in an active God who heals, or a passive God who shouldn’t be bothered. Revered yes, but I find myself less and less asking God to heal or do miracles the longer I follow him.
That should be the opposite, and it is embarrassing, but it is true.
My quest for rationale has left me empty, and my attempt to predict God have been a bust. I have realized however, that to trust that he both has the power to heal and simultaneously has the wisdom to know the right moments for such interventions, is a profoundly liberating experience.
A friend of mine told me the Yiddish phrase you’re supposed to say when someone passes away in the Jewish faith. I wouldn’t even try to say the actual phrase, nor to type it out, but the translation revealed something powerful. The phrase is “Blessed is the true judge”. When a person dies, the first thing they affirm is God’s authority and wisdom. What a challenge. When God chooses not to do what we would like, are we willing to believe he knows better?
I’m supposed to trust God with everything, even my own struggles and pain. If I truly trust him, I will start to see over time that he will “work all things together for my good”, even if it’s not what I would like. I’m not saying this type of trust is easy, nor that I have it now even after preaching this sermon, but I do know that it’s what I need.