One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many life lessons suddenly appear whenever there is something to teach.
“when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1
My husband and I were speaking about some of the encounters Jesus’s had with people who knew Him but did not recognize Him after His death and resurrection. We spent a number of weeks studying why His friends were blind to His identity even as they spoke face to face with Him. During that time of studying we had a number of life experiences that opened our eyes to how blinded we, as humans, can be when we are in the mist of turmoil.
- A young man facing the loss of his job, trying desperately to get others to fix the problem he created.
- One young girl panicking over which of her friends’ expectation she should carry out, unable to understand the very logical answer she was advised by several others.
- A teen trying everything she could think of–lying, faking, manipulating, denying– to get out of going to summer school.
- Another desperately trying to fix last year’s grades with excessive studying for her make-up class, while trying to hide that she was taking it.
- Two young ladies feeling compelled to give up on life because of the rejection of friends / break up with boyfriend, and then struggling with the shame for having that desire.
When things go wrong and our world is rocked, it is natural to try to regain control. I’ve been there myself:
- When I moved three times in my Junior year of High School, I shut down emotionally to protect my heart from losing more friendships.
- When my first husband left me while pregnant, I tried everything I knew to regain his love.
- When the doctors said my baby would not live, I tried to deny the reality of the situation.
- When my son got involved with drugs, I tried every method I could to fix him.
Some problems in life are simply difficult to deal with. When our world is rocked and we don’t know what to do, we have three choices:
- We can deny what is going on, or at least the intensity of it.
- We can become get completely consumed with our problem.
- We can do everything we are responsible for and relinquish control of the rest.
It seems to me that most of us dart back and forth between the first two options until we get to the point of “overload” and then our bodies, mind, emotion and/or spirit shuts down. Like a smart phone with too many apps open, we simply cannot function well under too much stress.
I believe that is why Mary Magdalene stood crying at the empty tomb of Jesus, wanting to find His body even after hearing from angels that He was alive. And this was after she had already told the disciples that He was alive!
I think when devastation hits us hard we sometimes go through the motions of what we believe in our minds. We may even tell others the powerful truth of what we believe but until we slow down (and shut down all the apps!) we cannot see that our faith may actually contains the answer to our problems. Look at how Mary was stressed out over the very thing that she should have been rejoicing over:
John 20:10-16 Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.”Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
I haven’t stopped trying to control my own problems, by any means, but if I have learned anything from them it is this: the challenges we face bring the things we believe from our head to our heart and the more we believe that God can make all things beautiful in His time, the more apt we are to stop dashing between option one and two. Choosing option 3 does not fix our problems but it does help us find peace enough to go on with confidence.
If you are enduring a devastating time of your life, I encourage you to do as Mary did, look to Jesus and ask Him what is going on and tell Him what you want to do. Then listen for your name. He knows your personally, He understands all the details of your problem, and He has the answers. Life may not be what you expected; God knows I did not want my baby to die or my son to choose drugs! But I want to respond like Mary did, “Rabboni!” and I can because I, too, see Him as my teacher.
“God, help us to see you, hear you and know in our hearts that you are good, no matter how devastating our lives may look right now. Use this difficult time in our lives to teach us, mold us into stronger, more Christ-like people as we choose to trust you. Amen.”