We have a nighttime tradition around our house. After feeding and bathing Eden, Leslie or I read her a couple of stories from the Children’s Bible. It’s kind of like the Bible’s greatest hits, all with fully animated pictures. It’s a great resource for kids, but it bugs me to death.
I find myself over and over again wanting to say, “No, that’s actually not what happened Eden.” For example, tonight we were reading about the prophet Elijah, how after he stood toe to toe with King Ahab he went through some real bouts of depression, he even wanted to die. But it doesn’t mention that, just that God fed Elijah with birds. I guess ravens are more kid-friendly than depression. The showdown on Mt. Carmel ends with the prophets of Ba’al being embarrassed, not murdered.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad that Eden doesn’t hear all the gory bits of the Bible just yet. But the problem comes when we grow up and keep reading the Bible the same way.
This weekend a friend of ours from Harding was murdered. Leslie and her were in the same club in college, she was a kind, sweet girl named Micah. At first, everyone thought she was just missing. People combed through her neighborhood for hours, and they prayed and prayed for her safe return.
A preacher buddy of mine was a part of search party looking for her while they thought she was lost. And after everyone realized what had actually happened, someone anonymously left the comment on my friend’s blog: “Could someone please tell me where God was when all the praying was going on?”
What a great question.
Over the weekend I also did a graduation ceremony. And the verse I heard repeated several times was Jeremiah’s famous statement in chapter 29 “For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper and not harm you.” It’s a really inspiring verse. With only one problem.
Taken out of context, you might forget that before that verse there were 28 chapters of God telling Jeremiah that he is about to make life really hard on the Israelites. They are going to be captured, enslaved and oppressed by another nations. And that’s just the lucky ones.
The Bible is filled with hope and promises of blessings. But that’s not all it’s full of. It’s a story filled with the messiness of God partnering with flawed people. It’s filled with God allowing people to feel the brunt of their own choices, and sometimes feeling the brunt of other people’s choices.
I think this is a large problem for American churches. We love to read the promises of God, the hope of the story. Nobody’s favorite verse is Elijah battling depression; but if that’s all we know than we are in trouble. Scot Mcknight says that when we take these promises of hope and restoration out of the context that they are in, and put them on a Daily Bible calendar, we lose something.
And we figure out what we’ve lost when we hurt. We find ourselves asking where was God when we prayed? We find ourselves confused and disappointed when God didn’t stop tragedy from happening.
I don’t know why God allowed such a sweet kind girl to lose her life. I don’t get why God ca seem so absent when we are at our lowest. But the Bible tells a story that doesn’t white wash over these moments. That actually, it is in these events that God is the most present, suffering with us. And in light of the darkest times of our lives those promises really stand out.
That there will be a day when God restores all things. When the sorrow and pain of today will be a distant reality. Where swords are beaten into plowshares, and the lion and the lamb lay down together. Where death gives back what it owes.
And that’s a story I want Eden to know.