Summary: So the question then is, how does God keep his promises? How does God work? How do we work? To put it in the jargon of the theologian, how does the transcendent mystery of God break into human affairs? In addition, as I have thought about that question, i
Text: Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
Introduction: Several years ago, there was a pastor who told a story of his father who passed away at 88 years of age. During the father’s last adult years, the father lived with the son and his family in Texas. Before that, the father lived in New York City. The father lived in an area of New York called Harlem, in a section of Harlem called Mouse Town, a neighborhood that Reader’s Digest said was the toughest section in the United States. The two years before the father came to live with the son and his family in Dallas, Texas he was beaten up twice by gangster thugs. Once, the father was knocked down two flights of stairs and as a result, the father wound up going to the hospital. The second time the father was beaten up, he developed a hernia. The father did not know what the hernia was, and being a man of simple, perhaps even simplistic faith, he asked God to heal him. However, nothing happened.
When the father finally wrote to tell the son what had occurred, it was obvious that the father was deeply upset. The son received his letter in the morning, and by that afternoon, the son was on a plane to New York. A day or two later, the son brought his father back to Texas, where the surgeons successfully operated on him. The father felt that somehow God had let him down. He had prayed for healing, and the healing had not occurred in the way that he expected.
The son tried to explain to his father that the hand of the physician was the hand of God, but he shrugged all of that off, and the last eight years of the father’s life were not good ones. Not only were these years a time of declining health, but the father went through them with a diminished faith.
However, a couple of years before that, the son had read C. S. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed. If you know that book, you know that C. S. Lewis, perhaps the most brilliant Christian writer of the twentieth century, wrote it after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. Joy Davidman had been an atheist, a communist, a Jew who came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of Lewis’s writings. Then to be close to him, she and her two teenage sons moved to England, and she served Lewis as his private secretary while he taught at Oxford.
When Lewis and Davidman were married, there was not much romance with it. As I understand it, they were married in a hospital room, and the reason that Lewis married Joy was to assure her that if she died of cancer, he would be responsible for her two sons. As God would have it, there was a remission in the disease. Joy Davidman came back to health, and C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman were actually married a second time in a Church of England ceremony. They enjoyed several wonderful years together. Then, as suddenly as the disease had stopped, it started again, and after a period of very painful illness, Joy Davidman died.
C. S. Lewis, this brilliant Christian writer, in order to come to grips with his grief, wrote his feelings in a series of journals; those journals became the basis of A Grief Observed. The book was first published under a pseudonym. Lewis was afraid that if people knew he had gone through this kind of experience, it might badly damage their faith. It was not published under his name until after his death in 1963. However, if you know that book, you know that the opening pages are shrill and harsh. C. S. Lewis had certain expectations about how God would work in his life, and when those expectations were not fulfilled, he became angry, confused, and somewhat hostile. As was Lewis’s custom, he turned from his expectations of God to his experience of God. At the end of the book, even though the skies are still leaden and gray, here and there a shaft of hope manages to break through.
The pastor stated that as he thought of those two experiences, there was a way in which his father, a very simple Christian, and C. S. Lewis, the brilliant Christian writer, had at least one thing in common. Both of them had expectations of how God would work in their lives. When those expectations were not fulfilled, they became confused and hurt, upset and angry.
As I was preparing this message, after a time when I had been thinking and praying about the things that have happened recently and are happening now in the lives of many of you here it occurred to me that to raise religious expectations too high can be dangerous and damaging. Disillusionment is the child of illusion. If we live with illusions about how God should work in our lives, we can suffer twice. We can suffer the arrows and stones that life throws at us in addition to feeling the heat of a badly wounded faith.