God s Jigsaw Puzzle. Thanks so much for this opportunity. Preaching is not something I do often,

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1 God s Jigsaw Puzzle Thanks so much for this opportunity. Preaching is not something I do often, but growth comes with opportunities that challenge me. Preaching from this pulpit is a daunting task. Many amazing preachers have shared a message from this spot! I hope and pray that one person is blessed by what I share today. Now, I am not a scholar by any means, but I have lived almost 41 years now and there is one thing I know for sure, now stay with me, Life Stinks!! I have worked to no avail to avoid bad things from happening and nothing has worked. You can t avoid bad things. They are a part of life. People will die, people will get sick and suffer! There will be floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, job loss, the list goes on. You name it, it s bound to happen. I wish I had better news to share. People of faith try to search for answers to why this stuff happens. I have spent my life looking for answers as well.

2 Growing up I heard a couple of things, If you pray hard enough God will take away your pain and suffering and that person must not be right with God, so God is punishing them. Hmm. What a scary thoughts!! You can imagine as child how I viewed the world around with those notions in my head. When my 9 year cousin, Adam was diagnosed with cancer, I really began to question what was happening around me. What could Adam have done to anger God that God would allow Adam to suffer as he did at such a young age, or at all for that matter? My world and all my beliefs were completely rocked to their core when my brother died very suddenly 7 years ago. Why was God doing this? I was angry! I was and am still for that matter, looking for answers to why all this was happening around me. I had been taught and grown to appreciate that God loves us, NO MATTER WHAT! So if God loves us why is this happening and why was God not taking it all away?

3 Bad things have been happening to good people throughout history. In the Bible, when I think of pain and suffering I think of Job. Job was a strong man of God, who I once referred to as a Christian, but as scholars quickly reminded me, Job lived before the time of Christianity, so technically, he was not a Christian. None the less, he was a strong man of God who endured a great deal of suffering, but continued to turn to God asking for answers. Carol A. Newsom in The New Interpreter s Bible refers to Job as one of the Bible s most memorable characters. She says that Job is an icon, emblematic of the suffer who endures the unendurable without complaint. Newsom believes there is also a part of Job that makes him a rebel, who debunks the piety of his friends and boldly accuses God of injustice. The book offers a challenging exploration of religious issues of fundamental importance, the meaning of suffering, the nature of God, the place of justice in the world and the relationship of order and chaos in God s design of creation. Now Lydia read a variety of scriptures from the book of Job. My intention was to share a little of who Job was, what he experienced and how he came through in the end. Job essentially had the worst of the worst happen to him throughout his life, pain, famine, death, sickness and a lot of suffering. Throughout his life he called out to God asking why.

4 Personally, the imagines of God and satan portrayed in the book of Job are troublesome but I acknowledge that this can be reflective of the writer/interpreter, and are honestly, not how I see God or satan for that matter. What was most important in what I was reading was Job. I see a good man of God experiencing horrible difficulties in his life and trying to understand why. He displays the whole gamut of emotions throughout the book. Many of us, I think, can relate to Job. Trying to understand and wrap our heads around what is going on around us and where God is in all of it. The book of Job ends in a frustrating matter, but for me the closing rings true of the constant struggle, as people of faith, to find answers. Are you still with me? I do have some good news to share. What I have learned and what I want to share with you today is, God IS Love! I believe that God doesn t want bad things to happen to us anymore then we want to experience them. God walks with us and loves us through all the difficult times. I am confident that God can also handle our sadness, anger, questions, all of it! You name it God can handle it. If we are comforted by expressing our anger

5 to God, God can handle it. Just as a parent loves us through the worse times, God will love us through our anger, God will love us through it all! These experiences make us who we are. I imagine God, like my mom, for many reasons, but in this case, my mom loves to do puzzles, and can sit for hours putting together these puzzles. We are God s jigsaw puzzles. Each experience we have, both good and bad are pieces of our puzzles and God patiently and lovingly puts the pieces together. We read in James 1:2-4, My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Now I am the first to admit that I do not experience difficult times joyfully but I do think we come to a point where we become reflective. We can look at how these experiences make us who we are today. These experiences teach us. Hopefully we can use what we learn in own life and also share with others in hopes of helping them through their difficult times. We also need to look for God in all that we experience. This reminds me of what Bethany Professor Tara Hornbacker

6 talks about, WIGAT. Where is God in all this? Where have we felt God s love and where did we find God in our most difficult time? When we look at where God is we may begin to think God is causing the suffering. We are living in a world created by God, right? I have come to see that God did create the world we live in but we need to take ownership in what happens around us. God created the world then left the rest up to us. The quote listed in the bulletin speaks directly to this, The kind of evil that Milton Steinberg has called, the still unremoved scaffolding of the edifice of God s creativity. In that case we will simply have to learn to live with it, sustained and comforted by the knowledge that the earthquake and the accident, like the murder and the robbery, are not the will of God but represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of his will and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us. In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Harold S. Kushner, a Rabbi, looks at this idea of bad things happening to good people. He began his exploration as he watched his young son suffer and ultimately die from a rare disease. Kushner began his journey trying to understand what was happening, and why, as well as, grapple with his faith. He asked many questions, and questioned his faith a time or two. Kushner says this

7 of his journey and the life of his son, because his life made it possible and because his death made it necessary. Kushner s son passed away at the age of fourteen after 11 years of suffering. If people like Job and Mr. Kushner can find God in all their difficulty, we can too, I believe. Though often considered cheesy and often over used, the Footprints in the Sand poem written by Mary Stevenson has been meaningful to me. In case you have never heard it before, I share it with you: One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, "You promised me Lord that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been on set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me? The Lord replied, The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you. God walks with us, stands with us, and carries us through the trials of life.

8 As God walks with us, God calls us, I believe, to try and find something positive in what we are experiencing. Now I will say there are experiences that are not positive and no good can come from them, just hurt, pain and sadness. It is important to feel all those emotions and know God is still with us. Now I am not going to say I wouldn t change anything. I would do anything to have my brother here today, though I have come to learn that life comes full circle. About 2 years after Josh died, Joshua came into our lives. Now Joshua does not take Josh s place in any way but he did bring something very special into our family. For me he taught me about love and allowed me to smile when I was still grieving. He is an amazing little boy that has brought so much love, joy and laughter into our lives. For that I am grateful. I mentioned my cousin Adam as I began this sermon. Adam has been cancer free for nearly a decade now. He is a high school graduate trying to find his way in the world. Again, I wouldn t want to relive those times again, but Adam and I shared some special times together while he was sick. I do believe we have a special bound and I am so proud of him. For that I am grateful. In August of last year I was in my first major car accident, resulting in my first ambulance ride. Subsequently, I lost my job shortly after the accident. I healed

9 physically from my injuries but emotionally I was all over the place. I didn t see a way out of all this. How was I going to get through this? I remember having some pretty desperate thoughts. Today, I still don t have a traditional job, but without having a traditional job I have the opportunity to do things I could not do before. I have been able to do what gives me life, help people. I have so much fun spending time with some pretty amazing people! While there are still struggles not having a traditional job, these last couple of months have given me life. For that I am grateful. I started my sermon by saying, Life Stinks. I want to retract that statement; Life is full of so much to be grateful for. Things are going to be rough; we can t avoid that, but YOU ARE LOVED! Remember to pray, God hears you and loves you and stands by you through it all. We are who we are because of everything that we go through. We are God s jigsaw puzzle! The love of God surrounds us ALWAYS. It is the love that will not let us go. May it be so..

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