Kingdom Here, Kingdom Come (A Guest Post)

This post was written by Aubry Smith and taken from Bible Study Magazine

When I was 13 my mom had a seizure in the middle of the night. After multiple tests and exploratory surgeries, the neurologists diagnosed her with terminal brain cancer. She had four months to live. As my siblings and I prepared our goodbyes, nearly every church in the county was praying for my mom’s healing.

A year later, the same team of doctors declared my mom in remission. Many people in our small community, convinced of God’s power and His hand in this miracle, came to faith. I was one of them.

kingdom.jpg

It seemed too good, and then it wasn’t. A few years later she began forgetting things. She began telling cashiers at the grocery store personal information and bought the same vacuum cleaner every week. Her surgical scars suddenly opened, and an infection spread through her skull, nearly killing her. After a year in the hospital and countless surgeries, one-third of her skull was permanently removed. Now in her 50s, she lives in an assisted living residence, remembers very little about her life, and cannot function on her own.

Rather than undergoing the quick death of brain cancer, she now suffers the slow death of dementia. The miracle that brought me to faith years ago now brings me to a spiritual crisis. Why would God provide a miracle only to allow even more suffering later on? In John 11, Jesus attends the funeral of His friend Lazarus. Although Jesus was aware that Lazarus lay dying, He intentionally delayed His arrival so that God would be glorified (11:4). Lazarus’ sisters and their fellow mourners all assert that Jesus could have healed Lazarus and spared them their suffering (11:21, 32, 37). In response, Jesus calls Lazarus—rotting and wrapped in burial linen—out of the tomb. Many believe, and God is indeed glorified.

What we are not told is when or how Lazarus died again. There’s no account of him being whisked up to heaven like Enoch or Elijah, so we must assume he died later on. We’re also not told the fate of the others Jesus healed. Did they ever get sick again? They surely died too.

Jesus preached that the kingdom of God is near. He showed us what that kingdom is like: the dead are resurrected, the sick are healed, demons are powerless, creation is restored, and God is worshiped. In his resurrection, Lazarus bore witness to God’s kingdom and power. Was God any less present or powerful when Lazarus died the second time?

We see glimpses of the coming kingdom, but it is not fully here yet. Death has not yet died; sin and brokenness still abound. Sometimes miracles—signs of the coming glory—break into our world and show us that the kingdom of God has come to us in Jesus. But when suffering remains, we wait for complete restoration upon Jesus’ return.

Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ mourners is one of hope. They desire resurrection and life for their brother. Jesus draws them to Himself, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” (11:25, emphasis mine). Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is the God who suffers alongside His people. Although He knows that this is not the end for Lazarus, He is “deeply moved” by Mary’s anguish and the sight of His beloved friend’s tomb (11:33, 35, 38).

My mom’s miracle showed my community that God is near and that His kingdom—one without disease or mental illness—is coming in fullness one day. But her dementia reminds me that it is not yet fully here, pushing me to lean into Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, who weeps with me as I wait.

Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation (NLT).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 6 No. 4

 

 

Scabs and Scars

picking-a-scabSome months ago, I burned my arm while taking a tray out of the oven! Since it wasn’t a severe burn (in my expert medical opinion), I didn’t perform major surgery nor did I seek medical attention. I decided that since it was just a slight burn (I was only in contact with the hot spot for a milli-second!), I wouldn’t even put a Band-Aid on it; I would leave it alone and see how my body would heal itself.

Now, I’ve had burns, cuts, and bruises in the past and I would normally end up picking at the sore and making matters worse. But this time, I was determined to resist the urge to pick at it and allow the scab time to form and fall off by itself. And do you know what happened? Well, when it initially happened it hurt like the dickens! Then as time went on, it hurt less and less. Then, after some time, a puffy rising formed over the affected spot on my arm. Then the puffy rising went down and a harden scab formed. And then, after some time, the scab came off and while the spot of the burn no longer hurted or was even sore, there was a noticeable discoloration. Finally, the discoloration became less and less noticeable and the color in the spot returned to the point where it “almost” matched the coloring of the rest of my arm!

Now, I’m not telling you this to try to gross you out, but to relate to you that I learned a lesson from my burn. The lesson is that just as our bodies, if all things are normal, have the tendency to heal themselves (The purpose of medicine is not to heal or cure, but rather to assist the body where it is deficient in the process of healing and curing), so it is with life in general! There are a lot of people who think that life is out to get them or that they were “born to lose!” But that is not the case at all! Life is, in most cases, just like the normal healthy human body; when there is an injury, when something goes awry, life is healing and forgiving! Life is bent toward health, happiness, and healing!

But much of the pain we experience in life is not from our injuries, whether they be physical, psychological, or spiritual. Much of our pain comes from our tendencies to pick at the scabs and thus interrupt the healing process! For instance:  He’s already made it perfectly clear he doesn’t want you anymore! So why do you keep on pushing yourself on him; trying to make him change his mind? All you’re doing is just picking at the scab and not allowing the healing process! I know you loved your mother and her sudden death caught you and the rest of the family completely by surprise! But mother is gone and there is nothing you can do to bring her back! It’s been five years now; don’t you think it’s about time to pick up the pieces and move on? But instead, you are still grieving like it just happened last night! You’re bitter and angry with the rest of your family because they have moved on with their lives and you interpret their moving on as an indication that they didn’t love your mother as much as you did! No! All you’re doing is picking at the scab and not allowing the wound to heal!

But, even when do we allow time for the scab to form and fall off. And even when we don’t pick at the scab and allow time for the wound to heal, that does not eliminate the presence of the scar! As I am typing this very sentence, I’m pausing to look at the scar on my arm. The wound is completely healed! The scab is gone! It doesn’t hurt anymore! All that remains is the scar! In fact, if it wasn’t for the scar, there would be no trace of the injury! And as I look at other parts of my body, I can see scars, but I have forgotten what caused them!

The lesson in life is that once we have been healed of that psychological or spiritual wound and the scab is gone and all that remains is the scar; if we keep going in the direction of psychological and spiritual health, though the scars will always be present, we will even eventually forget the why and the what of the scars!  

My friend, no matter what you’re going through right now; be encouraged! Life is on your side! If you’ve been wounded or otherwise injured by the stuff that happens in life, be encourage! When the scab forms, don’t mess with it; leave it alone! That’s just life’s way of trying to keep the wound from getting infected! And when it’s all over and done, the only thing left will be a scar and if you just keep on going; you will even forget what caused the scar!