“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
By him. Through him. For him.
Six words that are becoming a lifeline to my anxious, wandering heart these days.
Right in front of me, I see so much that makes me want to run. I see a stack of insurance paperwork that has officially overgrown the paperclip. I see a scatterplot data sheet where I track every single SIB (self-injurious behavior) my sweet boy resorts to out of frustration so that we can nail down antecedents and coping mechanisms.
I see a handful of dear friends absolutely distraught at the outcome of our democratic process and another handful hesitantly relieved. I see our communities existing on far ends of a spectrum that no man-made bridge can bring together, and I see fingers pointing at one another across the aisles of our churches, not just our political leanings. But I see many people somewhere in the middle, knowing that from the day we demanded a king* our fate was sealed: a sinner would always be our political leader, no matter the banner they carried in to that position.
But it’s a mess, so much of it. Life can be a mess. Autism is brutal and politicians operate and execute on half-truths, at best. And I have to be honest, some days my mind runs anxiously away with the headlines: the ones in my own home and the ones we are screaming at one another.
But by him. Through him. For him.
All things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— by him, through him, and for him.
It’s a truth that stands forever. But dang, it does beg some hard questions from us. When I look at my Cannon, I don’t get the luxury of basking in God’s goodness because circumstances are good. No. Autism is so, so hard. Instead, we have to confront questions like this: is it really possible that something like autism could exist for God’s purposes? Would a loving God really allow a child to have a handicap that he will carry with him through adulthood, or is this just a flaw in the system?
And as followers of Jesus, we don’t get the luxury of looking around the world and at our own nation and putting hashtag blessed on every picture of the flag. No. People are hurting and scared and imagining a future in this very country they believe their own children are not welcome in. Instead we have to ask if we truly believe that God knew before he divided darkness and light who would be the head of the free world all these millennia later. Would He allow corruption and power hungry men and women in places of great decision-making power? Would he allow a nation to fall? Would he sustain a nation through turmoil and blame shifting? Was the election of 2016 just a mistake while God was looking away?
By him, through him, for him.
There is no flaw in God’s system. And the only time in all of history he ever looked away was when the sin of the world landed on his precious son; a pain so great for a Father who so perfectly loved his son that even He had to turn his face away**.
So how do we make sense of all the mess?
We remember by him, through him, for him.
We go back to the truth that God’s purpose is not to bless us. That’s not popular, but it’s true. God’s purpose is his glory. His glory is our good. Our good is being made more like Jesus through the sanctifying work that is raising a child with special needs or loving a neighbor who makes us crazy or actually praying for a leader who arouses nothing but animosity in our hearts.
The hard part is not looking around at the messes we all live in and being angry; the hard part is being hopeful, in having an absolute expectation of coming good; it’s loving and listening well and showing up and standing on God’s word because it is the truest thing about who we are and what we are even doing here. The hard part is being so undone with gratitude that the world wonders how we could be so joyful when something so big invades our lives. Jesus holds all things together, even the things that look broken by autism and irrevocably damaged by leadership. If our hope was only here, of course those things would shake us. But if our hope is truly in God’s kingdom, we are not shaken because He is never shaken.
God will get the glory for every big and little story of history, even this inch of it that we occupy. We can be sure that even when we don’t understand, all things are headed toward a glorious end.
By him, through him, for him.
Six words. Such amazing grace captured in just six words.
*1 Samuel 8:1-22