There are two things that seem to get under the skin of the average human being like nothing else:
Bad stuff happening to “good people” and
Good stuff happening to “bad people”
Whether you’re flipping through the pages of the trials of Job or flipping through a magazine published last month, you’re likely to find a story that seems to fall into one of those two categories, and it can be downright frustrating.
If we’re mostly honest, we perhaps mostly feel that we’re the good people that bad things shouldn’t happen to. And even if we’re not particularly sure how we feel about ourselves, we at least have preferences toward certain people — we feel so sorry when death knocks on the door of “that really sweet family” or cancer looms in the background for that person who’s always serving everybody else.
At the same time, without delving into ideas about Original Sin and human fallibility, I think we know deep down (if we’re honest) none of us are really “good people” but we probably still feel like “better people” than [insert some other group] people.
So we don’t like it when bad things happen to people that seem to be mostly alright.
Especially when it’s us.
But what else can we see if we really start looking? Are there gifts we completely forget when the big and glaring bad start looming around the corner?
The truth is, there is always His glorious goodness: if we step back and take off our shoes we begin to see it. Even when we fall short and mess up and say we won’t and then do, or say we will and then don’t, He is there.
He is there and He is holding all things together.
He is there, allowing and enabling every breath we take.
He could cut off the air supply of every wicked soul on the face of this planet.
One word from his mouth could’ve put any of the guys responsible for these mass murders into the grave before they’d fired a single round.
Do any of us honestly deserve to keep breathing? Isn’t every breath a gift we forget to say thank you for?
Although we may not understand the whys behind the good stuff happening to bad people or the bad stuff happening to good people, we have to acknowledge the truth that the Creator of the Universe is clearly (based on our fallible human judgment) kinder than necessary.
So what does that mean for us? How do we face evil? How do we handle hurt? What do we do with the seemingly unfair badness and — maybe worse — the seemingly unfair goodness of God?
We have to conclude that if that God of the universe is kind to even those we feel “don’t deserve it” (including us, thank you, precious Jesus) — we also have to be kind, even to the people who are spiteful, hurtful and hateful. Didn’t Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? To pray for those who persecute us?
Sounds like a hard thing to put into practice. But.
I think I might’ve identified a secret method for acting with big kindness in the face of big meanness:
Small kindness in the face of everything.
Last week we shared some big news with our small people, that we’ll very likely be moving house in a couple of months. While the ins and outs of this God-breathed story are a wonderful treat I’ll save for another day, suffice it to say that our excitement was not paralleled in the heart of our eldest, who is not sure he wants to let go of our current domicile.
While I think we expected some sadness and maybe some tears, I was blown away by just how upset our eldest was when we first shared the news. He was never unkind or disrespectful toward us, but he was very honest with his emotions, expressing his disappointment at leaving our home, leaving behind all the precious memories of this place, even leaving the place he had once known as “Gpa’s house.” He eventually decided to climb up to his top bunk in his bedroom and cry for a good while.
As I pondered the situation and thought about his heartache, part of me leaned toward the “He’ll get over it” way of thinking, complemented nicely by ideas about “tough love” — but another part of me felt there was a better way to handle this, and wanted to turn to Jesus to figure out just what that was.
A few minutes later, I found myself right up there on that top bunk with that crying boy, crying with him. I expressed my own sadness about leaving “Gpa’s house” and my own fears about the change in situation. I shared some of the things I was excited about and was looking forward to, and talked about some of the very great possibilities that this change could bring about.
By the end of the conversation, it felt like we’d experienced a major shift: it wasn’t Hero Hubs and me, laying down the plans and telling the kids “this is the deal, like it or not.” Suddenly, it felt like we were on the same team, facing this change together, trusting the God who works everything together for good to do exactly that.
I wouldn’t say I’d failed as a parent if I let that kid cry on the top bunk alone. But I will say what seemed like a small act of kindness for me proved itself a big bridge between my heart and the heart of the child who will probably need a little extra love and a little extra kindness throughout this transition.
These moments aren’t just training ground for some big, distant, looming kindness test where we will be challenged to forgive or look past or extend when we want to withdraw. The moments we are given each day are truly the battleground where the war for who we are going to serve take place.
I puzzled for a while this morning, hard-hearted Pharaoh in Egypt, the Lord hardening his heart and bringing on destruction before glory. And I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the why’s of that hardening… but I hear the word whisper back:
As for you child, you go out in the world “And be kind to one another, and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Kindness is for every day. Kindness is for every situation. Kindness is one of the ways we say yes to God, and tell Him that He can sit on the throne of our hearts, instead of our own judgments.
Tomorrow we will jump into a new word, and a new focus for the month of March. I hope you’ll join me in asking how contentment can be a game-changer for our lives and our souls. I’m VERY excited, and hope you are too!
I’ve failed a bunch at kindness this month, but I’ve also learned and grown and had some victories. I am praying the same for you! Keep pressing in with a tender heart toward the world around you. Don’t be afraid to be kind, friends. God is near.
P.S. I can’t thank you enough for your feedback this month — I read every email and LOOOOOVE hearing that these words are an encouragement to you. Thank you for your incredible kindness toward me!
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