My wife Michelle and I are fans of the T.V. show Survivor. I think we probably started watching the show after its second season. 19 seasons so far, I think we’re hooked. The show has become a classic experiment on human interaction, while living under difficult circumstances, battling feelings of isolation, loneliness, severe weather conditions and extreme physical testing. If you’re a fan of the show, then you’re certainly aware of the term “#blindside” and how it applies on the show. For those of you that are not fans, it’s basically when a person is voted out of the game by the other players, but they had no clue that they were even being considered as a target to be voted off. They are blindsided by the other players through lies, unknown alliances being played out, or through a tribal council blowing up right in front of everybody. When the tribal council dust settles, their torch is snuffed out. #blindside. #gameover.
From the comfort of our couches, fans like us get to live vicariously through these reality T.V. stars as they compete with one another for the title of “Ultimate Survivor”, and a million bucks. Real life however, is not a game, and it can often be full of blindsides of its own. Physical infirmities, relational breakdowns, even betrayal can hit us from out of nowhere, at least that’s what it seems like at the time. None of us are ever quite ready for a stage-four cancer report from our Doctor, or to be told by a spouse that he or she suddenly wants out of the marriage. Or, when you’re told on a Friday afternoon that the company you work for is downsizing. Oh, and by the way, your position has been eliminated. Then there’s the occasional pastor/church leader having to suddenly resign due to some kind of compromising situation. You wake up one morning, expecting it to be a normal day. Then, you get this type of news and it feels like you just got hit by a 260 pound line backer, like this poor guy: Hit this link!
It’s Nothing New
In Genesis 12, we read the account of God making his covenant with Abraham in Harran. God has spoken His promise, that through Abraham, He would bless all of the earth. Abraham has a new call from the creator of the universe. So, he leaves his homeland with his wife Sarah and their family. As they begin traveling down to Egypt with their caravan, Abraham gets the crazy idea that Sarah should tell Pharaoh’s officials that she is Abraham’s sister. Technically it was true, but Abraham was basically willing to give up his wife to the Pharaoh so he himself could live. To make matters worse, he did it later again in Genesis 20. Talk a bout a #blindside to poor Sarah. Sadly, Abraham’s son Isaac would follow suit and do the same thing to his wife Rebecca in Genesis 26. Like father, like son?
Speaking of sons, old Isaac’s son Jacob would later be blindsided when he was secretly given Leah to be his wife. The problem is, Jacob had worked seven years for her Father, but only in order to marry her sister Rachel! Jacob got blindsided. Then there’s King David. He was supposed to be out on the battlefield, but instead, he’s found staying home and staring out his window at a young Bathsheba off in the distance. Did I mention that she was bathing on the rooftop? So what does he do? He sends for her to come to his palace, then sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, sets up her husband to be killed while out on the battlefield, and then David marry’s the poor dead man’s wife. Bathsheba, #blindsided
You can’t talk about biblical blindsides without mentioning poor old Job. This man was “an upright man living in the land of Uz, who feared God and hated evil.” (Job 1:1) In a single day, and through a series of back to back circumstances, Job loses everything; his cattle, his servants, his children. Life as he knew it was dramatically changed in a matter of moments. To top it all off, his wife bails out on her faith telling Job, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)
Flash forward to the New testament. We read about Joseph and Mary. A young couple who were engaged to be married. Suddenly an angel appears and tells Mary she’s pregnant…with the Messiah, the Savior of the entire human race! That wasn’t the kind of news a young unmarried lady was prepared to hear back in the day, especially from an angel. #blindsided. I’m sure Joseph, her husband to be, wasn’t planing on being a father this way either. #blindsided. 30 years later, Jesus came on the scene and began His teaching and calling His disciples. They were leaving their jobs, homes, families to follow this Man, claiming to be the Son of God. James and John, the “sons of thunder” were sons to a fisherman and businessman. The two of them suddenly decided to leave their father and his fishing business. Dad is left alone to mend his own nets, as his boys walk off into the sunset with the Messiah. Dad, #blindsided.
Jesus Himself, the One who came to offer hope, salvation, peace and hope to every human being on the planet, ends up getting the brunt of some major blindsides. Yet, with Jesus, being God in the flesh, the events to come did not take Him by surprise. However, for those of us looking on, they are definitive examples of blindsides in the natural. In Luke 22, Jesus had just been “arrested” and taken away. While Peter is warming his hands by a fire, he’s asked three times about his relationship with Jesus. All three times Peter denies it, vehemently, while cursing his accusers! And then the rooster crows. #blindside. In Matthew 27, Pontius Pilate has the perfect opportunity to release Jesus to freedom. Instead, he releases a known criminal while Jesus goes off to trial. While there are many other examples of our Lord taking the hits, no other one stands out more than His crucifixion. A completely innocent man, God in human flesh, sent to redeem all of mankind, charged with unwarranted crimes, is sentenced to death by brutal scourging, public mocking, humiliation and finally, a barbaric crucifixion. #blindside.
Creatures Of Comfort
The question then becomes, “How do we, as believers in Jesus Christ, respond to the blindsides in our own lives?” How do we handle the unjustified accusations, the disappointment/failures of others, the seemingly unfairness of a shortened life due to some fatal disease? If you’re a normal human being, your first reaction is probably shock, then some sadness, with maybe a little anger mixed in. We’re surprised, taken off guard. We get angry and want to cry out, “How can this be happening!” In the natural, we effort to put the blame on someone, or something. Even the most devoted follower of Christ may lift their head to heaven in doubt. We struggle to somehow get our mind around the circumstance. We may even question God, asking “Why are You not acting on my behalf?” Perhaps He actually is.
Unfortunately, we are creatures of comfort. We enjoy our leisure. Here in America, we struggle as followers of Christ to not buy into the lie of chasing hard after the American dream. We’re inconsistent in our practice of “…not conforming to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) That inconsistency can lead to development of certain false expectations. Mix that with the errant gospel promising prosperity here on earth, and maybe even worse, a watered down gospel, and we become very vulnerable. We’re easily lured into a false belief that our Christian life should be easier that it was actually ever meant to be.
Reality Check: we will never find peace in the broken promises of this world.
If we are informed believers of Jesus, and if we have spent anytime reading and studying God’s word, then we should remember that our heavenly Father actually has prepared us for life’s blindsides. Do a simple word study on peace and you will see that in most cases when peace is promised by God, it is usually comes before or after a storm of some kind. The point is, there are lots of storms! In Psalm 8, David has been running from Saul. Davids life has been threatened. In his distress, he begins to realize that God is near to him as he writes, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” David has a choice: wallow in the aftermath of the storm, or believe God and rest in His promise.
In the gospel of John, chapter 16, Jesus is preparing His disciples for their future without Him. He tells them “…I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” They will experience sorrow. We will experience sorrow. Later on in the same chapter, He says it this way, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Not only does Jesus tell them that they are all going to scatter and run at a time when Jesus needs them the most, but that tribulation is coming for all of them, and all of us. Jesus isn’t referring to the Great Tribulation in Revelation, because the Church is not destined for that. He’s referring to the day-to-day tribulation that comes from choosing to follow Him.
Living In The World = Tribulation. Living In Christ = Peace, in the midst of it.
God’s grace is a beautiful gift from God. It is equally beautiful to observe it operating in a person’s life. God’s grace brings in peace in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances. In Genesis 6:8 we read that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…” Noah was empowered to build a vessel never seen before by the human eye. He was called to endure a storm never experienced before. All this played out as he was mocked daily for his “delusions.” The grace of God empowered Noah.
Grace comes from, and through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) We are justified before God and redeemed by the grace of Jesus. (Romans 3:24) His grace is abundant. (Romans 5:17) His grace makes us rich in His heavenly kingdom. (2 Corinthians 8:9) His grace saves us. (Ephesians 2:5) His grace give us the power to overcome the world and all of its blindsides and infirmities. When we are at our seemingly weakest, His grace comes in and He strengthens us. He actually becomes our strength.
The Apostle Paul was a radical follower of Jesus. He also endured a lot of pain, torture and fatigue. Listen to what he says, “…I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12)
Paul is saying to all of us, that when we are at our weakest, when we struggle for answers to life’s most difficult disappointments, when we don’t receive our healing, when we are in deep emotional pain, Jesus is our answer. His grace rushes in. It’s Him. He is with us. He is our healing, He is our restoration. He is our hope. When that doctor is telling you that you don’t have much time left here, Jesus is your healing. When you have been burned deeply by others, God is declaring He is your friend, and your blessed hope.
Remember the truth.
These are not easy situations to navigate through, in fact they are often the most difficult ones. I’m not going to pretend that if you just pray hard enough and believe God for a miracle, that you’ll be OK. No, this is the hard stuff we will face in this life. But, as a believer in Jesus, this is where our testimony can glorify God: “He makes all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God did not say, “Everything will be easy.” But, He did promise to work it out for good. Kingdom good. God has found you faithful, and has allowed _______ (fill in the blank) to touch you. It has passed through His hands, unto you, in order to glorify Him. That is, seeing Him and His purposes more clearly. When the blindside comes, remember this: God is good. He is not the author or evil, or temptation. He is love. He is very intentional toward you and me. He has promised to be with us until our very last breath, and there after for eternity. He is the author and finisher of our faith and He will complete His work in us. He alone is our sufficiency.
There is no greater testimony that when someone can stand with strength and dignity in the face of life’s difficulties, and yes, even tragedy and declare that “God is good.” A very dear Pastor/friend of ours once stated at the end of his long battle with cancer, that “God has done me no wrong.” When we can lift our hands up to Him with that bold declaration, we find our strength. We find Him, and He is honored. Remember we spoke about our friend Job earlier? Listen to what he declared in the midst of his blindside: “Then Job arose, tore his clothes in sorrow, shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, declaring, ” Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I will return: the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; but blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20)
Oh God, while many of us are in the midst of these blindside type circumstances, I pray that You would hold us, and that You be our strength. In our uttermost weakness, in our pain, be our healing as you douse us in Your grace. May we be honorable toward You, and may You be honored through us, as we wait to meet You face to face. May we truly find Your precious grace to be sufficient for us. In Your precious name, amen.