learning before you need it

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God has already taught me so much in the week since Rebekah’s diagnosis. One of those lessons is the importance of learning biblical truth in advance. It’s not impossible to learn a needed truth in the midst of a trial. In fact, many times a truth is solidified in our souls during trying times. There is, however, no replacement for learning in advance.

The week before we went to Duke I was studying Mark 4:35 – 41. It’s the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm. I kept coming back to verse 38. “And they (the disciples) woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Much of my education has focused on the problem of evil / suffering, and I couldn’t help but see a powerful lesson about suffering in this verse. The disciples were in a boat with the God of the universe, the creator and sustainer of everything we know. Their faith wasn’t perfect, but they had already seen enough miracles to know much about the power of Jesus (Mark 1:21 – 34; Mark 1:40 – 45; Mark 2:1 – 12; Mark 3:1 – 6). But in the midst of the storm they woke Jesus and asked, “Don’t you care about us?”

Has someone every said to you, ‘If you love me you’ll…fill in the blank.’ The idea behind that question is, if you care about me you’ll do something for me. I think the disciples question is not far from that idea. Their question reveals something about what they believe. Their question, “Don’t you care about us?,” reveals an underlying presupposition in their hearts. They assumed that if Jesus cared about them he would not let them suffer. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” is another way of saying, “If you really loved us you wouldn’t let this happen.” What Jesus does after this question is amazing. He spoke two words, “quiet” and “silence,” as if he’s rebuking a pestering child, and the storm is over. Jesus’ main point here is not that he will calm every storm in our lives. I think he calms the storm to show the disciples that he does care about them, even while he lets the storm rage.

How can that be? How can God tell us that he loves us and not stop our suffering? Two reasons: God is not the cause of our suffering, and God has overcome sin and suffering through Christ. I don’t think it’s an accident that God was taking me through this lesson the week prior to our families greatest trial to date. Suffering is not evidence that Jesus doesn’t care. Suffering is the effect of being a fallen individual living in a fallen world. Don’t count your suffering against Christ’s love. Tim Keller put it best when he wrote, “[Jesus] had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us” (The Reason for God, 26.)

Back to my first point, learn biblical truth in advance. I plead with you to study doctrine that you think you don’t need. If you learn it in advance, God can draw from the deep well of Scripture and truth that you’ve hidden in your heart.

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