The “black box.” There's a phrase that never harbors good news.
Another plane down.
Another mystery to unravel.
A thousand questions from survivors, the FAA, the media.
All demanding answers.
Maybe there’ll be a clue in the pilot’s pre-crash words. Some hint of what precipitated the disaster.
And then there are other crashes. Personal ones. Family ones. Church and ministry ones.
Remember right before you crashed your life? Right before you did that thing.
- That thing that lit the fuse before the implosion.
- That thing that finally snapped the spinal cord of your marriage.
- That thing that led to bankruptcy, arrest, or unemployment.
Remember that thing? Of course you do. We all do.
If there had been a black box there to record our words—or better, our thoughts—what would they be?
Four possibilities come to mind. Four delicious lies.
1. I’m fully in control of this situation. The more we think we're in complete control of our lives, the more we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. It is a very seductive illusion. Beneath the desire for control lurks the desire to play god, to orchestrate our lives to avoid what hurts, achieve what feels good, dictate our destiny. We think that no matter what comes along, we can handle it. Until “it” happens—that “it” which sets our life on a downward spiral.
2. No one will ever find out. No one will ever find out you’re stealing from work, you’re lying to your family, you’re cheating. Until they do. And eventually, they will. When we say, “No one will ever find out,” we refuse to remember that God knows. And God has ways of bringing our lives down to the ground, to bring us to repentance, back to himself.
3. Okay, but just this once. The seeming singularity of sin is part of its appeal. We all need to spice up our lives a little, right? And what better way to do it than engage, just once, in a little act of rebellion? But sin is like a drug. Try it once and soon you’ll be saying, “Well, maybe one more time.” And, before we know it, “one more time” has become a lifestyle that destroys life itself.
4. I’ll just try harder then. We're hardwired to think that we can perform ourselves right out of any of life’s messes. Do more, try harder, dig deeper. Make ourselves more loveable, more beautiful, more confident, more wealthy. So we set New Year’s resolutions. We devour self-help books. We can do this! Ultimately, however, the more we lean on ourselves, the weaker we become. The hardest lesson in life to learn is that self-sufficiency is not only impossible, but dangerous. We need others, and, above all, we need God.
At various times and in various situations, I’ve thought or said all four of these. And so have you. These four self-deceptions come as easily as breathing.
For a long time after we crash our lives, we sit in the midst of the broken pieces. Maybe we curse the day of our birth, as Job did. Maybe we scream at the heavens and damn the God who let us fall. Or maybe we are blessed with a rapid repentance, and turn immediately toward the Lord for help.
Over time, however, the Spirit reveals the lies. The words that once tasted so sweet, we can’t spit out of our mouths fast enough.
Jesus lives amidst the twisted metal and smoking ruins of lives gone bad.
And another voice begins to speak. It’s the voice that boomed down to a man who hated the church, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” It’s the voice that answered Job from out of the whirlwind. It’s the voice of the only person who has truly plumbed the depths of human suffering, known the agony of sin and its punishment, and stands ready to help and heal us.
Jesus lives amidst the twisted metal and smoking ruins of lives gone bad. It’s where he does his best work. Christ is the ultimate first responder.
He’s not there to answer all our questions, but to be with us in all our sufferings, to hurt with us, and slowly but surely to heal us.
God is not a fast healer, but he is a faithful healer.
He’s the Good Samaritan, who binds up our broken hearts and pour his body and blood into our shattered lives.
We won’t get better overnight; it might take years. God is not a fast healer, but he is a faithful healer.
Whatever lies we told ourselves before, they are all silenced by the true words of Jesus, who says:
I forgive you.
I love you.
I will never leave your side.
That man standing beside you in the middle of your wrecked life, the one with scars in his hands, and a gash on his side, he is for you. And, no matter what, he will hold you fast and see you through.
My new book, Your God Is Too Glorious: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places, is now available. You can order copies from Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite local bookstore.