But then the poetic irony got my attention.
I wrote a greeting on each card, slipped both into a single envelope, and mailed them.
My sister-in-law was about to celebrate her birthday. Less than a month before, her father had passed. Into one envelope, I had tucked sentiments of joy over her life and sympathy for her loss.
Tears and elation; weddings and funerals; sickbeds and parties. This is the human drama unfolding while creation moans for redemption.
Until all things are made new, we will receive “envelopes” that could announce great joy, profound sorrow, or even both.
Life happens. Death happens. And everything in between. The only thing in our control is our choice to trust God.
The main character in the oldest book of the Bible responds with great humility to profound suffering. Stripped of all his livelihood, riches, and children in a single day, Job says,
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job goes on to wrestle the problem of pain with great eloquence, only to realize he is not capable of understanding God and his ways.
In the end, the Lord vindicates Job to his self-righteous comforters, plus restores double of all that he lost. But Job never gets an explanation, apology, or even a compliment from God for all that he suffered.
We don’t tend to get compliments, apologies, or explanations from him, either.
I don’t know about you, but when something unexpected comes down the pike, I want to figure it out. I think there should be a neat cause and effect for stuff that happens. I want to be able to determine outcomes in the future.
So far I’m not having much success.
Years ago, I knew a preacher who had a habit of using a certain parenthetical phrase while shuffling his notes around to find his place.
“It’s a mixture … yes, it is.”
Maybe you’ve had a strange envelope handed to you recently. The contents are a mixture. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or where to go from here.
There are many things we will never understand this side of heaven, no matter how many times we ask why. This can be terribly disappointing and frustrating. So how could Job bless the name of the Lord, even in horrific circumstances?
In the midst of agony and mystery, Job knew one thing for certain.
God can be trusted.
God is good. He is all-powerful. He knows what he is doing, whether or not we do. He’s been writing mankind’s history since the Garden of Eden.
That includes your personal story – and all the cards you ever receive.
What’s been in the envelope for you lately?