His Faithfulness Amidst Our Wreckage

Second Samuel 12:13-14:
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

When I came to Christ in July of 1997, I was very quick to embrace the truth that all who yield to the authority of God are “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Given the desperate state of my life up to that point, I very much wanted to be an entirely-new creation and to have my slate wiped clean. What I didn’t understand at the time was that while I was indeed “wiped clean” in God’s eyes by embracing the work of Christ on the cross, I was still going to have to live out the consequences of my former life which I reluctantly dragged into my future life as a believer.

Beach TrashSin has farther-reaching consequences than most of us realize.

My wife and I spend a lot of time talking to people who have had their world rocked by the unanticipated trauma of separation and/or divorce. We are both eager to lend a listening ear to those in this sort of pain as both of us have been through it ourselves; if our pain can be used to ease that of another, well and good. As we have done so, though, we find that we consistently bump up against a common belief that after traveling through the dark valley of divorce, people emerge to a life that looks like a “return to normal.” Many people – myself included – want to believe that “Absolutely everything will be OK, and it will be as though this never happened.”

I think that’s where a lot of us tend to trip up as we seek to walk with Jesus.

The word picture that I think most of us can relate to when thinking about our longing for paradise has been helpfully supplied to the American subconscious by travel agencies, movies, greeting cards and just about every other form of entertainment known to man: The Sunny Tropical Beach or Desert Island. As we all know, in this scenario, paradise consists of a striped wooden folding chair at the edge of a beautiful seashore, sunshade umbrella stuck in the sand nearby and a fruity drink with a flower as garnish. “Aaaaah, paradise!” Our longed-for paradise never includes difficulty, but rather suntan lotion and a light tropical breeze.

Not so fast.

Tom Hanks in Cast Away

In the movie “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks plays a high-level efficiency expert employed by FedEx to make sure that their shipments run on time and that each and every part of the shipping process operates at full tilt; no “down time” is acceptable for this guy. That is, until the Hanks character barely survives a jet crash and is the lone survivor stranded on a lush, beautiful desert island. What little consolation he finds in those first few months of total isolation comes in the form of various FedEx packages washing up on the shoreline of this uncharted island.

Since most people have by now seen this film, it really serves as a useful word picture when talking about the idea that sin has long-lasting and unforeseen consequences in our lives, and often arrives when we least expect it.

We have this relentless tendency to pursue our version of “paradise” – a new marriage, new job, kids, more kids, more money, weight loss, or whatever our desired beachfront looks like – and assume that whatever we left behind in pursuit of happiness will not impact us. But like the wreckage of a destroyed plane, the consequences of our past actions (and/or the actions of others) will be “washing up on our beautiful beaches” for years to come, possibly for the rest of our lives here on Earth.

The reality is that the consequences of past sins and deep trials like divorce are far more likely to remain a part of our lives for longer than we care to acknowledge. A faithful response to emotional pain is not to try to run away from it, deny it or cover it up; Jesus taught quite the opposite (Matthew 17:22-23). Only by embracing the brokenness of our lives – past and present – will we ever be able to walk freely in the light and (not coincidentally) be of great assistance to others.

Beach TrashI have found that God is most merciful to us whenever we confess our sins to Him and one other human being (1 John 1:9) and embrace that whatever comes our way, God will continue to be enough for us. My on-the-ground experience has shown me that the more I try to pretend that everything is fine on my section of the beach, the more crap washes up with the next tide. Conversely, as I embrace the reality that I can never out-run the sins of the past (and present) I find that the Lord is a great Healer and Restorer, as well as a loving Savior (Matthew 6:33, Luke 4:16-19).

In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan confronts King David with his horrific sins – adultery, murder – and David breaks down, confessing his iniquity. Nathan assures him that his sins have been forgiven, but he also makes it clear that David’s sins will have dire consequences, namely the death of Bathsheba’s child. David, too, endured ongoing suffering from having the wreckage of his past wash up on the shores of his future. As the book of 2 Samuel goes on, we find example after example of the “sword” showing up in David’s home life long after the sins with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite have been forgiven.

Very much like David, I often find in my heart a desire to “have everything turn out OK” after I repent, and then I go on to define what “OK” means according to my own standards. God often has different ideas about how we live out the results of our sins, though. In the not-too-distant past, I begrudged God for the trash that kept washing up on my beach long after I had repented of the lifestyle that had brought about that garbage. Nowadays, however, I find that I am spending more time carefully examining those items and simply asking God, “What is it you have for me in this, Lord?” That’s a prayer that I have found comforting in just about every circumstance.

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