Excerpt from Chapter Five: Cold & Rainy
Storms hit all of our lives. Now, I am not predicting that a storm is coming and I am not watching for a storm on the horizon. Storms just come. When Katrina hit New Orleans, it wasn’t because New Orleans was a sinful city—if that were the case, why didn’t it hit Las Vegas instead? When the tidal wave hit Japan in 2011, it wasn’t because God doesn’t like the Japanese people or that they had somehow brought the calamity upon themselves. When the airliners hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, it wasn’t because the victims deserved it any more than a child stepping on a land mine in Cambodia is being punished for something she did.
We live in a world where bad things happen to people whether they deserve it or not. We live in a world of less. Whatever the insurance companies might call these, they are not “acts of God.” They are random occurrences that happen in a world corrupted by sin, and that corruption does have repercussions, but not because some people deserve it more than others. God is not the cause, but He is the cure.
In the book of John, Jesus is asked an insightful question. When He and His disciples come across a man who was born blind, the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus’ answer is, in a nutshell, “Neither” (John 9:3), “but,” as I might paraphrase it, “as long as we are here, we might as well heal him.”
Jesus wasn’t looking for whom to blame, but instead wanted to see that “the works of God should be revealed in him [the blind man]” (John 9:3). My paraphrase would be, “Neither of them sinned, but this happened so that the God of More can show up!” God didn’t cause the man to be born blind; it just happened. But when the man connected with Jesus, He was more than willing to heal him. What Jesus is saying here is that it isn’t about the cause, it is about the cure.
God didn’t cause any of the things that were happening to us any more than He was responsible for Lazarus dying. But whether or not Lazarus was brought back to life again, Mary and Martha were better off for having Jesus with them. Jesus was touched by both their grief and their faith. More than being a God of solutions, He is a God of compassion. He cares enough to be with us in our tragedies and storms and to connect with us in both our lowest and highest moments. The solutions don’t always come the way we want, and sometimes that leaves us with big “Why?” questions. But He always comes when we seek Him with our whole hearts.
It reminds me of the scene in the movie Knight and Day. June Havens (Cameron Diaz) has to decide whether or not she will go with Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) or try to make it on her own. Miller holds his hand up about head level and says, “With me,” then lowers it down, “without me.” He is saying, “If you are with me, your experience—and chances of getting through this—is up here. Without me, they are down here.” In any situation, we are better off with God than trying to do things on our own.
As my wife, Wendy, and I sought God in our grief and challenges after the death of our unborn child, it wasn’t our circumstances that changed first, it was us. I don’t buy the argument that “God allowed these things to happen so He could teach us something;” but I know He is not one to miss a teachable moment when it comes. It is not about the lesson, though, it is about the connection with Him. It is about what we will do and become when the vise of life tightens around us.
Will we blame God? Will we try to justify what happens with our own logic and reason? Will we apply our own limited understanding of justice to the situation? Will we lapse into denial or avoidance by busying ourselves with other things?
Or will we squarely face what is troubling us, call out and question God about it, and stay in His presence long enough for His peace and grace to soak into us so we can press forward just one more day? Will we trust the great God we serve and believe His perspective is higher than ours and that He has more in store for our lives?
That is what Wendy and I found ourselves doing, and there were times when the grace we found was just enough to get us to the next morning. Thankfully, “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:23 NLT). Though we may have felt exhausted by day’s end, every morning we woke up to a fresh dose of grace and peace as we continued to seek and serve Him. Because of this, our perspective changed. We consistently saw the small miracles that God was performing around us. We celebrated how He had preserved us through even the worst of what we faced.
At times, life will give you less. However, while there is one who comes “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” there is also Jesus who said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”(John 10:10). I’m telling you from personal experience, this is a promise that will get you through. The God of More will continually give you more and more of His power to strengthen you.
Benny Perez is the lead pastor of The Church at South Las Vegas, which has grown from 27 people to more than 3, 500 since 2003. Benny and his wife, Wendy, are in-demand speakers, traveling extensively, and speaking at such venues as Lakewood Church, Hillsong Australia, Hillsong London, and Planetshakers. They are in close relationship with leaders such as Joel Osteen and John Bevere. Benny, his wife, Pastor Wendy Perez, and their three children live in Las Vegas. Click here for his official website.