Keep Going – We Serve a God of Surprises

We always need the bigger picture when we are going through deep waters:

OK, so I am easily triggered – triggered in getting inspiration for an article that is. It does not take much for me to get an idea for a new piece. It might be something I just read, or saw on tele, or heard about somewhere. And often a number of things will coalesce at the same time, and lead me to write a new article.

This happened again yesterday. I was thinking about how often I am dealing with the grief of losing my wife, and praying that God would give me grace to keep on keeping on. At the same time I was working on a new article which related to this. And I also came upon something while flicking channels on the TV that further brought things into alignment. These various bits and pieces all came together, and so I posted this on the social media last night:

Writing a piece on Augustine and his Confessions, I am struck again by his honesty – ‘warts and all’ – as he discussed his journey. That spurred me on to reject the modern Christian tendency to only run with ‘positive’ and ‘uplifting’ stories, but to be real with where we are at. In that regard, and to be honest, over the past 3 months, I often tell the Lord I am ready to go home. I was going to post that, but then I came upon a TV show in which a guy mentioned his dad passing away some years ago by suicide. That reminded me to offset any self-pity and selfishness I might have with awareness of my responsibilities to others. Of course I have 3 sons and a dog and cat that need my attention. And oddly enough even some folks I have never met have some interaction with me (at least online), and I am perhaps indirectly responsible for them and their welfare. So I need to keep going and ignore somewhat the despair and grief that can easily overwhelm me.

Let me unpack all this a bit further. As to Augustine, I had just penned a piece on Aquinas, and am now soon to finish this piece on Augustine. They are part of my ‘Notable Christians’ series. Now that I am getting older, I am thinking I need to get cracking and finish off some of these articles. They are a small part of the legacy I want to leave behind.

I make no claim to being any sort of authority on folks like Aquinas or Augustine, but I do feel I can at least try to introduce some of these great believers of the past to other Christians who may know little or nothing about them. My brief introductions, coupled with recommended reading lists, might help people along the way in this regard.

As to his famous Confessions, Rowan Williams says this about them:

That is why it is so difficult to read the Confessions as an autobiography in either the ancient or the modern sense. Earlier classical and Christian writers had produced narratives of part or all of their lives: Augustine’s distinctiveness is the refusal to present a narrative that in any sense claims clarity or finality. . . . Those who have found the unity of the whole work elusive have missed the fact that he is not recording an edifying and coherent life but performing two different tasks. As he says in Book X, he is exposing his continuing confusions and irresolutions as an encouragement to others: you don’t have to have made a good story of your life in order to be a faithful Christian. And he is praying.

Image of On Augustine
On Augustine by Williams, Rowan (Author) Amazon logo

I recently wrote about some new biographies of Elisabeth Elliot and how we believers are too prone to write and read hagiographies instead of running with more honest accounts. So as I have been feeling a bit low with my newfound state of singleness, it was good to again see Augustine and his candid account of his own life.

As to the TV show in question, it is an overseas series that used to be aired here some years ago. But yesterday I saw that it was again being shown. I refer to “Undercover Boss”. The head of some big company or chain or corporation will disguise himself and spend some time with ordinary workers.

The boss might find some lazy and unproductive workers, but often he will find very hard-working, conscientious and really committed workers. And often these folks are struggling, trying to pay off debts or medical bills, or support their parents, or get money set aside for their children’s college years, and so on.

They may have some really sad stories, like the fellow who was working so hard, but who told the undercover boss that his dad had committed suicide some years ago. When I came upon that bit yesterday, I realised I needed to alter my social media post somewhat. I had to get the focus off me.

But it still may have come across somewhat unclear. When I mentioned that guy and his story, I did not mean that I was thinking about suicide as well, but that it reminded me of how we must think of others, and not just ourselves. Yes, I do often tell the Lord of late that I am somewhat tired of life, and sure do look forward to when it finally is over. But of course my time is in his hands, and I cannot let myself become too overcome with grief, but seek God to keep me going.

Getting back to this TV show, the highlight of it of course is at the end, when the 3 or 4 unsuspecting workers are called into the national headquarters, and the boss (sans the disguise) reveals himself for who he really is. That is always a shocking reveal.

Often the boss will praise the worker for being so dedicated and so innovative and such an asset to the company. But the best part is when those with really hard stories are surprised by the boss and his generosity. He may tell the worker that he is going to pay off their $50,000 debt.

Or he is going to give them a $10,000 scholarship for their son’s education. Or he is going to buy them a brand new car so they can drive to work and not depend on public transport. And so often the tears flow freely and the worker stands and hugs the boss, thanking him profusely.

A decade ago I had written about this show, offering some obvious spiritual lessons:

I repeat here a bit of what I said back then. The truth is, only a tiny fraction of workers will ever be singled out, acknowledged, and rewarded for their hard work and dedication. Millions of other workers will never appear on such a show, and so many continue to struggle with their various burdens and pains and struggles.

But as I said in the earlier piece, if no human boss ever knows about us and what we are going through, and how we nonetheless keep working away, our heavenly undercover boss most certainly does know all about us. He knows every sacrifice we make for him; he knows every good work we do for him; he knows every tear we shed for him, as we suffer and grieve; and he knows all about the life we live.

If we do not get recognition and rewards in this life, we WILL in the next. That is why we must keep on keeping on. We must persevere. Our labours are not in vain in the Lord. What God sees us doing in secret will one day be rewarded openly.

The trials and struggles we now go through – seemingly alone and unnoticed – are fully known by our heavenly father. Perhaps you are in a world of pain, and it seems like no one else knows anything about it. Well, hang in there: God knows all about it.

Perhaps you cannot get your head around a God who cares so much and knows so much about you. Well, if need be, try to catch a few episodes of this TV show. I do not know about you, but the end bits bring tears to my eyes, and encourage me to keep going.

If an earthy boss can be such a help and blessing to needy and broken workers, how much more our heavenly boss?

[1411 words]

9 Replies to “Keep Going – We Serve a God of Surprises”

  1. I, for one, hope that God is not ready to take you home just yet. Your regular postings do this NZ reader much good. May you find some comfort, as Jesus promised to those who mourn, in knowing your words and insights are much appreciated.

  2. Bill, we all have ups and downs in life so yes, keep going and God will surprise you. I remember my Nana, a widow listening to an old radio as the only form of communication with the outside world as she didn’t drive/own a car with no telephone in the house to phone her relatives or friends. Then my aunty bought her a TV so Nana knew what was happening in the world more than me going to school. Unfortunately, TV news media is being paid not to tell the whole truth anymore so now we have to get the truth off the internet. So I look forward to Stop The Rot Sack the Lot by Guru and Caz live through their fb website each night 7pm Mon-Friday that keep me up with what is happening in the world. They are supposed to be Christians but some of the links played have foul language unfortunately.

  3. I understand your desires for home, I share them, but I hope God has longer for you. My eyes get pain from reading but try to come read the articles when I can. God’s got some reason for me being here and he has a reason for you still being here. While we may be surrounded by signs and portents with a great evil pressing and clawing at the door I will wait on God’s timing and do whatever he wishes of me. I pray you do the same. While we can’t choose when we go home we can pray “Lord come quickly”.

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