Please tell me everything’s going to be all right…

In two of my favourite TV series the same thing happened. In one case a lady was dying from an anthrax poisoning and she was panicking because she could hardly breathe, but a nurse and good friend kept telling her, “Don’t worry, you’ll be all right, I promise.” In the other case, a daughter had been murdered causing intense grief and anger, and a lot of unanswered questions for the girl’s mother, but the young detective’s simple response was,  “Don’t worry, we’ll find the killer, I promise.”

In both cases the response to a frightening or maddening situation was a promise of assurance that everything will be all right. Everything wasn’t all right, however, because the lady with anthrax died that same day, and even though the killer was found in the other case it didn’t end the grief and anger for the mother as to how and why such a horrible thing happened.

Despite the failure of assurance in both cases, and the obvious evidence that we can’t make promises guaranteeing anything in anyone’s future, it is still a cultural ritual in times of suffering and worry to try and put a person’s mind at rest by a promise that everything will be all right. Perhaps it’s an attempt to put our own minds at rest too, because worry, grief and unanswered questions are just awful things that eat us up inside if there is no relief of some kind offered.

So what’s God’s answer to all this? Well, for a start, it’s rather disturbing, because even for Christians God does not heal every illness or resolve every problem, nor does he guarantee immunity from natural disasters, from the typical diseases that kill us, or from the world careening into economic crisis or war. Offering assurance in this world, therefore, that everything will be all right, even for Christians, is clearly an empty and silly promise to make.

What God does offer, however, is the sacrifice of his Son, because in that sacrifice everything has been resolved for everyone forever. The problem of our mortality has been solved, so has our stupid trusting in anything but God that got us into all our troubles in the first place, so has the problem of evil, of suffering, of our bodies weakening and dying, and of our worries about what’s going to happen to us in the future. All of those things have been resolved already.

So when a person says, “Please tell me everything’s going to be all right,” we can safely promise it will be, because God has already set in motion the solution to everything in his Son.

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Does God know how each of us ends up?

When we pray it’s to a God who already knows how we end up, because in Revelation 21:6 he’s the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. We’re praying to a God, then, who can be at the starting line and the finishing line of every human journey – and he can run alongside us – all at the same time.

So when I’m floundering around in panic not knowing what the future holds or how things are going to end up in my life, he’s already been where I’m going, or as David phrased it in Psalm 139:4-5 (The Message), “You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there too,” and in verses 14-15, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth, all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

David had a handle on this concept of God having already seen and been at every stage of his life before David was even born, and of God being on hand for him as he went through each stage of life as well. The author of Hebrews also understood this concept in Hebrews 12:2, when he wrote, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.” Not only, then, did Jesus get us started on our journey, he’s at the finishing line celebrating our success before we knew the race had begun.

So when I’m crying out in despair for some sort of solution, relief or strength to carry on – as if the future is nothing but bleak – God isn’t seeing things as bleak at all.

The way he sees things is in Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’”

So yes, God knows exactly how things end up. He can pinpoint with total accuracy what’s going to happen before what’s going to happen has started. And notice how it’s his “good pleasure” too, meaning the end he’s already formed is good. It’s not in the least bit bleak. It may seem bleak in our immediate future, but God reassures us that in the end it all works out beautifully, because he’s the Omega; he’s been there at the end already and seen it – and it’s good.

God’s predictions for the New Year

Paul the octopus became an international star in 2010 after predicting the winner of the FIFA World Cup of Soccer – and the winners in all six of Germany’s games, including Germany’s losses, which didn’t make him very popular in Germany. He wasn’t very popular with the President of Iran, either, because in his mind Paul the octopus symbolized all that’s wrong with the western world. He even accused the octopus of spreading western propaganda and superstition.

Perhaps he’s not so loopy after all, though, because all he did was observe as thousands of westerners placed their bets on the choices of an octopus, as though the octopus had special powers. Who’s the loopy one now?! No wonder Islam thinks the western world is doomed.

And what made an octopus so popular in the first place? It was the chance for people to make money. Place your bets on a winner and you could make lots of money, and isn’t that what counts in the western world? It was also superstition that made Paul the octopus famous, because he seemed to have the powers of a god in his ability to predict the outcome of a game, and people in the western world like that. We readily create gods out of anything that can predict the future – horoscopes, visions of the end-time, and all the usual tea leaves and New Year’s predictions that have always plagued humanity in an attempt to make the earth feel firmer underfoot.

Truth is, though, we have trouble predicting the weather with absolute certainty beyond the next five days. That’s our limit – which makes one wonder if that’s what God intended to help us realize how limited we are, because it’s obvious by now that neither we, nor the gods of our creation, have the ability to accurately predict what’s going to happen to us. And when we’re ready to admit that, perhaps we’ll look to God who knows exactly what’s going to happen to us, and what the outcome of every human life will be. And it’s very encouraging, because in Ephesians 1:9-10 and Colossians 1:19-20 he tells us that everything is going to work out just fine. He’s got it all sorted out for everybody and everything through his Son, and it’s all to our eternal benefit.

So here are God’s predictions for the New Year: He guarantees through his Son that no matter how bad things appear or become next year, everything is working out exactly as he intended and the end remains the same, that one day we will all experience peace, assurance, trust and joy. And none of it requires an octopus, either.