Rebuilding Lives

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Personal Growth and Progress

In the wake of the Haitian earthquakes, terrorist attacks, or any personal tragedy, how do we rebuild lives -- our own or others'? It's tempting to try to get back just what we lost. But perhaps a better way is to look at any devastating situation as an opportunity to find a new or stronger way of living.

As we rebuild lives, our attitude makes a big difference. An attitude motivated by such God-like qualities as compassion, persistence, faith, and trust gives us the necessary courage and strength to help us through any crisis. But it serves no purpose to go on a long search to figure out what we or others did wrong to deserve such tragedy. If there's something that needs fixing or adjusting in our lives, it will come to the surface as we humbly listen to God. There may be nothing major that we have to "fix." We may have been doing good things. If so, rebuilding gives us the opportunity to deepen and refine our understanding of God.

It's also important to stay focused on discovering solutions that truly meet people's needs – solutions that are inspired by God's direction. It can be so tempting to get caught up in the details or theories about the problems. If we're focused on the problems, we can't see solutions. That's what happened to Elijah. He became depressed by the human picture. He thought all the Israelites had stopped serving and loving God, and he started believing that he was the only God-centered one left. He was ready to die when he learned that Jezebel, a follower of the god Baal, was out to kill him.

But God wouldn't let him stay miserable. Elijah learned that God was "not in the wind … earthquake … fire," but in the "still small voice" that lifts him (and us) up and out of disaster (I Kings 19:11, 12). God pointed out to Elijah that he wasn't alone. In fact, there were 7000 in Israel who were still faithful to God (19:18). So Elijah listened and obeyed God's guiding commands. When we are still (even amidst all sorts of discords), we, too, can hear and follow God's voice showing us how to rebuild our lives.

It's so encouraging to know that when the human situation seems to be at its worst, God is already at work blessing us. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of God's great mercy:

Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied: I'm about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise…. All your children will have God for their teacher— what a mentor for your children! You'll be built solid, grounded in righteousness, far from any trouble—nothing to fear! far from terror—it won't even come close! (The Message, Is 54:11, 13, 14)

It's God's ever-present and all-powerful good which dissolves the debris in the wake of a disaster and inspires us to feel grounded in His love. So if we're going to rebuild a relationship, a house, a country, we must let God into the very heart of our lives. Isaiah explains the rebuilding process even more:

If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. (The Message, Is 58:9-12)

There are requirements here. As we put lives back together, we have to reach out to others with love. This is what Jesus did. He reached out to the unfortunate, the outcasts, the sick, the sinning, and lifted them up and out of their misery. Those who were touched by Jesus' love found their lives rebuilt -- not just fixed in traditional ways -- but totally transformed by a new concept of purely loving God, who wants only good for His children.

And for his total devotion to God and to helping God's people find a new sense of life and identity, Jesus was persecuted. Jesus didn't do anything to deserve the crucifixion. But there he was -- up on the cross and then down in the tomb. And people thought it was the end. Even most of the disciples went back to their old jobs, feeling depressed and alone.

But Jesus knew it wasn't the end. What do you think Jesus was thinking in that tomb? Was he struggling? Was he praying? Was he convinced that his life was eternal? Whatever Jesus was thinking, he was probably not ruminating about the past, getting upset at the people who had killed him, feeling concerned that most of his disciples had abandoned him, or worrying about how to get out of the tomb. He had to be thinking prayerful thoughts that turned him totally away from a concept of death to a full and perfect consciousness of Life; and this attitude brought resurrection.

Jesus emerged from the tomb alive, and he showed us that death is not the final answer. The disciples got a glimpse of this and had their own type of resurrection. When Jesus was captured and crucified, their thoughts about their teacher, their lives, and their purpose became tomb-like. But when they saw him alive, they were inspired to carry on his work of loving and healing.

They built on the foundation that Jesus had established -- a foundation that demands the workers to turn everything over to God. A psalm of Solomon tells us, "Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good" (Ps 127:1 NLT).

As much as we need and appreciate all the outpouring of good in every situation, we must remember to base all of our solutions and plans on God. When we look to God, we find that God has already provided us with the tools we need to rebuild our lives. God's love for us enables us to love and serves as the foundation for new and better lives.