On a recent trip to Southern California, a stingray stung my foot.
It was very painful. In fact, I’m certain no human has ever experienced more pain. It hurt so much I couldn’t stop laughing (oddly). It’s widely known a stingray barb is more painful than childbirth. I shared that fact with my wife. She didn’t even smile.
Two days later (same trip) I saw a dolphin clear the water by ten feet doing a perfect “Sea World” arch. I yelled with delight, “Wow, thank you, God!”
Obviously God was apologizing to me for the stingray. I’m thinking about accepting the apology, but it hurt so bad I deserved an orca.
Which begs a few questions: How can I attribute the dolphin to God’s generosity but not be angry with God for failing to protect me from the stingray? How involved is God in the daily details of life like this? Are life’s “dolphins and stingrays” just random?
The “Christmas Amplifier”
These questions especially matter because Christmas amplifies everything. Our joy and pain both increase in intensity during this season.
We rejoice and celebrate our “dolphins” - the things we are grateful for at Christmas – and we hurt and revisit a lifetime of “stingrays.” Some of those stingrays leave deep wounds. Our stingrays include a surprising health diagnosis, frustration with work or an estranged relationship, just to name a few.
In a season of stingrays, we lose hope when dolphin sightings are rare. We are left to wonder if God has lost interest.
Is God Really At Work?
It’s normal to wonder, “Are you working in my life, God?”
Someone recently confided to me, “I have prayed since I was a little kid and have never seen God actually answer a single prayer.”
He was ready to give up. I praised him for his honesty. Questions like this are the foundation of an authentic relationship with God.
And then I asked, “Are you sure about that?”
A Christmas Promise
Could it be God is mysteriously working in your life, today, undetected?
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
- Romans 8:28, New Living Translation
“Everything” suggests God is putting in overtime during the stingray seasons. He loves you too much to sit under a beach umbrella and watch the aftermath of a stingray encounter.
Intervention and History
Seeing God at work requires an eye for both intervention and history.
Most of us desire and pray for clear interventions:
God, help this lump not be cancer.
God, let me get this job.
God, please let the answer be “yes.”
God, inspire my kids to do the dishes just once.
It’s good to pray this way – children always ask parents for something tangible. As children of God, Jesus said we should openly ask for what we need (Matthew 18:3).
Sometimes God intervenes exactly how we want (never for the dish prayer). But He often seems to not respond at all, reinforcing our belief prayer doesn’t “work.”
But it is in those daily, gritty, childlike prayers, God stitches together a story.
Your story. A history. And it will be good.
You may be in the midst of the 2nd, 3rd or 10th stingray barb today. I won’t minimize the pain. But I am convinced, when you extend your hand to God like a child, your history will reveal a story with the unmistakable, albeit mysterious, stamp of Jesus on your life, even if the present feels hopeless.
The interventions that were impossible to see in the moment are illuminated in hindsight.
Weighty stories, the ones of consequence, have plenty of leaping dolphins and venomous stingrays. That’s a sign your story matters. Your story matters. And God is in it.
Thanks for passing this post along! Please comment, like or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day! JC