by Joel Bates
“There’s going to be complications.” Now that statement immediately has my full attention and produces much anxiety. My wife is pregnant…really, I’m not kidding. and at her age—which I will not reveal in this writing for my own protection. When medical professionals examine her, they often warn, “There may be complications.” I went to the bank the other day to do something as simple as open a new account, and sure enough the teller informed me, “There may be complications.”
I lead a small non-profit Christian adventure camp, where just describing what we do feels complicated. Added to that, I face keeping the place running and managing the overhead costs, recruiting and training staff, dealing with government red-tape, addressing insurance issues, developing marketing schemes, and implementing ministry programs. Sometimes I wring my hands and want to scream, “Why does it have to be so complicated?” Even a simple situation can become complicated—like discovering the toilet paper roll is empty and you need it right now! I really hate complications. Then the holidays arrive and, well, complications accompany them, too.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, but let’s admit it; there’s going to be complications. Did I budget enough to get those gifts? Will people like what I got them? Which side of the family do we visit for Christmas? The church wants you to be in the choir or even more…the pageant. There’s the company party and decorating the house, sending the letters, trimming the tree, wrapping the presents. By the time the day comes to bake the turkey, your figurative goose is already cooked! Alternatively, consider the complicated feelings that rise to the surface for many who live through the holidays facing the loss of loved ones. How complicated it must be to long for the days when you had something other than heart ache to complicate your life!
I was lamenting complications to my wife recently, and after listening to me complain, she reminded me that everyone has complications. We are all forced to live in a world where it’s common to hear, “There are going to be complications.” We all will face complexities, dilemmas, problems, trials, crises, pain, loss, tragedy, the unexpected, the unexplainable, frustrations, heart break, embitterment, obstructions, and confusion. There will be complications, and where is God in all this? Does He notice or even care? Is He simply above it all? There are three pictures that stand out to me when I consider the question of whether God notices or cares about our complications.
Think back to the narrative of Christ’s birth. It’s easy to do that around Christmas, especially if you’ve gone through the mayhem of Black Friday shopping. Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how crowded and bustling we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, there is no silent night in the stable nor in the heavens because a war is raging in the cosmos between angelic forces at the birth of a King. In the little town, there is no room in the inn, and everyone’s irritated because they are a displaced people group, scraping out an existence in overcrowded conditions under Caesar’s cruel whims fed by insatiable greed. Held unaccountable, molesting Roman guards patrol the streets, so you’d better keep your wives and daughters close at hand. That’s the setting for the birth of the King of Kings.
The scene is even more complicated, though. Mary will be forced to deliver the Christ child out back in a stable. Imagine the complications of finding the proper supplies for the job, the help necessary to aid her in birthing the Savior. Did Joseph have to obtain permission to use the stable and a permit to park the donkey outside? Imagine the braying and bleating, the street traffic, and the pounding pulse of a restless, clogged thoroughfare that usually provided sleepy passage through a backwater burg. And amid all this complication…a child is born. The Prince of Peace rests there in Mary’s arms.
Fast forward about 30 years or so to a big lake on a dark night. A storm is kicking up to a full gale, causing even the seasoned fishermen in the boat to lose their cool. The Christ child born so many years ago is now a man on a mission, but presently He is fast asleep, peacefully resting in a boat that is being beaten by wind and waves. The scenario is plain to the salty seamen piloting the perilous craft. They are caught by surprise in the middle of the lake with nowhere to go but down.
The solution is complicated. They cannot unfurl the sails for fear of capsizing. They cannot out row the gale for they haven’t the strength. They won’t outlast this storm, and they know it. So, they rouse the Man who is used to complication. He was born to it, made for it, angered by it, and rises to meet it. Wiping the tired from his salt-sprayed eyes and pulling back the wet, wind-whipped hair, He extends a hand to the mast to steady himself and cries out into the midst of the storm…the mayhem, the peril, the complications, “Peace! Be still.” And at the words of the Prince of Peace, all that was complicated becomes simple, silent, and serene.
Fast forward again to a day where the sky looks much like that day on the lake as dark storm clouds gathered. A thick, ominous gloom lies heavily across the land. Sorrowful followers pull His limp body, or what’s left of it, from a cross and hurriedly entomb it. Life itself has left humanity, and most of humanity doesn’t even know it, doesn’t realize what they’d done as they laughed and jeered at the man, scorned Him, and spit upon His body. They had beaten and mocked Him and tried to tempt him to deny who He was.
It is a time riddled with complications, but not for Jesus. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious leaders have had to compromise their staunchly held doctrines and even ignore their own laws to unite against Jesus. Herod has had to befriend Pilot, his Roman enemy, to see Jesus crucified. Pilot wrestles with his inner conflicts as he sentences a clearly innocent man to be executed. All of Jerusalem faces the complicated fact that they’d celebrated the Messiah and cried “Hosanna!” to Jesus just five days earlier and now shout, “Crucify Him!” in a frenzy on Friday. But Jesus, who had been born into complexity, who had grown accustomed to resting in the midst of problems, knows exactly what He is doing, and so He goes to the cross. He goes through with His death, serving all this complicated mess of humanity, including us today.
With their Hope lying in that dark tomb, amid a hurting world where the demons rejoiced over the death of Emanuel, the disciples grieve the loss of their Lord. Jesus just lies there in that tomb, practicing what he preached and lived and demonstrating once again that He is the ultimate Prince of peace. Even death can’t rile Him. For He understands hope; in just a few short days He will rise once and for all and put an end to letting complications have the final word. He brings forth life and the solution to every complication.
Now fast forward one more time to today…this moment, this holiday season. There may be a day, week or month ahead of you filled with the light and momentary complications of everyday life during the holiday season. Jesus is able to help you rise above the stress and bring you peace. Maybe it’s worse than that, and you’re in the storm of your life in a season where it looks like the boat is going to sink or capsize. Jesus will rise up, call out, and command the storm to be quiet. He still calm storms. Test him and see. Maybe there’s even more, and you’ve officially ruined your life. Maybe the enemy is tempting you to yank that steering wheel to drive into a tree and end it all. Maybe you’re staring at a bottle of pills that promise no more pain. Be assured, Jesus is not just the Prince of Peace for those with only slightly messed up, complicated lives. He is the Prince of Peace and the great Savior and Redeemer of totally lost causes.
He was, for all the world knew, a lost cause as he lay in that dark tomb. But He knew the truth about complications: He’d been born into them, walked among them, ministered through them, and had never been overcome by them, thus proving that He is the Authority over all complicated scenarios that humanity faces. And He has given us an example of the appropriate response when we encounter life’s complications: Rest in Him and cast your complications upon Him for He is the Prince of Peace.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.