Behind the 8 Ball

Behind the 8 Ball

Have you ever been in difficult situations in life? An idiom used in the English language harkens back to the game of pool where your ball is “behind the 8 ball”, or you are most certainly in a losing position. Have you ever lost your job with little hope for finding another one? Have you ever been pregnant outside of marriage with no one to support you? Have you had to drop out of school because you just do not have the money to continue? Have you owned a business that is struggling in a depressive economy and you do not know how you will be able to pay your employees next week? Have you suffered a stroke, or a debilitating illness, cancer, perhaps, that offers you little hope of long term recovery? Do you have a large family, living in poor economic conditions, and you cannot support them? Have you been in the military and lost a limb or limbs, or been paralyzed in an accident? Have you been homeless and could not find a place to sleep? Are you a farmer with equipment and land payments and it has not rained in a month and your crops are drying up and you realize you will be out of business next year? Has your home been foreclosed upon or your car taken back? What if you lived in a war zone, such as Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan? Has your husband or wife died? What will you do?

Many of us have or are facing such life altering situations in life. I have been facing some myself the past few years in a failing housing related economy, and now I face something else…. I have been kind of “behind the 8 ball” recently…..

Reminds me of Romans 8:….

Rom 8:1-9:1
Romans 8

8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Now, bear with me while we think about some of these things……

If we are Christians, or perhaps a Muslim who loves Jesus, as one of my Islamic friends does, or an avowed atheist, as another of my dear friends, or a Jew, we should realized that the first thing we should know is we are not being condemned… We are not being punished for our sins. The punishment for our sins has already occurred and we already forgiven. It is finished. Now, this is not to say we might not receive some bad natural consequences of our own choices, but it is not God who is condemning us. God came to save us, not to condemn us. In fact, although we are not under the law, excepting the law of love Jesus left us, which transcends all other law, we might have and “accident”, if we sleep with our boyfriend, or even carry a 40 pound of cat litter carelessly down a flight of stairs, as I did… More on that later… We may have to suffer the consequences of our choices. Hopefully we will not blame God, or someone else.

I think our suffering is described in Romans 8. I think we see advice on how to suffer, what suffering means to us, and how to come to Peace with our failings, sufferings, those failings of others in our lives, of other human beings we do not know, and the hope for us that lies beyond these sufferings. I recently wrote of the Gospel of Peace, and I believe Romans 8 is a continuation of that Gospel of Peace, in that we must grow to understand our own Death, Burial, and Resurrection to begin to understand this Gospel of Peace.

Humanly, we often really want someone to just tell us what to do; we will obey, to be able to blame someone if our rewards do not magically appear in the form of materialistic commodities. That would be the easy way, but when we find ourselves “Behind the 8 Ball”, we find that we must walk from a Spiritual perspective, not a human one. We must walk in faith. We must look beyond our immediate human circumstances, and allow our minds to be controlled by a higher Spiritual power which beacons us, draws us, to peace with ourselves and others. (“but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;”) Perhaps this is an idea that Christian churches should look into more often. Maybe the government officials and want to be officials should look into things like this in order to bring life and peace to the world in place of bragging who is going to be the bigger bringer of shock and awe, of death and war, not life and peace. Maybe this is a vision even our post Christian society in the United States should consider. Also, Iran, Israel, and every other country in the world might pause to at least think about it. Life, and Peace, a Spiritual vision of Jesus, Gandhi, and King… (Here I go again:):))

I think what it is about God’s law, which I mentioned that Jesus left us, a law of love for one another, which should supernaturally include all mankind who live and move and have our beings in God, is that it cannot be understood by many with a “fleshly”, or simply human perspective on ethics, regardless of one’s education or political system. We understand that we need to see these visions with Spiritual eyes. I think we will understand this if we actually have or are being influenced by a Divine Spirit, placed in us, or influencing us because of someone’s sufferings, death, burial and resurrection, and our own inner possession of the same. You might not even need to be a Christian in order to begin to understand it. I actually believe President Ahmadinejad of Iran would understand these matters from what I have heard him say about Jesus. Perhaps someone will share such thoughts with him…. (Heresy to some who will read, I know. :):))…. We cannot limit this Spirit and where this Spirit will work only to the places and peoples our nationalistic systems like. We should want to share this Spiritual understanding with the whole world, all the world.

That is what I mean.
It is this understanding of our living in, having our being in a Spiritual realm, and participating in the Dying, the Burial of our old ways of thinking and living, and being raised again, born again into another dimension, one that is not of this world, one that brings life and Peace, that we are thinking about. This is how we become children of God…. (The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.) We might also remind ourselves of where it is written in another place, “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” This is how the rubber meets the road. Are we justified by just talking about being peacemakers once per year around Christmastime, and talk about killing our enemies with drones, attacking Iran, which has not attacked us, continuing unjust wars, and ignoring the poor, the rest of the year, indeed even making such things campaign planks? What about our “Christian” churches who are supposed to know all about this Gospel thing? Will most of them mainly remain silent?

Oh, and I have been thinking about this suffering thing some lately… As I mentioned, I was carrying a 40# bag of cat litter down our stairs to the basement inhabited by two cats we inherited from my sister in law. I got the bright idea to carry it down on my shoulder which seemed easier than straining my back with it, until I slipped on the last step and my right leg collapsed under me, with the 40# weight forcing me down, tearing my quadruplex muscles from my knee cap, requiring an operation last week and a stay in the hospital and at least this week at home in the middle of our struggling business environment and other stresses we have been going through. I may be in a brace for 2 months, maybe three, and without Divine intervention, which I am hoping for, a possible 6 month recovery. Also, it hurts and I am suffering……

So, God knew all this in advance and God did it to me to make me suffer, and to bring me closer to him, and numerous other reasons, right? I think not. I do not think our lives are all mapped out like that, each and every little thing. I brought the suffering upon myself. We also bring a lot of our suffering on ourselves, sometimes we inherit physical and mental weaknesses and although God could and does intervene in our behalf, sometimes he does not right when we think he should. Sometimes we also suffer because of our belief in God, which is a much better thing to suffer for, than our own choices which are not so good at times. It is even more important to know that God believes in all of us first. He loved us first, and what little belief in God we have, relatively speaking, compared with the infinitude of God, was a gift to us from God to begin with, and before we were begun with, or predestined, one might say. Sometimes nations suffer because of warfare, famine, drought, our own political folly, etc. But God is with us. He is with us all, and with our enemies too. We who believe in God groan and so does all creation looking for our redemption, our resurrection, for new life as a parched land looking for rain. Healing is what we need, but not just physical healing, although that would be nice too, but Spiritual healing is desperately needed even more in our nations, in our churches, mosques, and synagogues…. Also, Spiritual healing seems to me to be obviously needed in our political systems and for the powers that rule over them. One Day…..

One thing that is special to me is this: “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To me, all things means also in our sufferings too… God can cause something good to come from our sufferings, although we often prefer to take the easier way out. It can be God’s shaping, God’s molding, God who is with us, who will never leave or forsake us. No condemnation. No accusation will stand against us. No famine, no nakedness, no sword or war, nothing can remove us from our Spiritual life in God. Even if we die, the Spirit remains…

Therefore, when we find ourselves “Behind the 8 Ball”, let us remember Romans 8. Let us be encouraged because God loves us and will never forsake us.

John Cooper

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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