I don’t know about you, but sometimes I notice things that cause me to pause and think.
For example, the other day I saw a weight loss program being advertised on the web. Two pictures in the ad sort of jumped out at me. The pictures were labeled: Before and After. The ‘Before’ picture was of some poor guy before he started the weight loss program. He didn’t look that good. Quite honestly, I think that was the idea. No smile. No svelt look. Just a guy with no shirt on who looked miserable, in the before picture.
But the ‘After’ picture was undeniable proof that Jim, or Bob or whatever his name was had somehow been transformed. Smiling. Energized. And he definitely looked much better in that ‘after’ picture they took of him.
Before and After pictures work well in advertising, I think. For example, a contractor might use before and after pictures to demonstrate how much better a house looks with new windows and doors. Ever seen an ad for a photography restoration business? They use before and after pictures to show how amazing an old picture that’s been restored can look. In fact, every time you see a ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison, the ‘before’ picture never looks as good as the ‘after’ picture.
Seeing those before and after pictures the other day of that guy on a diet got me to thinking. Even though there are certainly severe moments of testing for all of us, the picture of life ‘after’ Jesus is always infinitely better than the picture of life before Jesus.
But I already know. History and life experience tell me: it probably won’t be too long. A challenge, a testing, or some stretching event I did not anticipate will come along. And then, the picture of my life in the after of that reality? Well, let’s just it may need to be Photoshopped a bit, if I’m not careful.
Loss, trial, suffering, growth. All of those are common to us all. The journey of faith and trust is not only defined by the picture of how we handle life before our challenges, but how we are restored and renewed in the ‘After.’ Dealing with life in the After of a challenge can involve pain, change, transformation, trust, and what the bible calls faith; ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ We know we’ll get to go to heaven if our trust is in the forgiving grace of Jesus. But, life in the Before of that reality? Life in the meantime? Life in the meantime can be a mean time.
We serve a God of not only the Before and the After. Our God is the God of Now. His grace is sufficient; his wisdom beyond understanding. And his promises are true. The songwriter, in The Book knew an important reality, when he wrote in Ps. 27:3:
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”