Day 16 – Tribute to Larry Crabb

I just learned that Dr. Larry Crabb passed away yesterday. He was a Christian leader and author that profoundly influenced my life through his books and also through the Christian counseling courses that I took in college which were largely based on his teaching.

I remember in second year counseling class I experienced the most profound explanation of the gospel I had ever heard. Had I not already have been a Christian I would have become one. I understood the gospel in a new way, a new light: it was deeply relevant for our day to day lives in practical, useful, and intimate ways.

I found a new way forward and a perspective that I have continued to rely on to this day, some 30 years later.

One way that is relevant to this forgiveness series is the way we understand our emotions. I learned in that course that emotions could be compared to your vehicle’s dashboard lights. When a red light comes on, you don’t berate it, hide it, or encourage it to change. You recognize that it indicates something else, something deeper, is wrong that needs to be examined and repaired.

In the same way, when you experience an emotion, say anger, you can berate yourself, stuff the anger down, or try to change it. But those attempts miss the point if you don’t look deeper.

The real task is to realize and acknowledge that those emotions come from a belief. And that belief is probably opposed to God, if the emotions are negative. And what you need to do is to repent of that belief so that as that belief changes your emotions also change. The same events no longer trigger the same reaction because the underlying problem has been dealt with. In this way all emotions are a gift.

This is simplified of course, in practice it’s definitely more complex than this.

But in this message today I want to show how this applies to what I wrote about Allie’s broken arms yesterday.

Allie’s arms were significantly broken. They were both at right angles to where they should have been. It was not her fault. It was not the other kids’ fault. She didn’t come off the trampoline and land on the ground or something. It was just the physics of the weight difference between her and the others. Trampolines magnify the forces, which is why they generate so much lift. When she came down, and the tramp surface was coming up, there was no contest between her small bones and the force of the surface. Her arms gave way.

This is a useful analogy with our lives as well. No matter how much we don’t want things to happen, the physics at play will always win. In fact, life itself is able to exist here on our blue planet because of the stability of these laws.

But sometimes we find ourselves on the wrong side, and we experience terrible pain as a result.

This doesn’t have to mean we did wrong either. Job’s friends go on and on and on about how Job must have done wrong. Have you read it? It’s tedious really.

Larry Crabb wrote one of my all time favorite books about this very topic, what went wrong with Job. It’s called “Inside Out” and he uses the story of Job to show how deep our sinfulness (read: stubbornness or willful independence from God) goes. Although Job did not sin in his grief at the events that turned his life upside down, eventually he did. Eventually he got angry and demanding. Eventually he came to question God.

Not good.

But this is all of us, isn’t it?

We all will question God at some point or other, and maybe quicker than others. Maybe by our life choices, even daily.

And our emotions will betray us. They betray that we have an inner belief that we deserve the answers. That we must have those answers.

And beliefs like this will cause us all kinds of pain and suffering. Many varieties of dashboard lights will flicker in our eyes.

It’s physics really.

What happens when throw ourselves at an irresistible force? We lose. Brokenness.

God is all powerful, and his good, perfect plan is moving forward minute by minute. When we choose to, and we go along with it in faith, we win. When we fight it, we don’t.

Please understand, I don’t even believe it’s wrong to question God if it’s part of the process of understanding ourselves before him. I believe it’s wrong to demand that God answer.  I believe that when Allie and I submitted to what happened to her, when we accepted it, we fell on the right side of God.  And then the healing began.

Our emotions help us know when we’ve ended up on the wrong side of God.

Thank you Larry Crabb, for teaching this simple yet life changing lesson to me so many years ago.

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  1. Excellent insights for this day and age. We ALL need to extend more grace to others. It’s not like we are going to use up all that God has given us!

  2. I believe my God is large enough for me to ask him why? I do not think that is a sin. Life is tough and tragedies happen. I lost my father due to a tragedy. God knew I was suffering. I asked why he didn’t save him. I will never know this side of heaven, but God wasn’t angry with me for asking.

  3. This. Analogy. Talking with God about my dashboard lights and looking together underneath at the circuitry of emotions sounds worthwhile indeed. It is comforting to know He understands the heart of every man (and woman). I can trust Him. Yes, Papa, I trust You. ** Thank you, Dean, for the daily Meditations that keep me centered on God’s Presence.