Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commons

That I might not be silent

 

Life is one big balancing act sometimes, where you have to figure out how to take the good and the bad. And sometimes you run into situations where you’re powerless to help. There are some things in life that you can’t fix. Eventually, we all have to face the reality that life is more than we can handle alone.

And that’s where God comes in. With God, we can face any challenge, conquer any enemy, and win any battle. Maybe some days it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s the truth. And when we know we have God on our side, we can stand up to the troubles of the world with our head held high, and we can laugh–genuinely laugh and honestly rejoice–in the face of darkness. Because we have faith that God will bring us through.

So throw off that robe of mourning. Yes, there’s a time for it, but that time will eventually pass. Abandon that hiding place where you’ve taken refuge to recover from your wounds. There’s a time to rest, but that time passes too.

It’s time to get back to what we were made for. Forget the quiet. Let’s get loud. Let’s remind the world who Jesus is and what He’s done for us–and what He will do.

Psalm 30

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commonsI will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.

You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Advertisements

Death is just a doorway between life and Life

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God is good. I mean, you know He’s good in that distant disconnected way like the elected official is good or the popular spiritual leader is good or the hero you admire is good. He’s good, but He doesn’t really get you. There’s a big difference between knowing that God is good and truly understanding His goodness.

There’s so much sorrow in the world. There’s so much hurt. People hurt each other physically and emotionally. We say things to each other intended to cut and demean. Some are the brunt of general meanness. Others are not even involved in the evil that’s happening, and they still get hurt. And even in the innocent passing of time, we lose people we love. Sometimes we expect it, due to sickness or age. Other times we don’t. Either way, it still hurts.

And that’s the world we live in. That’s life here. Sure, there are joyful moments. But then “real life” rears its ugly head and reminds us that life isn’t going to get better down here.

If that’s our future, if that’s all there is, why do people keep living? I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the hope of salvation, the peace of knowing that God really is going to work everything out. Because the truth is that God really is good–and not just in some distant, disconnected way. He’s here, in our lives, seeing what we feel and hurting with us when we hit those dark times of sorrow and sadness. And there’s something really important that we need to remember about this crazy, screwed-up, hot mess of a world we live in: It’s not all there is.

doorwayToday’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand that even though the world was broken, they could still have peace with God through Him. He’s the one who made the way to be saved. He’s the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we would have the power to overcome the world.

Do you know what that means? To overcome the world? It sounds awfully dramatic, and maybe it is. But in a practical sense it means that the world has no power over those who believe in Christ. The world can be identified as a lot of different things. The influences that pressure you to disobey God. The powers of the enemy. Just the brokenness around us that threatens us with a hopeless, meaningless existence. However you define it, the world is powerless against a Christ-follower.

Even death itself has no power over a Christ-follower. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to run from it. We don’t even have to hate it. Because of what Jesus did for us, death is just a doorway between this life on Earth and our eternal welcome in Heaven with God.

It’s important to know that we will have trials and sorrows. Multiple trials and sorrows. And it’s important to know that it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to grieve the loss of people you love, the destruction of relationships and families, the consequences people have to face for the choices they’ve made. When you’re sad, you need to grieve. Don’t bottle it up and put on a cheery face to make people feel better. Be sad, but know that you don’t have to stay sad.

The world is still under the control of death, the control of the enemy, the result of our sin. As long as that brokenness endures, we will live with pain and death and sadness. Oh, but we don’t have to stay here. There’s a day coming when we’ll get to go home, where nobody hurts each other, where nobody dies, and where we’ll never have to say goodbye again.

The world is full of death and sadness, but Jesus is stronger than the world. He overcame it. And because He overcame, we can too.

The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

Finding joy for someone else when you’re in the dark

Have you ever been happy just because you’re around someone who is happy? I got to go to a wedding this weekend. It was an unusual wedding for me because it was in a Greek Orthodox church. I’d been to this particular church once before and found it fascinating, so I was eager to see a wedding.

It was a pretty neat event. If you’re in Wichita and you’ve never been inside St. George’s Cathedral, you seriously are missing out. The building is gorgeous, and the acoustics are pretty much unmatched. And their choice? Wow. All a cappella. Just fantastic.

But as beautiful as the wedding was, as beautiful as the church was, as beautiful as the music was, nothing quite prepared me for the sight of the pure joy on my friend’s face as he watched his bride walk down the aisle. I seriously thought I was going to burst I was so happy for them. My face hurt from grinning by the time the wedding was over.

The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:15.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

Have you noticed that it’s really easy to weep with someone who’s weeping? Maybe not in a literal sense. Or maybe it is in a literal sense too, if you’re a particularly emotional person. What I mean is that it’s easy to focus on the bad things that are happening in life sometimes.

I think it’s because life is so full of bad things. People die in horrible ways. Families split up. There’s drought where there should be rain and rain where there should be drought. We don’t like our jobs, we don’t like our schools, we don’t like our political leaders, we don’t like our church leaders. People we love are lost. People we don’t like hang around.

When someone is unhappy, there’s normally some kind of unhappy common ground you can find with them. I mean who hasn’t been jilted in some way or another? Who hasn’t lost a loved one? Who hasn’t been forced out of a job or a career or a dream?

And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to weep with people who are weeping. It doesn’t work to go to someone who is grieving and expect them to be happy and cheerful. They won’t be, and that’s fine. Everyone experiences loss, and everyone needs to grieve. But the problem comes when you have to get out of that grieving mindset and start rejoicing.

Maybe life isn’t going the way you want it right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for the people around you who are achieving great and wonderful things. Maybe you’re going through a rough patch where nothing seems to be going right, but that doesn’t mean you have to drag everyone else down into your dark moments.

No, don’t ignore your dark moments. Recognize them. Those times where you need to grieve, where you need to be sad, are important, and you should have someone in your life who you can go to where you can be completely honest about how you’re feeling.

God didn’t create people to be nocturnal. We were never intended to live in dark places. Doesn’t mean we won’t be there every now and then. It’s just not healthy for us to stay there.

And you know what? Even if you’re in a dark place, you can still rejoice with someone. And it might even help you find the light a little sooner.

Moth on the gravel road - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The difference between a paradox and a contradiction

I’m a geek, and I’m proud of it. I’m not really smart enough to be a nerd, though, but I’m satisfied with my geek status. I love science fiction. Don’t ask me why; I’m just wired that way. I grew up with Star Trek. I adore Stargate (in spite of the fact that I have been openly mocked for enjoying the movie by those less geeky than myself), and I’ve spent far too much time staying up watching both SG-1 and Atlantis. I love the concepts and the scenarios science fiction allows a writer to explore without offending people.

I love paradoxes. I love being able to examine concepts or ideas or situations that don’t exist but do. Probably the most famous science fiction concept is the grandfather paradox, which pretty much confuses everyone. But it’s a concept that can’t exist even though it could exist. Each possible conclusion seems to negate itself while at the same time making it possible for it to occur in the first place. A paradox. Something that is but isn’t. A statement that seems self-contradictory but actually expresses truth.

Moth on the gravel road - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moth on the gravel road - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:4.

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Does that make sense to you? At first glance, it doesn’t make sense to me. This verse is pretty much saying that people who are sad should be happy because they’ll be comforted. Well, to me, needing comfort because I’m sad means I’m sad. Needing comfort because I’ve lost someone or some thing indicates that I’m exactly opposite of happy.

This statement is a contradiction.

Or is it?

Many people believe that the Bible is full of contradictions, possibly because of verses like this, verses that state the impossible as though it is something that is possible. This verse is an example.

To me, I see this verse as a paradox, not a contradiction. Stating that people who are mourning should be happy seems contradictory, but this verse isn’t about being contradictory. It’s talking about how we should handle loss.

If the world were perfect, this verse would be contradictory. If we were perfect, this verse would be contradictory. But the world is broken, and so are we. So what does that mean for this verse and for the countless others like it that speak contradictory truth?

Contradiction is about opposition. If you’re being contradictory, your own goal is to argue. Contradictions state the opposite, whether it is true or not.

Paradox is about truth. And we can’t full wrap our minds around it because we can’t fully understand truth. People are limited. Truth isn’t.

And when something seems contradictory, the first aspect you need to examine is whether or not it’s grounded in truth. I can tell you the sky is green and the grass is blue all day long, but all the evidence says I’m lying (although some folks I know will insist that the sky has no color). I can tell you that you don’t need a degree to get a good job even if all the experts say that’s false. I can tell you any number of statistics or data sets that contradict anything you can think of, but if it’s something I just made up, it has no basis or foundation in truth.

That is a contradiction.

But a paradox?

God blesses people who are sad because they will be comforted.

What truth is that based in? Well, the rest of Scripture to start with. The Bible is full of other promises that God has made to bless and protect people who are experiencing a time of grief. But if you aren’t one who trusts the Bible, look at the experiences of people who follow Christ. While they may not want to relive their time of grief and mourning, they wouldn’t trade it for the world because in those times God became more real to them than ever before.

I guess my point this morning is that when we run into verses in scripture or when we encounter moments in our lives that don’t make sense, we shouldn’t just check out. When bad things happen, we shouldn’t give up on God, and we shouldn’t give up on following the path He’s laid out in front of us. Because He’s doing something. We may not be able to see it, and I know we can’t understand it, but He never stops moving. And all His plans are good.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it untrue.