Joy in the Memory
“I could never be a pastor. I don't know how you do it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You have to walk through all the terrible stuff in people's lives. You're face to face with all the bad stuff all the time. I guess, I don't understand how a pastor could ever stay a Christian. It seems like it would be really hard to keep the faith when you see all the times that God doesn't do what you want.”
Oof. That's the rub isn't it?
There is this sense that God can only be real if God always gives us what we ask for. We prayed and God didn't give it to us therefore he must not be real. This seems to be the way it goes.
Or, how can you believe in God when there is bad stuff that happens?
A couple of years ago a friend of mine died. It shook me to the core of my faith. I wasn't prepared to walk through that time in my life. I'm not sure anything can really prepare you for those moments.
Recently, another untimely death occurred that had people close to me spinning. The conversation above was borne from that heartache.
Here is what I told that person, “When my friend died I had to go find answers. I did. I questioned and wrestled with God. I didn't let God off the hook. I searched and studied and hoped and prayed. I found new answers. This time around, I could either start from scratch or test the answers that I discovered last time. I chose the latter and the answers held.”
You see when we wade into hard circumstances we can find answers and we and discover a whole new depth in our relationship with God. The hard part usually lies in the fact that often times we forget what we found when the next hard time comes along, because they always do.
The songs of the people of God do a marvelous job reminding us. They show us how we can be heartbroken in the moment but remember the past and that past gives us hope for the future.
Psalm 126 is a song where the people rejoice in the past, are aware of their pain in the present, and have hope for the future.
When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better, it was like we had been dreaming. Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter; our tongues were filled with joyful shouts. It was even said, at that time, among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them!” Yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we are overjoyed. Lord, change our circumstances for the better, like dry streams in the desert waste! Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts. Let those who go out, crying and carrying their seed, come home with joyful shouts, carrying bales of grain!
I love the simple beauty of this song because it's not some Pollyanna-esque optimism. They sing about the fact that their current reality isn't roses and puppies. Yet, they are remembering what God has done and they trust that God will do it again.
The beauty of God is the transformation from...
Tears to joyful shouts Crying to joyful shouts
This is gospel. This is the hope of the people of God.
I think we could call this, “Faith-filled realism.”
How are you doing? Are you living with faith-filled realism, despair, or idyllic optimism?