Today I learned that I shouldn’t be singing carols as long as suffering persists in the world.
At least that’s the charge of John Pavlovitz, a Christian progressivist blogger whose post I stumbled across today, quite unintentionally, in the course of my internet wanderings (I will not link it). He says our holiday joy should take a sober and subdued form as long as poverty, disease, injustice, and war persist.
I’m still trying to decide how literal he’s being. At first, this seems like a rigid and unfair stance. Suffering will always be around. The poor will always be with us. If you’re holding out for utopia on earth, you’re in for a long wait.
Should we never again sing at Christmas, then?
A friend of mine lost his father very suddenly this last week.
Another friend is struggling to stay afloat after a car accident last summer brought towering bills and dependence on a chiropractor.
Even sitting down in a chair that can’t support your weight can bring on sudden suffering like nothing you’ve ever known…debilitating pain to wake up to every morning, endless second opinion, flummoxed doctors.
Someone once said something to the effect of, “It’s not the old familiar fears that end up coming true…it’s the ones that come with a phone call at 2:00 on a Thursday morning, the ones you never saw coming.”
How do we live like this?
I certainly don’t want to live paranoid. I don’t want to live life looking over my shoulder.
Yet these stories remind me of the uncertainty of life, and the certainty of death. They remind me tomorrow is not guaranteed. They remind me that God’s ways – whether you believe he directly causes all things or whether he causes some and allows others – are rockier and more elusive than we’d care to admit.
So how do we live knowing that each and every day could bring about the end of our lives as we know them?
We were expecting life to be pretty simple.
High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, but all of it falling into place in our early twenties without all that many bumps.
And when heartache started calling instead, when our plans for life folded like a cheap suit and God was nowhere to be seen, some of us just shrugged and walked away.
“If God won’t be there for me, why should I be there for him?”
It wasn’t quite that blase. We still love him…kinda. We certainly believe. We know he exists. We get riled up on his behalf when some atheist starts talking.
But we’re not really on fire for him otherwise.
I don’t mean this as a guilt trip. Please hear me out.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:1-12)
This is fun.
God, always happy to remind humanity who he is (even though he’s done it innumerable times before and gets rightfully annoyed when we forget) is presenting us with his accomplishments. Not that we’re hiring him. But so that we might worship him.
However, I must admit…there’s always been a little hesitation in me regarding parts of Psalm 103.
“Healing all your diseases”?
“Satisfying our desires with good things?”
I saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday (thanks, Christy!) and had to share-and-quickblurb.
“What if God said to you: ‘You can be part of my own awesome, immeasurable aims that are bigger than your ability to understand, and you will experience confusion and waiting…OR I can limit my activity in your life to only that which makes sense to you, and your life will feel much simpler. You pick.'” -Gary Morland
In what seems to me sometimes like a cosmic joke, a person’s life is often boiled down to a sequence of numbers – two dates with a dash between them.
The first is the date of our birth. Its arrival every year is an occasion for joy, for gifts, or perhaps just a little extra attention. We’re familiar with it. We write it on official documents. It’s a friend to us, right down to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing – the further we get, the worse we feel.
The other, the day of our death, is unknown to us. It lurks in the future, possibly fifty years from now, possibly this very day. We will, by definition, never write it down. By the time it’s known, we can do nothing about it. It evokes loss, shadow, looking back and evaluating, the arranging of one’s affairs and moving on.
At least it does for “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
But this last week, a friend of mine passed (expected), and the words used to describe her passing were, “She met Jesus!”
My friend escaped. She got out. She finally leaped beyond the reach of this world’s grime and reached Jesus.
And it hit me:
Note: This post’s first half is tongue-in-cheek, folks. If we can’t have a sense of humor in the comments section, I’ll be throwing penalty flags on you. Because heaven knows they won’t be thrown on the Patriots.
I personally suspect that it might be amongst the lowest-rated Super Bowls in NFL history. I’m writing this several hours before kickoff, so I don’t know if this prediction is true as you’re reading this. But it’s my guess.
And not just because of this year’s well-intended but broad and self-defeating player protests, though that’s part of it.
No, it’s because it’s the Patriots.