Friday, May 7, 2010

Running From Sadness

I wrote this a while back, but I wanted to post it again because I am watching friends who are suffering through some tough and very real crises. I want to comfort as God has comforted me. I hope this will speak to you today.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. . . ." Eccl. 3:14

"Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted." Mat. 5:4

". . . mourn with those who mourn." Rom. 12:15b

I am a big Facebook fan. I love connecting with long lost friends and classmates and keeping up with friends and relatives. I enjoy all the witty and humorous status updates and comments, as well as the deeper more thoughtful ones. And sometimes I notice a trend and I think, "Hmmm, that is interesting. Why is that happening?"

One trend I notice on and off of Facebook is our aversion to sadness. Actually, aversion may not be a strong enough word. Fearful, afraid, absolutely terrified are probably closer to the truth.

I say this because whenever I see a friend post a status that says something like, "I'm really struggling today" or "I'm so down about this" or "Would you pray for me? I'm going through a fiery trial," then inevitably another friend will respond with something along the lines of "All things work together for good for those who love the Lord!" or "You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!" or "God is good all the time!" It is enough to make me wonder if Romans 8:28 and Philipians 4:13 are the only verses we know. And it makes me wonder why we use the Word of God as a weapon, not to fight off Satan, but to resist those we love when we feel uncomfortable with their heartaches.

I realize the intention behind these sunny quotes is to build up and encourage and to remind the one who is afflicted that God is there, God is able to work good out of the bad, etc. However, as one who has experienced some raw grief, I can say sunny words and phrases did not minister grace to me.

If you read my blog, then you know I quote scripture too. I am not against the Word. But, I am against misusing truth just to alleviate my discomfort with the reality of pain in this life. And honestly, the pain doesn't go away with those "happy" verses; the sadness just gets ignored and pushed down instead of taken to a place of real healing. We would do well to read all the verses about sadness, crying, mourning, wailing, and yes, even depression. There is so much more hurt and sadness in this life than we may want to admit. Remember this is not heaven, we are still in the fallen world. And in this world we will have troubles, Jesus promised us this.

When I am feeling overwhelmed with sadness and loss, the last thing I need is someone telling me to "Cheer up! God knows what He is doing!" Does God really call me to be constantly cheerful? I don't think so. Rather, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted." Do you get the simplicity of this statement? If I am grieving and crying then God can comfort me. You don't have to be afraid of the pain and suffering that I am experiencing. In fact, you can be an instrument of God's grace and comfort to me.

When I am suffering, I need support. I need someone to walk beside me and to help carry some of the burden. I need compassion and empathy for what I am going through. But, please, oh please don't give me a cheerleader with a frozen smile and a bunch of Bible verses mixed in with a dose of PMA (positive mental attitude).

I remember reading a Civil War historical marker in Macon, Georgia. The Union soldiers had captured the city and were burning and destroying parts of the town as they were marching the Confederate prisoners through. The Confederates were well known for their musical abilities and happy songs. The Union men were demanding to hear some of these songs from the Southerners and the soldiers being held at gun point had no choice but to try to sing. This marker quoted Psalm 137:3, "For our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, 'Sing to us one of the songs of Zion!'"

I trust that God has forgiven me for those times I have tormented a friend by demanding songs of joy in the midst of his/her hurt. And I ask that God would give me the sensitivity to mourn with those mourn. And in the process maybe I will be changed too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Freedom To Shoot Away

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
2 Corinthians 3:17

Caleb shoots some hoops
I was watching my two year old, Levi, play basketball with his much older siblings, Taylor and Caleb. Taylor and Caleb would take a few shots and then let Levi shoot. The goal is the standard 10 feet, so there is not much of a chance that my little one will even come close; the ball barely goes any higher than his own sweet little head. The funny thing is he doesn't mind and neither do we. He shoots and smiles and we all clap for him.

As I delighted in his pleasure of the moment, I couldn't help but think on the freedom Levi was enjoying. There was no pressure to make the basket, no pressure to get it a little higher, no pressure to do anything. There was only opportunity and freedom and he was not afraid to run in, take it and relish it.

What a great picture of what Christ desires for me! Everyday my life is filled with opportunities to take a shot and to be a part of something bigger. God is giving me an occasion to run in, take the chance and savor it.

But, if I am honest, I must admit that I miss many of those chances because of my fears. What if I can't do it? What if I miss? Immediately, I think of ways that I might fail. If I let these fears rule me, I will choose to miss the opening the Father has provided me.

God has given me the ball and said, "Here, you get to take a shot now," and I am lost in a world of my deficiencies. I think I can somehow mess this up, while God knows my capabilities and isn't concerned in the least about me scoring the winning basket. He isn't asking me to carry the team, He is simply inviting me to be a part of something beautiful. The Father is not going to laugh at me for not getting the ball above my head. If there is any laughter at all, it will be the pure joy of God in watching his child trust Him.

I want to learn to bless the Father by luxuriating in the freedoms and joys He sends to me each day. Maybe if I watch Levi closely enough, I can begin to learn how.