Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Kick Your Worst Days in the Teeth

Sometimes you just have to rebel against the hard times.

My cousin Tammy has been struggling through some of life's most difficult circumstances. She buried her mother at the end of an inspiring battle with inoperable cancer. Six months later she lost her 17-year-old son Elijah in a car accident. Two months after that, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and commenced upon eight weeks of daily treatment. The Davis family is suffering.



Tammy told me that well-meaning friends are uncomfortable with her grief and suffering, and hope to hurry her along to healing and brighter days with comments like, "It's going to get better."

The thing is, Tammy knows what she really deserves is death and that there are no promises for any earthly tomorrow to be better. She's had so many trials pile up high that I can see how it would be easy to hold your breath and brace for the next round of bad news that surely must be coming. So Tammy's clinging to her God even if tragedy stays for a lifetime. Determined, she declares, "God is enough."

I agree, but...

that God who is enough? He's also a God of redemption. And sometimes you just have to rebel against the sad times with a little bit of hope that leads to happiness.

When Jeremiah penned the oft-quoted "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to give you a future and a hope," it wasn't pie-in-the-sky. Israel was being carted off in chains to pagan lands in her day of final defeat. Jeremiah offered hope for a brighter tomorrow to Israel in their darkest day.

When Jeremiah lamented, "His mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness," he wasn't full of writing inspiration because life looked bright and hopeful. Rather, he was grieving.

But he didn't write, "We don't deserve any better than this from a holy God," although it was true. Instead, Jeremiah said, "God has a plan, and it isn't for us to grieve forever."

If God causes grief, then He will have compassion according to his abundant lovingkindness. He doesn't afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men (Lamentations 3:32-33).

Jeremiah kicked his sadness in the teeth. I doubt he felt like doing it, but he countered his grief and the loss of his nation with a longing gaze toward future times that God promised would be brighter. Those words of hope must have been hard-won. And Jeremiah didn't just speak them, he wrote them. Boldly.

And you can too. Maybe you, like Tammy and Israel, are in a season of suffering. Maybe you're struggling through sadness, hard times, the end of your marriage. Maybe your questions outnumber your answers. Maybe you're just weary of winter, or worse, it's a metaphor for layer after layer of cold, opaque, heavy, snow-silence atop the dead earth of your life.


Well, take heart. Rebel against it. Shake those cold, stiff bones and practice your high kick so you can knock out a few teeth, like Jeremiah did. God is a victor and vanquishes foes like suffering, grief, despair, and depression. Let him do it again—for you this time. Dare to believe Jeremiah's bold hope.

Put on your dancing shoes for just 3 minutes and move to the beat. Throw off the spirit of heaviness and put on the garment of hope and redemption. That's what we have to cling to in the dark, cold days of winter, in suffering and despair.

That's what a remnant of Israel did for 70 years of captivity. They lived like rebels in the face of defeat. They more than survived in less than ideal circumstances. They started businesses, opened savings accounts, married, and started families. They more than survived. They thrived.


That remnant refused to swallow what they knew they deserved. Instead, hope against hope, they brazenly clung to a God of compassion who loves to redeem. Jeremiah's untimely platitudes in the face of such suffering was received by a remnant as hope, real hope. They sank their teeth in it and nourished themselves with it.

That's quite a challenge in the face of adversity, but it can be done. When we do, it's audacious and inspiring.

So a dance party might be in order for you today. Yes, it's good and necessary to grieve, but we don't grieve as those who have no hope. We have a God whose compassion never fails and whose mercies are new every morning. And that's worth a dance party.

I think Elijah, with his heavenly perspective—which I'm jealous of, by the way—would approve of our spontaneous celebration to combat our light and temporary trials. Jeremiah would too.

Yes, we must grieve. There is a time and place for suffering, and it's not healthy to rush through it. But in light of our future, suffering's façade sneers at us with its a big toothy, overconfident, boastful grin just begging to be bashed by some hope. All you gotta do is move. Sing. Dance. Wear the garment of praise for three minutes until you are spent with celebration. Your suffering might be waiting for you at the other end of the song, but its position in your life will be diminished and its grin will be toothless.


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