Monday, January 26, 2015

But... what if it doesn't get better?

You know all the trite and clichéd sayings:

"This, too, shall pass."
"It can't last forever."
"Chin up! Things will get better."
(Does anyone actually say "Chin up" anymore?)
"It's only a season."

The list goes on. All of them about being positive while you wait for the inevitable change. I have been guilty of reciting these, and others, to hurting people in the past.

This morning, on Facebook, I read this quote attributed to a famous "prosperity preacher" (I refuse to acknowledge his name, because I don't want to bring him extra glory.)

"Don't wait for your situation to change to be happy, 
be happy while God's changing your situation."

I usually get upset when I read the tripe he (and other prosperity guys and gals) spews, but for some reason this one really dug into me today.

Here's the thing. I don't discount the encouragement that is supposed to go along with these sayings. I don't argue that we (specifically Christians) should maintain joy in all circumstances. (Philippians 4:11-12) What bothers me is the promise of "better." The promise that things are changing, so you can hold onto the hope for when this season passes.

But, what if it doesn't get better? I know, I know, God has promised joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5.) But, what if the "morning" doesn't dawn until we have exited this life and fully embraced the eternal? What if, no matter how many hours we spend in prayer and how strong our faith is, our earthly situation never gets "better"? 

Currently, I am in a difficult season of life. It has been difficult for quite some time now and has had repeated moments where it seems I can see the light at the end of the tunnel before being further pushed down into the darkness of the situation. In the present, it feels as though we can see the light again, but my weary heart fears the push is coming.

These statements of clinging to hope because change will come do little for a weary heart that has been beaten down again and again. The reality of our world is that sometimes, things don't get better. Sometimes, they even get worse. And worse. And worse. And the only "better" is when death ushers us into an eternity in the presence of our Savior. (Oh, how my heart aches for people who have not accepted the Gospel.) 

Paul wrote of his own "thorn in (his) flesh" that wouldn't go away in 2 Corinthians. He said he prayed numerous times and was still stricken with the thorn. To our knowledge, he died with this thorn. Most would not contest that Paul was a faithful man, fully committed to Christ and spreading the Gospel. Where was his "better" in that situation? A study on his life would reveal that he did not receive much "better" in his life (especially the way we Americans would define it.) His situation didn't change, does that mean God wasn't working?

Habakkuk (one of my favorite Old Testament books, easy to miss if you aren't looking) revealed a heart of one who cried out to God for change that he didn't get to see. Though he was unable to see the answers to his prayers, God responded that He was, in fact, working behind the scenes, so to speak. 

Poor Job lost everything. Every. Thing. He was a boil-covered, homeless, broke, lonely mess before he ever saw his "better."

What if Habakkuk or Paul had their cries met with answers of, "This too shall pass" or " happy while God's changing your situation." (It's been a while since I've read Job, but I think he was met with some trite "encouragements" and we see how that worked out for him...)

Hurt and struggle are very real things that afflict many. For some, the hits just keep coming. It makes me think of a line from a Metallica song (how often do you see the Bible and Metallica quoted together...) "Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel Is just a freight train heading your way." When you are met by a freight train in your dark tunnel, hearing encouraging quotes about life getting better often elicits feelings other than joy.

So, what do you do if it isn't getting better? What do you do when you keep getting hit by that train and being told the secret to making it out of the tunnel is a happy disposition? You cling to TRUE hope. Don't know where to look for that? I'll give you a hint: it's at the foot of the cross, covered in a blood shed by grace. 

This is mostly a note to self, but if you are reading this and find yourself in that never-ending dark tunnel, there is hope. I can't tell you life will "get better" any time soon, but I promise, it is the only hope that cannot be shaken. Christ came and suffered so one day you may be FULLY relieved of your suffering. There is a perfect peace that can only be found in Jesus; this peace trumps any dark tunnel you may find yourself in. Look to the cross and cling to Jesus, it's the only sure-fire way to get out of this messy, heart-breaking life alive.

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