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Thank God, It’s Over

Thank God, It’s Over

MAY 1, 2024

/ Articles / Thank God, It’s Over

As you know, I’ve been working on a new book, The Lies We Believe: Dealing with Guilt, Shame, Fear, and Regret.

(That’s only the working title. I suspect the publisher will change that, plus many other things in the book. Someone—it may have been John Steinbeck—said to his editor, “Where the h___ were you when the page was blank?” I get that.)

I finished the manuscript yesterday. After months of work, it’s over. It’s a relief. Some of it is so good I can’t believe I wrote it. Some of it isn’t half-bad. And some of it makes me wince. But at least it’s finished. As my friend, Al Mawhinney, the former academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary, often said, “There are two kinds of dissertations—the perfect ones and the finished ones.” 

I now plan to get drunk. Okay, I don’t drink alcohol . . . but, if I did, I would. Sometimes, I think I could handle life better drunk. 😊

There is something to be said for it being over. If you’re not a preacher, you won’t understand this (and, even if you are, you won’t admit this). The greatest thing about being a preacher isn’t the spiritual stuff. It’s the day after you preached. It may have been a great sermon (“hundreds healed and thousands saved”). Or a colossal bomb (never quite reaching the first pew). Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s over. The joy and relief are better than drugs. I’ve never taken drugs, but I can’t imagine that high being even close to the high of a finished sermon.

We have all had the experience of relief when something is over. Even good things—like when Anna and I were married, when our daughters got married, or my speaking at our granddaughter’s graduation—are often followed by relief. Other times, I’m just glad it’s over. I  experience that relief the day after every Christmas, after every party, and after every meeting. There is even joy and relief after the bad things—like a funeral, a divorce, or a next-to-impossible task. I even experienced that relief after my kidney stone (I’m now the president of the “Fellowship of the Stone” 😊) and heart attack. It doesn’t matter. Thank God, it’s over.

Let me show you something important. It doesn’t matter if the experience is good or bad, painful or joyful, rewarding or unrewarding, or refreshing or draining; when it’s over, God speaks. Sometimes, we hear God’s voice most clearly in the “it’s over” experience.

As you know, Elijah won a great contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), but in the next chapter, he is forced to flee the wrath of Jezebel. If we had been in Elijah’s place, we would have laughed all the way to the wilderness as we fled, remembering the embarrassment of the prophets of Baal, the shock of the old witch Jezebel, and the cheering of the crowds. We would have been skipping and dancing all the way. Elijah didn’t do that . . . he complained! Elijah sat under a broom tree and prayed that God would kill him. In effect, Elijah said, “Lord, after all I’ve done for you, here I am in the wilderness, fearing Jezebel. Is this any way to treat your servant?” God let him mouth off and asked, “You finished?”

Then God spoke: “And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

When something is over, there is almost always “a still small voice.” If it’s been a horrible experience, hearing his voice might take a while. He says, “It was me. You just saw the result of my decisions. I’m here. All circumstances are from me, and they’re good, even if it doesn’t feel like it.” Because we can see what God did, our “it’s over” experiences are occasions for praise.

I once spoke for a large conference of “the rich and famous” in Canada. Honestly, I was quite full of myself and pleased that they were wise enough to invite me. That evening, I got up to the podium with such arrogance that it makes me blush to tell you. I made a total fool of myself. (Well, maybe not a total fool, but I could certainly see it from there. I was reminded of the arrogant priest who climbed the stairs to the cathedral’s pulpit and made a fool of himself like me. God said to him, “If you had climbed up those stairs the way you came down, it would have been different.”)

After it was over, I fled to my hotel room and fell on my knees, crying out to God about my humiliation, “How could you do something like that to me? That is no way to treat your servant.”  Do you know God’s response? He laughed at me. And then, after a good while, I laughed with him. God spoke in his laughter. Flying back home to Florida, I felt a whole lot better. I didn’t feel better because I took some neurotic pleasure in making a fool of myself. I felt better because it was over. It was like the Calvinist who fell down the stairs, got up, brushed himself off, and said, “Man, I’m glad that’s over.”

I haven’t said much about the really bad things, like a child or spouse’s death, our abuse growing up, and the painful family dysfunctions that ruined our lives, etc. It makes me wince to say it, but what I’ve written applies to all that we’ve experienced, even the horrible things. That includes our deaths.

Toward the end of his ministry, Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

(Don’t get hung up on the “crown of righteousness” thing, that you aren’t that righteous and will never get that crown. Paul, with all his failures and sins, isn’t talking about his righteousness. Check out Paul’s confession in Romans 7 and the times in Acts when he was “tarred and feathered.” Paul is talking about Christ’s imputed righteousness, which is put into the account of every believer. Ronald Rolheiser, in The Holy Longing, wrote that the church is a mix of good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, and obedient and disobedient, and often in the same person, that the church is the same as it looked at the crucifixion, “God among thieves.” )

Paul was facing the end of a very long journey and was relieved that it was almost over.

This morning, I got an email from a friend’s son-in-law, letting me know that, if I hadn’t heard, my friend and his father-in-law, Charlie Cauthen, had died. (It’s getting so I have more friends in heaven than I do on earth.) Charlie had some significant physical issues and struggles. As I prayed for the family, I thought of Charlie and prayed, “Thank you, Lord. It’s finally over, and he’s home.”

J.B. Phillips was a writer, Anglican priest, and Bible translator. He was also a friend of C.S. Lewis. After Lewis died, Lewis “appeared” in Phillips’ study. Phillips said Lewis wasn’t like a ghost but as solid and present as before he died. Lewis told Phillips that it was over, smiled, and added, “And it really wasn’t so bad.” Years before, Lewis wrote to a woman he had never met over a long period of time. (You can read those letters in his book, Letters to an American Lady.) In one of their letters, they were discussing death. Lewis described death as going to the dentist when the dentist finally says, “Okay, now wash your mouth out.” That’s when it’s over.

And then there is Jesus. Just as Jesus was dying, he said, “It is finished.” Of course, it was really finished. Nothing more needed to be added. We are forgiven, accepted, and loved. But there was also a side reality. While Jesus was talking about our redemption being completed, he was human. There was relief and joy in the human Jesus because it was finally over. It was not dissimilar to our relief when the events we faced were over.

Throughout our lives and, even at the end, we can rejoice and say, “Thank God, that’s over!”

We can say that because Jesus told us it was over . . . finished. And that’s a not altogether unpleasant thought.

He asked me to remind you.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve is the Founder of Key Life Network, Inc. and Bible teacher on the national radio program Key Life.

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