God is a lot different than you’ve been told.
MARCH 21, 2023
God is a lot different than you’ve been told. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life with our host, author, and seminary professor Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru. He’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.
Thank you Matthew. We’re looking at a book I wrote called Laughter in Lament, some of the major themes in that book, The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. And we started yesterday looking at a chapter that I titled, Life is Hard and then You Laugh. I told you yesterday about lawyer friend, a mal practice lawyer is very good, who had become a Christian and decided to read the entire Bible starting in Genesis. I told him he ought to start in John because if he starts in Genesis, you’re going to bog down and there’s a lot of explanation and commentary that you need if you’re going to start at the beginning of the Bible. He said, no, no, no, I’m going to do it the way I do every book. I’m going to read it from cover to cover. And I saw him later and asked him how it was going, and he said, God’s a lot different than I thought he was. That he’s killing everybody and he’s really mean. And then he stopped and smiled and said, but don’t get me wrong, he’s my kind of guy. Well, God is different from what we have often been taught, and there’s no place where that difference is more apparent than in God’s laughter and God’s joy.
God exalts over his people with loud singing.
That’s Zephaniah 3:17, if you want to check it out. Bildad, one of Job’s friends spoke truth when he said.
That God fills our mouths with laughter.
Job 8:21. The Psalmist often speaks of God’s looking at arrogance and pride and giving a great big old belly laugh, a laugh of derision. Psalms 37, Psalm 59 and others. Nehemiah says.
That the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Nehemiah 8:10 and the Psalmist says.
That in God’s presence there is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11. Even the Creation reflects the laughter and joy of. Isaiah 55:12 says.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace. The mountains and the hills before you shall break forth in singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
The Psalmist lends an echo to that by saying.
The rivers clap their hands and the hills sing for joy together before the Lord.
That’s Psalm 98:8. When Jesus gives instructions to his disciples just before the crucifixion, he says.
That His joy would be in them and that their joy would be full.
John 1511. And it goes on and on. For all of human history, people have looked at the darkness and asked questions. Is there really a God? If there is, what is he like? Is he a monster who demands the fruit of my womb for the sin of my soul? Does he care? Does he love? And then hesitantly, does he love me? The Incarnation of God in Christ is no less than the laughter of God spilling over into a dark and sad and scary world.
In the beginning was the Word. The light of men, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
That’s John 1. Have you heard the old story of the man who goes to a psychiatrist with serious depression and the psychiatrist told him that he should go and see the clown and named him. The man replies, that’s me. When Robin Williams, one of the funniest comedians of all time committed suicide, much was written about the dark depression he lived with most of his life. Behind the humor and the jokes was a broken heart. It even has a formal name, it’s a personality disorder called cyclothymic personality disorder. In other words, behind the laughter is the tears. While I want to suggest here is that behind the tears is the laughter. I’ve read a number of books on the subject of Biblical lament while working on writing this book I’m talking about. And those books were often powerful and authentic, while hope and joy are usually mentioned, the sound of laughter is often missing from those kinds of books. I fear that the sound of laughter is often missing too from the lives of Christians. As a matter of fact, I’ve discovered that those who haven’t cried often don’t know how to laugh with freedom. Laughter is often an obscene gesture a Christian makes at suffering and pain. And it’s the good news about lament. The dichotomy between laughter and happiness and joy is often over-emphasized. Joy, and I’ve said this a lot of times and you’ve heard your pastor say it too. Joy, it is suggested is what Christians experience regardless of circumstances. And laughter and happiness are what we experience when things are going well, and as Browning said.
God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.
I have a bit of a problem with that. It’s not that there isn’t a difference, it’s just that when we make joy spiritual and laughter secular, we often miss out on what God has for his people. We say to one another, smile, people are watching and you don’t want to hurt your witness or be joyful, it will attract people to Christ. If you grew up in a church as a kid, you probably sang that song. Joy, joy, joy down in my heart. I sang it, but I wasn’t sure it was true or even what it meant. Nevertheless, it was fun to sing, and we sang it with gusto. We have to stop singing and living that song. At worst, it isn’t true, and at best it’s misleading. In fact, if we can turn normal Christians into phony ones, that’s dangerous. When the doctor’s diagnosis is not a good one, when you’ve been shamed by lies about you, when your wife just asked for a divorce, when your husband tells you that he no longer loves you, when you fail big time, or you just have a headache. Only an idiot would say that, nevertheless, I have joy, joy, joy down in my heart. No, you don’t. And pretending that you do will kill you and rob you of what God has promised. I know. I know. Sometimes there is unexpected and supernatural joy in the darkest of times. A genuine grace for the moment. By the way, that was the title of an album my friend Buddy Green and I recorded a number of years ago. He sang about grace and I told stories about it. Our pictures, and by the way, were on the cover and we are both bald. Buddy said we should call the album. Grace for the Moment and Hope for the Bald. There really is grace for the moment when God shows up unexpectedly in our dark places, and we’ve all experienced that. Now, we’re going to talk about that later, but sometimes God doesn’t show. After her death, we discovered that Mother Teresa went through years of God’s silence. When she longed to know joy, joy, joy down in my heart. She just couldn’t find it. And so, to find the real laughter that goes with the lament, the joy that God has promised, you’ve got to kiss the demons on the lips, you’ve got to be honest and authentic about where it hurts and the pain. And then surprisingly, the giggles begin. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. Yes. God is indeed different than what we have often been told, and that’s a good thing. If you’re just joining us, for the last several weeks, we’ve been taking a break from our exploration of Acts to delve into the Biblical truths that inspired and informed Steve’s latest book Laughter and Lament. And we shall continue with that tomorrow. Do hope you’ll join us then. Hey, did you know that Key Life publishes a magazine every year? Well, now you do. It’s packed with encouraging and thought-provoking articles. And this Year’s edition, if I may say, is our best yet. It has some great pieces by Kendra Fletcher, Chad West, Jenni Young, and Steve. This new edition even has details on our exciting new subscription service, the Key Life Book Box. Best of all, it’s free. So, why not claim your copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to key life.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Again, just ask for your free copy of the new 2023 Key Life magazine. Finally, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is easy. You can charge a gift on your credit card. Or you can include a gift in your envelope. Or join the growing number of folks who give safely and securely through text. How do you do that? Easy, just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.