Life is hard and then you die.
FEBRUARY 6, 2023
Life is hard and then you die. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches that God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. If you’re just joining us, we’re spending time looking at the themes of a book that just came out that I wrote. And we do this regularly when I do a book. I’m going to keep doing this till I get it right, but at any rate, the name of the book is Laughter in Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. And we’ve been looking at some of the themes in that book. We spent the last two weeks talking about the surprising laughter and lament of God. We are created in the image of God and one of the places is in the lament and the laughter, believe it or not. And that’s the place where we also connect with God’s people. I have a friend, Jack Williams, who wrote me recently, after I’d told him a story about inappropriate laughter and hidden sorrow, this is what he wrote.
That reminded me of a story from my past. In 2001, we took a family trip to Europe. Linda, my wife, was teaching at a school in Austria for about a month. We flew to Munich, rented a car, and proceeded to sightsee in Germany for a couple of days, before going to Austria. Our first stop was Dachau, the German concentration camp where over 40,000 Jews were murdered. As we were walking across the campus, a group of teenagers came out of one of the buildings and they were laughing and cutting up like one would expect a group of teenagers to act. My initial reaction was frustration and irritation that these kids didn’t understand what a somber sight this was, nor the significance of what had occurred there. But within a few seconds, my perspective changed as I started to think what a gift their laughter actually was. I found it so incredible that on the site that 60 years earlier had been home to some of the worst atrocities ever known to man. My heart was gratified at the thought that God could even restore Dachau and make it a safe place for teenagers to laugh and have fun.
Oh my. If God can do that at Dachau, he can do it in the church too. All right, let’s go to another theme, and this is going to be kind of bad news for a while. You’ve got to batten down the hatches because before we get to the really good news, we’ve got to stop and kiss the demons on the lips. We’ve got to be careful. Keep on crying and I’ll give you something to cry about. Did your mother or father ever say that to you? That sort of thing isn’t said to children these days. They call it abuse and they’re probably right, but when I was a child, and it was said to me, I mostly stopped crying. For much of my life, I’ve had the feeling that my heavenly father told me the same thing I knew about his love and mercy, but bottom line, God was God. He made the decisions and my job was to submit and stop whining. It was called the victorious Christian life, and those who lived it were examples of what it meant to follow Christ in the hard places. She or he walked a hard road and they never complained, is about the best compliment one can pay to a Christian, especially those Christians who suffer. And we often hear it said at funerals. All right, let me suggest that not only is that sort of thing a false view of the Christian life, it is clearly unbiblical. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t sometimes tell us to buck up and stand firm when it hurts, that’s what God said to Jeremiah.
If you’ve raced
this is Jeremiah 12:5
If you have raced with men on foot, and they have weed you, how will you compete with horses?
Hebrews 12, one talks about running the race with endurance, Paul said to the Philippians.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing.
Philippians 2:15, told them that he had learned the secret of being content in every circumstance because he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. But with all of that being said, there’s a lot more in the Bible than that. And we’re going to spend some time looking at it. Henri Nouwen in this book The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, writes this.
You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them, but no final feeling is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down to your heart, then you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds.
I’m a man of prayer. And just saying that makes me wince. It sounds so super spiritual, so phony and arrogant, and frankly, I’m all of that on occasion. But before you jump to the conclusion that I’m being that now, let me tell you one of the main reasons I pray. I pray because it’s the only place where I can cuss without losing my job. It’s the only place where I don’t have to defend myself, pretend that I’m better than I am or be religious. It is a place of freedom. For instance, I can’t complain to you about where it hurts, at least not as much as I want to complain. It’s very easy to slip into what sounds very much like whining, and I have no desire for you to think of me as a whiner. As I was writing this, a very close friend called, a friend I love a lot. I asked him how he was doing and he said, okay, I have a lot to complain about, but you don’t need that. What do you mean I don’t need that? I replied, You’re my friend, complain. Okay? In fact, the best compliment you can give someone is to tell them where it hurts. As soon as I said that I thought about God and how often I’ve complained to him. I’ve complained about my pain and the pain of those I love. I’ve complained about the devastation of hurricanes and death and war and taxes too. I’ve complained when my car wouldn’t start and when I was having indigestion. And every time I’ve gone before God with my lament, both gut wrenching and silly, I’ve never been turned away, not even once. Instead, I’ve sensed the listener was listening, that he was listening so hard, that he could hear the sound of my tears as they struck the ground. When I felt about my friend’s pain in the way God feels about my pain and yours, it was a place of bonding. It’s part of lament, after my friend came clean with his complaints, he surprisingly started to laugh. His express lament and the reality of sharing his lament was a catalyst for the laughter and the freedom that followed. People get tired of being around those who are constantly talking about how nobody understands how unfair the world or in the words of the old spiritual, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. That’s also true of anger, it’s true of laughter, and it’s the place where God never tires of being with his people. And back to what I originally said, I’m a man of prayer because it’s the one place in the universe, where I can be totally honest about everything. If I’m down, I tell him. If I don’t love him, I tell him. If I’m afraid, I tell him. If I’m lonely, I tell him. If I’m weeping, I tell him why. And sometimes I tell him a joke that he had heard but likes to hear me telling. You think about that. Amen.
God is listening so hard that he can hear the sound of your tears as they strike the ground. Mm, such a good reminder and such a good encouragement. Thank you Steve. And we’ll have more great stories and insights and encouragement for you tomorrow. Hope you will join us then. Well, we talked through it today and for the last several weeks, Steve’s new book, Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. It’s all about how laughter and lament are often found together in unexpected places. Steve shares that speaking honestly about the ways we have been hurt and the ways we have hurt others, opens the door to the joy of God’s presence even as we grieve. It is such an important message that we’ve created a special Laughter and Lament booklet with excerpts from the book. Can we send you a free copy of that? Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. 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. Just ask for your free copy of the Laughter and Lament booklet. Finally, a question, have you considered partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving could not be easier. You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or 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 then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.