You can’t run. Deal with it.
APRIL 11, 2023
You can’t run, deal with it. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was author and seminary professor Steve Brown, and this is Key Life. We’re all about radical grace because of what Jesus has done, God’s not mad at you. Keep listening, and that message will set you free to live a life of joy and surprising faithfulness.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, we talked about the problem of control. And I taught you a little bit, a kind of heresy 101 about quietism, which was founded by a Spanish priest, and it was in the seventh century. And quietism said, don’t do anything, just sit and let God do everything. Now, that’s a gross oversimplification. And I said that the Christian faith is not a quietest faith. It’s active and the Scriptures are clear on it being active. And, but I said, and let me say it again, it does smell sometimes kind of like let go and let God. For instance, Matthew 6:25 through 26 Jesus says, don’t be anxious, your Father deals with everything that you need, so you can go out and play with the other children. So while, it’s not a passive faith, it does kind of sometimes feel like it is. Now, with all of that being said as a clarification, one of the reasons many of us can’t experience life, the abundant life that Jesus promised, is that we run from our pain. And we also run from our laughter, neither of which can be controlled. We hate the idea of anything that is painful. And Larry Crabb, my late friend, used to say.
That when it’s dark and painful, you run to it and you probe it because that’s where Jesus meets his people.
And if you don’t, you’ll miss out on the reality and the joy that God gives you. And we don’t dare laugh in church, I mean, church is serious business. And so, even if something is funny, we stifle the laughter and we certainly don’t laugh at funerals because we know that once you start laughing or once you start crying, you can’t control it, you can’t stop. The darkness of lament is facing what can’t be fixed, and the fear of inappropriate laughter is facing what can’t be stopped. And in both cases, control is useless. That’s bad, well, no, that’s kind of good, and the difficult road that leads to radical freedom. Early in my ministry, a man in the church I served died, and I loved him a lot. Our relationship is a long story, and I won’t tell you the whole story, but the church was coming apart and they had had fist fights in the narthex of the church. I mean, this was a bad division and people hated each other. And so, this particular man, his name was Mr. Morrison and I met together every Monday and prayed for the church. He loved the church and I was doing my best. And so, we, during the week would visit people in the church and just listen and let them tell us what was bothering them to bring some kind of closure that somebody is listening to what they’re angry about. And we did that over and over again. And over those weeks, God did a kind of miracle. Yesterday I said a little bit about the Jesus movement, that happened in our church. Those people were so filled with joy and forgiveness that it was, it infected us, is what happened and radically changed the church. But during all of that very, very difficult time, he and I met every Monday and prayed and went out the rest of the week visiting people in the church. The reason I’m telling you all of this is because he was in the hospital and it was pretty serious, but I’d talked to the doctor and he said he’s going to be fine. And so, I visited him that night and he said, could you stay a while? And I said, no, listen, I’ve got to run, but I’ll see you tomorrow. The doctor says you’re going to be okay. I left and he died. And it was such pain that I wasn’t there for him when he died, that it really got to me. And I loved him so deeply, that I went through a period of mourning. Now, let me tell you what happened. We had a funeral, a memorial service, and you know what happened? I lost it. Pastors aren’t supposed to lose it at funerals, okay? Someone has to speak hope and encouragement. Someone has to comfort the family. Someone has to be able to calmly walk others through the darkness of the valley of death. And I didn’t do that. I started weeping, and the more I tried to stop weeping, the worse it got. I finally had to just sit down and cry until the tears finally stopped. I remember how quiet it was in that big sanctuary with the only sound, the sound of my weeping. I finally managed to get it together to continue the service, and after it was over, people didn’t know what to say to me. They said things like, you must have loved him a lot, and I did, or this has got to be hard, Steve, and it was. That was about all they could say, but underneath the comments was the unspoken belief that a pastor isn’t supposed to lose it. I was paid to get them through it, not fall apart in the effort. That incident happened many years ago over a whole lot of years of ministry and hundreds of funerals. I never lost it again. Never shed a tear at a funeral and never even once had to compose myself. If I was close to the person who had died, I learned to harden my heart and my emotions with anger, deflection, and focus. That’s called friend, control. And frankly, and I’ve been doing this a long time, I’m really good at control. In the seminary classes I’ve taught over the years, what I just told you has been the source of pride as I taught hundreds of students how to control their emotions. I say to them, when you think you’re going to lose it, think of somebody who ticks you off. You’re going to have to repent when you get out of a pulpit, but it’ll get you through and you won’t fall apart. But listen, I’m older now and I’m telling you what happened, and there are a pile of other incidents I could also refer to, not to brag, but to repent and to confess. I mentioned, earlier when we were talking about the subject of laughter and lament. Some of the steps that are a part of grief work, shock, denial, bargaining, anger, etcetera. One of the steps in grief work, and you can, you know, I’ve lost people that I loved a lot. And I, and I could almost go to my psychology book and find out by turning the page to know what I was going to be feeling the next day because it hurt when you lose somebody. I have a friend and when her husband died, she said to me, and it was filled with pathos, who’s going to wind the clocks? That’s hard, listening for footfalls and they’re no longer there, it really hurts. But one of the steps in grief work is acceptance. Acceptance is another word for giving up control. It’s the recognition that some things, as horrible as they are, simply aren’t fixable. One of the reasons, and I’ve been a pastor a long time, that you force a family to look at death, is to make sure that they understand. And sometimes it seems cruel when a pastor does that. The reason you do that is to face the reality that the statistic of death is one out of one. And you simply can’t control it. My late mentor, Fred Smith often said that the essence of the Christian maturity was knowing the difference between problems and facts. Problems are fixable or at least made better with some effort. We can only accept facts. In other words, if you can control it, it’s a problem, and if you can’t control it, it’s a fact. Now, I’m running out of time, but we’ll talk about it more tomorrow, but the fact is there are things in your life that you can’t fix, so stop it. There are things that are facts, not problems. The sin you committed, the pain that you feel, the doctor’s diagnosis, your family, you can’t control it, but he does. So, go out and play. You think about that. Amen.
If you can control it, it’s a problem. If you can’t control it, it’s a fact. Friends, just that right there was worth the price of admission. Thank you Steve. And we will continue from right here tomorrow, do make sure you join us for that. Well, there were probably several people in Jesus’ orbit who strove to control things, but I think it’s fair to say that Martha was one of them. Luke 10 tells us the story of the time when Martha not only calls out her sister Mary for being a slacker, but she actually demands Jesus do something about it. But here’s the thing, Martha wasn’t some kind of monster, nor was Mary a saint. The truth is we are both of them, at times. Well, Steve spoke about all of this and a sermon called When the Noise Is Too Loud. If you struggle with busyness, I know it’s going to help you. Get that talk on CD for free by calling 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 CD. Or to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact for our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD called When the Noise Is Too Loud. Finally a question, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is easy, just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 and 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.