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When Life Sucks

When I look over the past year and consider this new one, I am reminded of how the year started well, but ended horribly. Almost everything I desired in 2014 happened and did early, but that tricky 3rd quarter kicked my butt! It started when at our church I taught a series called, “What To Do When Life Sucks.” That series turned out to be prophetic, as I would have to practice what I had literally just preached.

Let me start by saying that some people have a problem with the whole concept that life would suck for a Christian. They believe that since we are Jesus followers everything in life should be good, easy, and pleasurable. I say…LIES! All of the guys who were following Jesus died bad or lonely deaths. Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, and ultimately killed. Jesus Himself was beaten, rejected, and ultimately crucified on a cross. The Bible is filled with people who had to find joy in the most trying of circumstances. That is the power of the Gospel; Christ is glorified above all challenges.

For us, it started with my son holding his leg gingerly. We had been monitoring his hip placement for the past several years. So, we went to get it checked out and discovered that his hip was 65% out of socket. As a result, he would have to have surgery before the end of the year. The recovery was the challenge, in that he would be in a body cast for 6 weeks. We started trying to wrap up everything we could before his appointment with the knife. This was an especially hard for my wife who was trying to complete her doctoral dissertation (which didn’t get done). So, before facing the challenge of a kid in a cast from his chest to his ankles, we first had the challenge of completing all major plans through year’s end. It was pressure on top of pressure.

The surgery went well, and we started the scary process of recovery with him. We had to fight off fevers, pain, and the dreaded sleep deprivation. We were up every 2 hours for weeks. We even had to go back to the hospital as he had become dehydrated. People were asking how we were doing and the only honest answer was, “challenged” it was usually followed with a huff, puff, and a shake of the head. This is coming from people who care for a young man who is totally dependant on us. But, this was 10x more than we are used to facing.

Add to that, just before all of this, one of our members was admitted to the hospital on Thanksgiving Eve. We raced from giving out meals in our community to sitting by her bedside with her husband as it was looking like it would be the end. She rebounded, but while caring for our son we would have to make it to the hospital continually and do our best to care for this family who was in need. While in need of care and support, we found ourselves giving what was being given to us. Which I think is both beautiful and poetic.

My son started turning the corner, and we assumed things were getting better. My wife and I even had a chance to take in a movie, hallelujah! But, when we left the theatre, we received word that our member in the hospital was in her last moments. We once again raced to her bedside for the last time, and we were there to see her transition into eternity. Being a new lead pastor, this is the first time I had lost a member, not to mention one who was very close to my heart.

We are still not through this season as my son is still in a cast, my wife must find space to finish school, and the funeral (rather celebration of life) is coming. We have taken hit after hit, lately. Last year ended in struggle and this year of course, started the same way. Little did I know that life would suck so hard, so quickly.

What I taught in a message, but would live through experience is, you can’t always determine the challenges you will face, all you can do is determine HOW you will face them. Hard times come! Cancer, layoffs, sickness, childlessness, divorce, surgery, death, etc. are a part of life and denying it only sets us up for disappointment and frustration. I am not endorsing pessimism or worse masochism, but rather preparation for difficulty so that if and when it comes our way we can proclaim the power of this scripture…

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”  James 1:2-4 MSG

This scripture is as challenging as it is beautiful. Not everything that is good for us, feels good! The hope for Jesus followers is that all things work for our good, even times that just plain suck!

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