When Everything Sad Becomes Untrue

Toward the finale of The Return of the King, after Frodo and Samwise have cast the evil ring into the molten core of Mount Doom, an exhausted Sam, recovering from his ordeal, awakes to the face of Gandalf.

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”

Everything sad is going to come untrueYesterday, I attended the visitation of an old neighbor from an old neighborhood, the one in which I experienced some of the sweetest days of my life. Joe had suffered through dementia for years, and the family of six boys with whom we played football in our backyards felt a sense of relief for their dad. Shirley, his wife, did too. She said it was a blessing that all this happened during Holy Week. Even in that sad time, there remained hope that everything sad is going to come untrue.

The passion of Jesus marks the high, holy days of the Christian Church. And they are holy because they mark the beginning of the answer asked by a beloved fictional character.

In the cross of Jesus, everything sad begins its journey toward untruth. The lie of who we were in sin is replaced by the truth of who we are in Christ. The great shadow over us has been removed.

In the resurrection of Jesus, sadness takes a further step toward being untrue. Death no longer holds the victory. Christ triumphed over it. When we are in Christ, so will we be victorious. And there will be no second death.

In the ascension of Jesus, sadness declines yet again, as the promise is of Christ’s return. In that return, we understand that sadness will be swallowed up in truth, and that tear-filled eyes will no longer be so, that no one will want for anything, and that all our crushed dreams will live again.

And sadness will be untrue forever.

In this week of recalling Jesus’ betrayal, death, and resurrection, we understand that the world has changed, because Jesus made it so.

Jesus can change your world, if you lay aside your life and let Him give you His. All you have to do is ask Him.

by Dan EdelenComments (0)

Waiting

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
—Psalms 27:14 ESV

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
—Lamentations 3:25-26 ESV

Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.
—Psalms 106:12-13 ESV

WaitingI’d like to believe that the American Church is filled coast to coast with people who wait patiently on the Lord. I’d like to believe that.

I know better, though. The part of American Church that causes problems is the American part. In America, we don’t want to wait for anyone or anything. To wait is to waste time when something can be done. Doing is all that matters. Or as it is in many cases, talking about doing, even if the doing never happens.

Here’s a line you never hear from the pulpit in America: “We’re not moving ahead on this until God gives us the OK. Until then, we wait.

For the Christian, waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. Prayer and faith together make a difference. In fact, prayer and faith might just be what God is waiting to experience from us before the awaited result comes. Two little practices, yet how we forget to do them.

Whatever it is that we’re forgetting, our porous memory hurts our waiting.

The Psalm 106 passage quoted above shows that forgetfulness and impatience go together. We know what the Bible says, and we sing about God’s care for us, but we forget what He has done nonetheless, and therefore we charge forward, as if THIS time is the time in which He will not come through in his perfect timing. So, we grease the rails and proceed full steam ahead anyway.

Regular readers will recognize this familiar lament: The good is the enemy of the best. In the American Church, that should be engraved on every church doorway lintel.

Impatience yields not only bad results but good. The problem is that we get satisfied with good results and never give God the opportunity to deliver mind-blowing results. All because we could not wait on Him. All because we had to make something happen.

None of that is of faith, though. And sometimes, the result is devastating.

I wonder how much we miss as a Church in the United States due to impatience. I wonder how many once-vibrant churches no longer meet because they didn’t wait on God.

Or perhaps they did and were so enamored of one type of answer that they missed God’s answer when it finally came. Either way, the best didn’t happen for them. So they grumble and blame God for not coming through on their timing. Except He did; they just weren’t attuned to Him.

Impatience and an inability to hear God when He does speak in His timing are epidemic in today’s noisy, “make something happen” churches. Will it take an ethereal hand writing on the wall to get us to pay attention and listen?

I’d say that’s something worth waiting for, except we all know how it turned out.

by Dan EdelenComments (1)

Doom, and How God Frustrates It

Elijah didn’t die but ascended to God in a flaming chariot. Most of us know the story. Elijah was certainly a man of God.

Elijah was also something of a depressed prophet. He was always complaining about apparent circumstances, what he believed to be true about his situation. No matter the case, though, God never abandoned Elijah—far from it—and yet Elijah kept up the doom-saying.

One of Elijah’s “personal doom scripts” that kept running through his head was that the bad guys had killed all the other prophets and he alone was left. You read the life of Elijah in 1 Kings, and he repeated that script a lot.

God finally had enough of it:

[Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
—1 Kings 19:14-18 ESV

And Elijah never again beefed about being the last one left.

God had His 7,000. God even had a successor to Elijah lined up. Despite Elijah’s office as prophet, he seemed blind to those possibilities. All he could focus on was the doom.

God has his 7,000 at all times. In your life and in mine, God has a form of that 7,000 on-hand and ready to supply.

Even if you don’t see it, that reserve exists. God had fed Elijah by ravens, but the prophet, so stuck in his doom, was unable to understand that provision or believe that God might have preserved other faithful followers to stand with him. All Elijah could see was his personal circumstance. God had to enlarge his vision.

Funny thing is, the prophet who followed in Elijah’s footsteps inherited nothing of his mentor’s doom and shortsightedness. A classic instance of how Elisha did better than his predecessor is found in 2 Kings 6. The king of Syria was frustrated because someone seemed to be telling all his plans to the king of Israel. Eventually, a servant told the Syrian king that Elisha was receiving this info supernaturally. The enraged king decided to put an end to that:

Elisha protected by GodSo he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” [Elisha] said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.
—2 Kings 6:14-18 ESV

Elisha understood that even in the midst of apparent doom, the apparency was an illusion. Something greater from God was present, and all it took was a greater vision of what God was doing. Elisha knew and could see what Elijah failed to: God frustrates doom.

Doom will never win because God is greater. Today, make that your personal script.

by Dan EdelenComments (1)

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