I heard it again this week. Someone said to me, “I don’t do nursing homes.” A neighbor had been placed in a full-care facility, but there was no way this individual was going to see her.
“I don’t do nursing homes. They creep me out.”
Have you heard that? Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe you’ve said the same thing. If you have – may I gently tap you on the shoulder? ‘Cause I’m wondering if turning away is really an appropriate option.
“I don’t have patience listening to peoples’ problems.”
“Don’t ask me to go to a funeral home.”
“I don’t do nursing homes…. or hospitals….” or, well, whatever form of hard stuff life may throw us.
Sometimes you’d perhaps get the idea that whole church communities “don’t do” hard stuff, ’cause all you hear are happy songs, and positive prayers – making you feel that if you struggle, or worry, or doubt, or are in pain that you’d be better off not showing up…. you are, after all (at least, so goes the logic), not a very good Christian.
This coming Sunday I want to read Psalm 137 with you. It couldn’t be found in my grandpa’s bible. Because he ripped it out. It bothered him so much that in a fit of rage, he tore the page out, crumpled it up, and threw it away – “Not in this house will this be read ever again!!” he said.
Go ahead, take the time to read it. You’ll find yourself in a song full of pain. And it doesn’t end on a nice major chord. It finishes in discord – VERY unresolved.
Pain is just left dangling there.
Which is like so much of life.
More questions than answers.
More heavy times than light ones.
The Bible, actually, is very honest about that. And shows that kind of question-filled, unresolved and painful existence for many of the “star players” throughout God’s Story. I’ll share some of them with you on Sunday.
As I survey Scripture it seems to me that the reality of suffering is the groundwork on which the story of Salvation is built. So – really – I don’t think we do anybody, including ourselves, any favors by running from suffering.
Even more than that, I believe very firmly that God calls us to walk TOWARDS suffering. And to work for and pray for and long for the welfare of those who suffer.
To keep at it, even when relief is not quick in coming. To avoid shortcuts to slick, easy answers and solutions. And, as we work and pray and long… to keep the vision that one day God WILL fully set all things right. I’ll tell you why on Sunday.
And most of all – yes, absolutely top of the agenda through the whole messy business – keep searching for little glimmers and hints and echoes of the presence of God in the midst of suffering. Remembering that God has come into our mixed-up, often unstable lives through his Son who entered our suffering and took it upon himself.
This is the heart of Christmas.
That Christ came not to insulate us from, or empower us to avoid, suffering.
He came to us in the midst of suffering.
His Spirit gives power to endure and live through the suffering.
His Promise of heaven, and a New Creation, give hope when suffering is tinged with death.
Hey, hope you can join us this Sunday morning for Advent worship at 10am – and to further explore Psalm 137 and more about why we SHOULD do nursing homes and hospitals and funeral homes and listen to peoples’ problems and, well, whatever struggles life throws at us.
Got some thoughts on this? Love to hear from you.