Only a few minutes ago, some of my fellow pastors and I walked into the hospital room of a very dear friend who has a vicious cancer that threatens to take her life. I know that we all die. In fact, it occurred to me, as we circled her bed, that all of us would soon follow her.
I hate death. I suppose it’s because we were not created to die. I don’t know why God allowed The Serpent to have access to our ancestors, but the fact is that when we took the bait, a new era emerged and disease, violence, and death (along with all human frailties and ailments) rushed down upon us like a tidal wave. And we haven’t been the same since.
Yes, I detest it. And I am filled with a deep longing for something better – something permanent. I don’t want my friend to die. I don’t want her to suffer. And truthfully, I don’t want to go through it either.
But it wasn’t the sad scene that was playing out before me that exposed my own insecurities and reduced me to emotional carnage. Everyone dies, and we never like it. It was what her husband said that caused a wave of guilt and shame to wash over me.
“There are a couple of things worse than death, and this is one of them. We have lived our lives confident that God has a better place ready for us, and she is ready to go. She’ll be okay.”
All of my disappointment in the promises of God laid out for all to see. I want it now! I want peace and freedom from pain and suffering NOW!
But he never, not even once, promised me that I would escape this planet unscathed. But that’s what I want. More than anything, I confess.
What he did promise me is that if I am faithful to the one who provided what I needed most – to have the barrier between God and me destroyed, he would make everything right.
I cry out, “Father, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”
And he did – he does. I should be grateful. It should be enough.
The problem is that the promise is a future promise. I can sense the here and now. I feel it, taste it, touch it, smell it, and see it. I’m familiar with it. I can’t sense future. It’s too intangible. Too elusive. Delayed gratification isn’t my thing.
And my friend burst my balloon in one humble, honest statement that said, “I am confident. We are ready.”
I think this is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on joy and raucous worship. It certainly isn’t because everything is perfect now. Rather, it’s because we are confident that, no matter what we are feeling now, it will all be put in its proper place once God restores order to a broken and sin-cursed world.
God will turn “our wailing into dancing.” And that is why I can “Praise the Lord” and “Sing a new song.” That’s why I can “praise his name with dancing,” and play my tambourine and harp in celebration of who he is and what he has done for me that I could not do for myself. He “delights in me.” (Psalm 149).
It’s not that I have a legal right to go crazy in my worship (private and public), but more that when I get glimpses of who I am juxtaposed with such a majestic and mighty God who just so happens to delight in me, I can’t help but fall out in ecstatic expressions of joy and thanksgiving.
You see, no matter what happens to me here, what lies ahead is more valuable to me than anything I have here and now.
Oh Majestic and Mighty God, why do you love me? I wouldn’t if I were you. But that you would humble yourself in such a way that you would put your well-being in the hands of people like me – well, it baffles me. That is the thought that perplexes me – why would you do it? I am just thankful that you did. And I am tormented that I fall so short after so many years of trying to follow you. Your grace is amazing in the truest sense of the word. I love you, God, in my very limited way. Thank you for forgiving me. And finally, set me free to worship you as I fix my gaze on Jesus who died and was raised for me. Let that be enough for me, Oh Father.