Let it be known
Perhaps more than anything I love the variety of working for the church. We share the good stuff and the bad - we're there throughout people's lives and we get to do life with them.
In the last couple of weeks, amongst other things my work has involved sharing a whole load of wonderful moments in people's lives. I've been to a baby shower, a wedding, seen a child dedicated to God, celebrated someone's a recovery from depression, heard about a baby born to someone who used to have an eating disorder, seen someone released from chronic pain. I've celebrated friendship, freedom, victory and joy!
The reality of life though is that we have to take the rough with the smooth. In the same two weeks I have also shared with people experiencing the ache of infertility and childlessness, the difficult road to adoption, the aftermath of a divorce, a separation, a relationship break up, a struggle with self harm, diagnoses of cancer, motor neurone disease and heart problems, long term issues with depression, anxiety and fear. I've tried to mediate in an argument, listened to the frustrations of old age, talked to a bully and a victim and tried to address why some prayers get answered and others don't.
I think it is understanding the bad stuff that most people find hardest. We've all heard explanations for the old 'why does God allow suffering' chestnut. But it's incredibly hard to process these if you are in the middle of a bleak and dark time - if hope seems a long way away and the tunnel is so long you cannot make out any light at the end of it. Someone said to me recently, thinking about their experience of a bereavement 'I never thought for a moment that there would ever be life like I live it now. There seemed no possibility of ever wanting to live again, of anything good or worth going on for. I felt like my whole world had been swallowed up in black.'
Life does throw some awful things at some people. The truth is that it often isn't fair and some people seem to have to deal with much more than their fair share of difficult stuff. Some people have to live through experiences that none of us can imagine how we would cope with.
So how do you line all this up with God?
We're fast approaching Easter now, and this is the time of year when we celebrate the ultimate in surprise endings. This was a situation where it all seemed impossibly bleak. Jesus was dead, the disciples had scattered - it seemed like all was lost. But actually this was all part of a journey towards God pulling off the greatest victory of all time. Because in fact what those events were accomplishing was God setting a standard that still applies today. I love the verse at the start of John's gospel which says 'the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.' I think of those words and the Easter story - how it must have seemed like darkness had won but in fact the darkness had not overcome it (the light).
I once had a conversation with someone very wise about my frustration when some prayers were not answered. You know those days - you've prayed and prayed and still the miracle doesn't happen, and you have to admit defeat. I hate those moments, it always feels like maybe the devil is winning in spite of everything! This very wise person compared the battle we have on earth to the situation towards the end of world war two. After D day the end of the war was inevitable. But that didn't mean that there weren't battles lost after that - until the ultimate V day when it was all over.
When Jesus died on the cross God won the ultimate victory - the end of the war is decided. We may hit situations which feel like an individual battle has been lost but nothing can change the eventual outcome. Even when it feels bleak, the light has not been overcome. It cannot be overcome.
One thing I am loving at the moment is the new song from the guys at Worship Central - called Let it be Known. This song celebrates the ultimate victory - that when it comes down to it, love has won! No matter how grim the situation I am in right now, I can remind myself that at the end of the day evil will not triumph, sadness will be gone and the bad guys will not get to triumph. Love has won!
I've also been listening to some Mumford & sons recently, and some words in one of their songs really struck me whilst I was praying yesterday. Don't know if this is what they were thinking of when they wrote them, but I was thinking about the ultimate victory and what that day will be like when God gets to finally restore things on earth to the way he intended them. The song goes like this: 'we will run and scream, you will dance with me. We'll fulfill our dreams and we'll be free. We will be who we are, and they'll heal our scars, sadness will be far away.' It's a great hope to hang onto - even when our reality here feels very grim, there is another reality just as real and one day that will be what we'll experience.
If you haven't heard Let it be known - or if you have heard it but haven't seen the video, check it out here. It’s the ultimate feelgood song because it is based on celebrating an inescapable truth. Thanks to the guys at worship central for the reminder that at Easter or at any time, we can celebrate that LOVE HAS WON!