More than positivity

A young woman described the dysfunctional workplace where she is employed to me. Then she read part of a text her supervisor had sent out to employees that ignored the real issues closing with this – ‘Just believe!’  No wonder the staff turnover is so high. The answer to workplace chaos is not just ‘believing.’ It requires thoughtful solutions, incentives, and clear communication. Her commitment to being positive is blinding her to the facts, hindering the necessary work of addressing the situation that exists.

How about you today?

Are you blindly committed to staying positive, unable to face life as it is, with faith and wisdom?

Jeremiah, not a popular preacher because of his constant warnings about the consequences of sin, watched his nation collapse. In a beautiful yet terribly painful poem we know as Lamentations, his sorrow and anger pours out. Imagine your pastor preaching these words: “Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.” (Lamentations 3:17-20, NLT)  Know this, too.  Jeremiah was not just having a bad day or experiencing a depressive episode. He was broken by the suffering of the people of Jerusalem, brought on by the self-centered and sinful leaders of the nation.

Sometimes we rush too quickly past lament.  Grief, loss, pain, and problems are hard so we force ourselves to think positively, distract ourselves with loud songs of praise, or paper over our anguish with a recitation of favorite promise verses of the Bible.  There is a purpose in pain and a reason to let ourselves be touched with the real world problems that surround us. I am not writing about griping about lukewarm coffee or traffic on the morning commute! That kind of ‘lament’ is unworthy of the person truly in touch with life.

While ministering in China after World War 2, Bob Pierce saw suffering on a terrible scale. One day after seeing a little girl who was abandoned and hungry, he found a place in mission house for her, gave the woman there his last $5 and promised to send monthly support. He wrote this prayer on the fly leaf of his Bible. “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”  From his lament was born the ministry of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse both known worldwide for bringing care in the Name of Jesus.

Yesterday, mid-afternoon a busy man called me. He had taken time to note a young woman sitting alone on the steps of a local church and inquired as to her situation. She told him she was homeless due to domestic issues, so he went to get her some food and called me to see if I knew where she could find temporary housing.  We found a solution for her and he followed up with her. He was willing to see pain and let himself be inconvenienced to help another. Such is the power of ‘lament.’

James alludes to the emptiness of Christian rhetoric that is not connected to the needs that surround us. He writes – “For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense.” The Message, James 2:15-17  At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, I think that too much of American Christianity is empty positivity, a lot of noise without substance, and that emptiness has justly earned us the contempt of millions! A superficial ‘faith’ that does not feel the pain of those who are without hope in God, those who are slaves of their habits, is just self-centered babble.

We need to be willing to ‘take up our cross’ and follow Jesus, not just into happy lands of perpetual sunshine, but into moments where we pray with Bob Pierce “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”   God meets us with supernatural strength when we follow our Lord into service. There, we may not always feel happiness nor will we always drift into untroubled sleep, but we will know the deepest joy of knowing that we are partners with Him, people promised an eternal reward that is beyond our imagination, for He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV)

The word from the Word is also from Lamentations.  Jeremiah, in the middle of his weeping, reaffirms the faith that holds him secure. Make it your affirmation today. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV)

(Video of this blog at this link)

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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

(Carrie Underwood will bless you with this hymn)

Great is Thy faithfulness

O God my Father

There is no shadow

Of turning with Thee

Thou changest not

Thy compassions they fail not

As Thou hast been

Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning

New mercies I see

All I have needed

Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness

Lord unto me

Summer and winter

And springtime and harvest

Sun moon and stars

In their courses above

Join with all nature

In manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness

Mercy and love

Pardon for sin

And a peace that endureth

Thy own dear presence

To cheer and to guide

Strength for today

And bright hope for tomorrow

Blessings all mine

With ten thousand beside

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

© Words: Public Domain

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