We are a proud bunch. I remember my youth. I thought that any problem that came along I could fix. I was pretty clever, healthy, able to hold down a job. I was catechized when I was young so I knew my theology. I figured that I had the answers to whatever life threw my way.
But I didn’t understand this: to believe the gospel is to declare war on the devil. And the devil doesn’t let go of his kingdom easily.
I always knew that there was a devil and that he was our enemy. Our catechism said so. But he seemed far away and not really relevant to anything in my life. I guess that I had the same view of God. When it came right down to it, I got in trouble because I was foolish and if I would just be wiser, I could get myself out of trouble.
This is our human condition, isn’t it? The Bible calls it pride. We’ll take care of ourselves, thank you. We can protect our families. We can save people if we just explain it right. Just a little more love, a little more forgiveness, a little more hard work and everything will be fine.
But what do you do when the curtain of your life is pulled back a little and you see just how weak, helpless, poor, powerless and blind you really are?
What do you do when God brings about something in your life that you can’t do anything about? What do you do when God allows Satan to attack your family, your health – or even your faith?
You can gnash your teeth against God; you can shake your fist at the heavens; you can rage against the dying of the light. Or you can mourn, cast your cares upon God and wait.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We tend to think the opposite. A happy man is one who has a full pantry, a full bank account, health and youth, and an untroubled life. Isn’t that the American Dream. Isn’t that what we pay our politician to achieve for us?
But life doesn’t work that way. God has something far, far greater for us than the baubles of this world. He has reserved for us something far greater than wealth and health and friends and security on this earth. What each of us really long for is to be in His glorious presence forever. That is how we were made, and we will never have purpose and meaning in our lives until we are with our Maker, reconciled at last, standing as priests before Him. And God would teach us to lift our eyes out of this earthly trough and learn to long for heaven.
This is why Jesus came in to the world, to take away our sin and reconcile us to God. He came so that our eyes might be opened and our tongues loosened to worship someone far greater than our bellies and our health and our own desires. And He will indeed bring us finally into the presence of the living God. But first our pride has to go. What stands in our way so often is that we still like to think that we’ve got this life thing under control. But as long as we think we are in control, we will never fully learn to trust God and lean on Him for all good things.
And the way we learn to put our trust in Him completely is when everything else is taken away. First, we take up our cross. We lose our lives so that we might find them.
What do you do when you think you have this life thing under control and then the rug is pulled away? What do you do when wicked men have he upper hand? When the righteous are ridiculed and persecuted and the wicked man is exalted? What do you do when Satan runs amok and is too powerful? When he attacks your children through abuse? When God takes away the health of a loved one? When everywhere you turn there is no help, no earthly hope, no justice, no light?
All we can do is mourn and wait. Sure, there are things that you are commanded by God to do. Confront sin. Alert authority when crimes are committed. Rely on the assistance of the church officers. We can obey, but often we can’t fix anything. That’s because it is only God who can fix what is wrong in this world. We can’t fix it. I can’t fix the world.
I can’t find the words to say in the face of tremendous evil. I can’t wish you healthy. I can’t make your pain go away. I can’t wipe away your tears.
How I wish I could! How I weep with you.
I mourn for the millions of babies slaughtered at the altar of Molech. I weep for Meriam, about to be lashed and executed for her faith. I weep for the hundreds of girls stolen and sold as wives to children of the devil. I mourn for those who are persecuted and ridiculed for their faith.
I mourn for those who are chronically ill that cannot find help with the doctors. I mourn for all those in constant pain. I mourn for those who have been slandered and abandoned by their friends and families.
I mourn for our little ones. I mourn for the hundreds of thousands of children in our country sexually assaulted each year – with no help, no way out. Often, not even the church believes them, and when they do they don’t want to deal with it. I can mourn for them. I can help wherever I can. I can preach and teach against it. I can give a glass of cold water. I can make meals. I can offer a shoulder, and I do it gladly and without reproach.
But I can’t wipe away the tears. I can’t stop the evil. Only Jesus can comfort the mourners. Only God can wipe away the tears. Only God can bring justice and salvation.
So I’m making apricot jam. I can’t find the right words. My heart sinks within me. But in this vale of tears, God brings what first seem like very small blessings – but they are tokens of Eden, foretastes of heaven.
The apricot, for example. Such delight, such charm. An apricot in season off of a northern California tree is something to be marveled at. That we can preserve them in little jars to have all year is a wonderful thing.
God could have justly cast us all into hell. God could have begrudgingly given us black bread and water and it would have been far more than we deserve. But he gave us the apricot! A token of hope.
This world is not all that there is. We were created for something far greater and God has promised us that he will wipe away all tears and comfort all who mourn.
And as a token, he gave us the apricot. Of course, not just an apricot, but all good things – wine to gladden the heart, oil to make the face shine, as the Psalmist says.
Life is very often not found where we look for it. We look for something smashing; we look for those special moments that come along sporadically. We look for that which is grand, exciting, magnificent.
And we miss apricot season. God’s goodness abounds to us and we look the other way and say, “What else?”
The devil has declared war on God’s people. He seeks to destroy and devour. You will suffer tremendous pain and heartache on this earth, for Jesus promised that every Christian will have trials and persecution.
But He has also promised to comfort those who mourn. To wipe away the tears. He points us to something far greater than this valley of the shadow of death.
So I got up, closed my book, lifted my eyes to heaven in thanksgiving.
And now I’m making apricot jam. God is so good to us. Wait for Him. He is coming again and all this will pass away.