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Archive for March, 2018

When Life “Sucks”

I hope I didn’t alienate you with this title. I know the word “suck” can be offensive to people. It’s one of those slang words that has evolved in its meaning over the course of time. But I think we can all agree that life gets pretty “suck-y”, right?

– when you don’t get the promotion that you’ve worked hard to deserve

– when you get blamed for something bad that you didn’t do

– when your expectations get dashed or when something good goes “south”

– when you’re stuck in a bad situation: sickness, financial set back, relationship difficulties

It all feels bad, looks bad, smells bad, tastes bad. In other words, life “sucks” sometimes. And sometimes it sucks really bad.

It was in a moment of great “suckiness” that it happened. It was 2:30am. I was lying in bed – wide-awake, in discomfort, felt extremely bloated from my dialysis treatment. I was itchy on every part of my body. My heart was downcast because our transplant surgery was cancelled. I was discouraged over the extreme weight gain that happened over two weeks of dialysis. And, yeah, I’m sort of a wimp and I have a low threshold of pain. But I was at the point of despairing in life and I wondered where God was?

And the words I heard in my soul were: “Doug, embrace the suck.”

I kid you not! (“God, did you just use the word ‘suck’? That’s not polite or even theologically appropriate!”)

But these words were not condemning or blaming in tone. Rather they were comforting and soothing. And at the same time, the words were strong and powerful. What I realized was that Jesus was giving me an invitation, actually a command, to move forward, to go toward Him. Because Jesus is there – Jesus is in the “suck” of life!

So instead of being angry at the suck or being afraid of the suck or denying the suck or medicating the suck (I already used two tubes of itching cream) or distracting the suck (how many games of Solitaire or Candy Crush can you play on your phone when you’re in pain? Apparently, not enough), Jesus invited me to “embrace the suck.” Why? Because that’s where He was: Jesus was present in the very center of my pain, my discomfort, and my frustration.

So I embraced the suck. More importantly, I embraced Jesus in the suck. And when I did, he wept with me. He lamented with me. After a long silence, he gave me some specific directions (I’ll cover that in my next blog). Then, finally, came a very powerful peace. Although I had not moved from my bed, I was in totally a different “place.”

Biblical writers have long espoused the unique power and perspective that comes with suffering and trials. Paul, James, Peter, and especially Jesus talked about the new reality, even exceeding joy, that comes when we embrace God in the “suck.” It’s not a sick, masochistic thing – there’s no pleasure in pain whatsoever. But it is a deep pathway to a greater reality.

Christian theologian, Richard Rohr, puts it this way: “Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance… Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. (Because) if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” (taken from Hidden Things: Scripture and Spirituality)

Among other things, Jesus is the great Transformer. And he transforms by locating himself precisely in the center of our pain, our suffering and, frankly, our “suckiness.” And we find freedom when we follow him into those places. There we find new reserves of strength and resilience. There we find new perspective and wisdom. There we overcome fear and can face darkness head on – together with him! And there is where we find the power of true love: we discover the depth of God’s amazing love for us and we uncover a new ability to love others in their suffering and pain (instead of running away from them or pretending they don’t exist).

Are you going through difficulty, hardship, pain … suckiness? Embrace the suck. Find Jesus in it and hold onto him. And see if that doesn’t open up doors into a greater reality.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-ladened (Matthew 11:28)

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3)

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The Notebook

Before I get into the great “epiphany” that took place in the midst of my huge disappointment, there’s some very important background information that you need to know about.

I mentioned in my previous blog that I was scheduled for a kidney transplant. There is an amazing story behind that; in fact, it’s an amazing love story!

You see, the donor of my kidney transplant is my lovely wife, Letty.

She was the first in line to donate her kidney in order to save my life. And as it turned out, she was a perfect match! Which is pretty rare and very cool: A total God-thing! Furthermore, the date of our transplant surgeries (3/19/2018) would have been just two days after the 40th anniversary of our first date (3/17/1978)!

So think about it: Forty years ago, I was having the best conversation of my life with this pretty, Christian girl named Letty. We fell in love. Four years later, we got married. We had kids and grandkids; we shared a lot of love and lived a lot of life together. And now, forty years later, she is giving me one of her kidneys: to save my life.

And it wasn’t the first time she saved my life, either. This woman has saved my life countless times! Her love has pulled me out of the depths of despair, hopelessness, lost-ness, dullness (and sheer stupidity) so many times in our 40-year relationship, that it makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

It’s so poetic that the love of my life became the one who would eventually save my life. It’s even better than a Nicholas Sparks romance novel/movie! (Can’t you see the next big best seller? “The Giving Kidney” – LOL!)

And yet, isn’t that the story of us all?

Behind the scenes of our daily struggles, our day-in and day-out trials and drudgery is an all-encompassing Love story. It’s about your One True Love who has worked tirelessly, through the gamut of history, circumstances and predicaments to save your life. Not only did He save your life and mine on Calvary’s tree on that Good Friday many years ago, but He continues to rescue us in our despair, in our hopelessness, in our lost-ness, in our dullness and, sometimes, in our sheer stupidity.

He is the Lover of our souls and the Savior of our lives.

So as I deal with the disappointment of a postponed surgery and prolonged dialysis, I have hope knowing there will be a transplant – because I have a Lover who is sacrificing herself for love’s sake to save me. There is an amazing Love story, working on my behalf, behind it all.

And no matter what you are facing in terms of disappointment, dashed expectations, delays, or heart-breaks, there is an amazing Love story working relentlessly on your behalf that will make you new!

Jesus Christ so loves you!

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)

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REstart

auto-restart

Hello Friend,

I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since I last shared on “Whole Life Worship.” I just stopped writing. I’m trying to figure out why I stopped. Some of it had to do with more responsibilities at church; I was asked to do more preaching and leading, and I just couldn’t find the time to write. But I think a lot had to do with the fact that I had simply “run out of things to write about.”

The “well” had run dry. The till was empty.

So I stopped. Kind of like how Forrest Gump stopped “run-ning” after crossing the country several times, I just stopped “write-ing.” Nothing left in the tank. No more words to say.

Until today.

Today I find myself on the first day of a new season. What marks this new season is actually something not so good: my kidneys are failing. I have 5% kidney function (a casualty of my diabetic condition of 25 years) and I’m on dialysis. Today I was scheduled to get a kidney transplant, but it was delayed (more on that later). I was very disappointed for the postponement and I wrestled with God about it. I mean, dialysis sucks! (pardon my French – but it really is pretty sucky, like other hard things in life). I hate feeling bloated with 2 liters of fluid in my body 8 hours a day. I’m gaining weight like a blimp and I’ve had allergic reactions to the fluid, leaving my legs and torso raw with scratch marks.

Not fun.

But it was in the midst of this disappointment and confusion and anger that God met me. On the night after I found out that my transplant surgery was postponed, I found myself awake at 3:30am. I was itchy all over and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was feeling so sorry for myself, and that’s God said to me, “Doug, get up! I’m giving you a restart.” And what happened to me in the next hour was remarkable, insightful and amazing.

So much so, that it was enough to get me back into blog writing! At least, I have enough material to get me started again. And we’ll see where that leads us.

The message for today is that God is a God of “restarts.” We have seasons where we’re humming along, everything is fine and dandy, and then … wham! We get slammed. We get locked up. We stall out. The well goes dry. Our expectations get dashed. We experience “suckiness!”

But the story doesn’t end there. God is still with us. And if we’re open to him, we might hear his small, still voice in the wee hours of the morning saying, “Hey, Dear One! Don’t worry. I’m going to give you a restart. Just listen carefully to what I have to tell you.”

Are you ready for a restart?

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

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