If you don’t mind, I’m going to assume that we are all doing okay this morning. I’m not saying that life is perfect for all of us right now. We have all lived long enough to know that life is never perfect.
You are having ups and downs that come with going about your life-doing family and work stuff-but overall things are going okay at this time.
Not to make us fear what could be coming next, but, we have also all lived long enough to know that life doesn’t stay smooth with just bumps and potholes here and there.
Around the next corner, life can take us down into the pits.
So, for a few moments, while things are going well, let’s take a few moments to consider hard times and how we go through them.
When going through a hard time, someone may come along seeing how upset you are and say, “It won’t always be like this. Things will get better.”
How do you think you would feel after hearing those words?
At the time, those words might not settle too well with you, for you’re feeling like you are at the bottom of a dark pit.
As a matter of fact, those words about things getting better on some day in the future may add frustration to your list of woes, for you can’t imagine feeling any different than you do now.
You don’t like the idea that you are to just jump out of the pit .
You might resent someone telling you how things will get better on some day because it minimizes your feelings on this day.
What you’re feeling is deep because what has happened is really deep.
As much as those seeing us feeling so down want to help us by at least saying something, and to their credit, they do think they need to say at least say something.
But, no words can help at the time, and that’s okay because it’s best that we feel the full weight of what is happening to us.
We’ve all had that sleepless night with our troubles weighing on our minds.
When we are alone and feeling the full weight of a heartache, as hard as it is, those hours have meaning and purpose.
It’s good to feel all of the heavy load of our heartache because if we don’t feel it all, we won’t work through all those feelings.
Going through the hard stuff is what gets us to fully to better places with no holes in them to fall back into-you know those emotions like anger that often comes with our heartaches.
Have you ever said to yourself after going through a hard time, “It was tough, but I’m better for having gone through it. I’m in a good place now.”
I want to make a comment about that hard time with the feelings that it was making you feel.
If you’ve noticed I’ve said “bad” and “good” a few times. I’m actually going to say that a “bad” time is “good.”
Yet, I will admit that I’m using “bad” and “good” here in a way that we usually don’t use these words.
Our “bad” times can work out for the “good.”
Here’s a question to prompt a little logic here: how is it possible that we can consider that a hard time is not ever “bad?”
I don’t mean that we are looking forward to the next hard time, but, if we see that a hard time has meaning and purpose, can we think that a hard time is “good” because it’s taking us to a better place?
What is difficult to understand about our hard times is that we don’t always realize what that meaning and purpose is at the time, for all we are feeling is the pain that the time is causing us.
We can even say that we will never know why some things happen.
We can spend many sessions on Freud’s couch and super analyze everything and never come to the point that we understand why things happen as they do.
It’s best to come to the understanding that we will never have all the answers. When it comes to understanding what life is about, we find that there are a lot of gaps and maybe some wide ravines that will never get filled in with answers.
I like to ask questions and gain as much understanding as I can, but I have found I don’t get answers, and if I do get answers, I have found that I don’t like some of them.
So, we are left to the question, what are we to do in our hard times?
We have the saying, “Time heals all wounds.”
First, I have found in my grief, as I’m sure you have, too, that we never completely get over our loss.
Time makes the hard softer, but we never get over our grief.
In a loss of a loved one, we are always missing our beloved.
In order to stop missing a person, we would have to say that we no longer love that person, and that is absurd. Our love doesn’t fade away with time. If anything, it increases.
During this past week, as I was thinking and writing about our hard times and grief that we have in our losses, and even as I speak about it now, I realize that I’m making a good case for how trying it is to be human.
Going back to the start of this sermon, I said I was assuming that we are doing all okay.
Because you and I are here today, it means that life is moving along, but even in an okay time, we have to say life is far from easy.
Taking an inventory of my life right now, I have some aches and pains, a few things are causing me stress, and all it takes is a sad song to come on the radio that reminds me of a loved who is gone, and I’m wiping away tears as I drive along.
I hope for us that most of life goes okay, for life is not to be always down in the pits, but we can sure get hit with some hard stuff at times.
But, as we said earlier, they have all meaning and purpose, right?
That something that is going on is bigger than the present moment and is bigger than ourselves is what we believe.
To say that it works best of we are not in control sounds strange strange at first because it shows signs of weakness and helplessness.
We are taught in many ways to get our acts together and get in control.
We could make a T-chart and think about what is in our control and what is out of our control.
We could think about what we do understand and what we don’t understand.
We can talk about our strengths and weaknesses.
We can fix some things and some things we have to accept some things are not in our ability to work out.
All these things are good to do to help sort out our lives that can get messy.
But, you and I didn’t come here for a lesson in self-help.
We want something bigger than ourselves, for we know that when we are more about believing in something bigger that we can truly make it through all the ups and downs.
What we want is to know that we are going to be okay as we go through any hard time. We want an assurance that it won’t always be like this.
For if we know that a better day is coming, we can make it through the hard times.
In seeing a better day ahead of us, we can make it through this day.
What we need is a clear vision of that day. With a bright day coming, we have hope and that hope motivates us to keep going through the darkness.
And that is why you and I are here today. We want inspiration to keep going, and that is what we get today here in worship.
By Word and Sacrament that we get here in worship, we know faith kicks in and we want to keep kicking in.
By faith, we get something bigger than ourselves and situations.
We get something that is beyond anything human.
We get something more than the physical and emotional.
We get the spiritual that fills in everything for us.
Listen again to part of the Old Testament Reading, “Say to those who are full of fear, Be strong and take heart: ... Then the eyes of the blind will see, and the ears which are stopped will be open. ... for in the waste land streams will be bursting out, and waters in the dry places.”
I’m not sure that we have come here today full of fear, but even if we are doing okay, we have our issues of some kind that are causing us some stress.
It’s always something; isn’t it? In any moment from one that has some stress in it to a time that is full of fear, we can be strong and take heart.
We come here today to receive again what is most important for our hearts and minds.
I know we want the details and specifics of how to get through this time, but we don’t necessarily get them, but what we do get is a stronger faith that we will get through a regular old day and the hardest of days.
What we get is faith in a promise from something bigger than ourselves.
God, our creator who is everything about mercy and grace, comes to us with His Words of a promise that gives us all things all the time.
The promise is basically this-the blind will see again, the deaf will hear again, rain will come again to dry places and the list of things that will happen again goes on and on.
And most importantly, and this is the whole meaning and purpose of everything, sinners, who because of their sin and who should suffer punishment for their sin, have a Savior.
We sin everyday, and we have the shame and the guilt of that sin. In our sin, we can only be poor miserable sinners, but we don’t stay like that.
When we confess our sins, God does hear and forgives each sin in Christ, and we have a new life in Christ free from the burden of our sins.
Why we come here to today is to know how God keeps moving us to good things, with that last good thing to be the salvation of our souls.
Our salvation of our souls is the last good thing, but it’s the good thing runs through everything.
We see this movement of salvation in our Gospel Reading where we see Jesus caring for people as only he could.
Jesus cast out a demon that possessed a young girl, and he healed a man who could not speak or hear.
Jesus said to the man, “Be open.”
For that man, life had changed with what Jesus did for him.
Only as Jesus could, he changed people’s lives back then only as he could to show a deeper meaning and purpose for his involvement in people’s lives.
The deepest meaning and purpose was to show how he could change people from sinners who were completely against God to people who were completely righteous before God.
Jesus died a death that only he could die on the cross taking the punishment for the world’s sins, and he rose on the third day as only he could claiming a victory over sin and eternal death.
I know if I was a pastor in a place like Louisiana I would not begin as I did assuming that things are all okay, for things are quite hard there and in other places because of devastating fires or consequences of war that has caused many people to be refugees.
In those places, I would begin with something different, but the theme would be the same. The theme for every person in every time is, “It won’t always be like this.”
Here is a verse from Habakkuk that hits it on the head, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
As I used “bad” and “good” in different ways, the use of “joy” here is not the usual doing cartwheels type of “joy,” which is good because I have never and never will be able to do a cartwheel.
This “joy” is knowing that all is working out for our salvation.
By faith, we believe that it will not always be like this.
There’s something bigger going on here. We are moving to receiving the salvation of our souls.
And when we do receive the complete salvation of our souls, it’s as perfect as it can get, and we will stay like that for all of eternity-that’s what brings meaning and purpose to all our times.