I’m very happy to highly recommend the “for such a time as this” work and artistry of this sister in Christ. Pastors and other Christian counselors take note: If you want an experienced, empathetic, incisive, eye-opening and heart-enriching understanding of the broken, aimless hearts abounding in our culture, read Lacey Sturm’s The Reason It’s quietly iconoclastic in tearing down the shallow cultural assessments and pseudo-spiritual advice offered up by pop-Christianity’s baptized agnosticism, which glorifies brokenness and uncertainty (so long as they’re experienced in community) as the marks of authentic, honest faith. And its heartfelt substance fleshes out answers so often left as stillborn theological theory by writing efforts which rightly promote truth and our ability to know it with certainty, but which present it dry and cold to the reader, giving the unintended impression that God has nothing full of life to say to generations reared on the belief that he’s dead.
What is your greatest desire in life? And what is right now your most difficult situation in life? And how do to the two relate?
If you know Christ, you know what the answer to the first question ought to be. Your greatest desire ought to be to glorify God, to live so as to reflect the glory of His saving grace in the risen Christ. That’s your heartbeat, but maybe as you read this, that desire feels faint, more like a murmur. Enter, then, your greatest difficulty.
How do we–how can we–respond to such tragedy as the murder of children and their teachers? How do we even think through such horror? I’m not sure there’s one perfect answer to that question. Rather, I think Jesus shows and teaches us many ways in which we can respond. Here are a few that are running through my head this morning.
Last week I spoke at the funeral of Mark Emmerling. Several years ago, Mark had come to our congregation through our association with the Kokomo Rescue Mission and almost joined the church. Yet factors including caring for an elderly mother caused Mark to leave for two years. Earlier this year he returned to us, lived at a ministry being developed by one of our deacons called Covenant Discipleship House, professed his faith publicly, and joined the church. For years Mark had battled with a weak heart and finally succumbed to it in his sleep on September 15. The Lord gave me some special times with Mark the week before his death. Below is how I sought to relate what happened to his family and friends who gathered to remember his life.
To be honest, I had never noticed it before. But that morning, when I received the call from Robert & Jason about Mark, and went to his apartment, it caught my eye. Hanging over where he slept, where he had left this earth, one word was framed. “Hope.” That’s what I want to talk to you about today. The hope that Mark had.
Hope isn’t magical–at least not like we often think it is. Hope isn’t simply a peace about the future that wraps our heart in a down comforter without warning or forethought. Rather, hope is a Christian virtue, something to be pursued and found through Holy Spirit-powered discipline. And the type of discipline might surprise you.
I recently asked a burdened believer what I could do to help. “Just give us hope!” came the reply. All of us struggle with unrealized desires, some of which deeply burden the soul. Perhaps those that are most difficult are those in which there is no evident sin standing between us and our desire. Physically ill and disabled bodies ache as the soul groans: “Why? How long?” Young people, both men and women, say: “I thought I’d be married by now.” Couples cry out: “When will God give us children?” The unemployed ask: “Why won’t you give me work, God, to support my family?”