So maybe it’s because we’re in the Lenten season which is a time of lament, or possibly it’s because I truly am struggling with my own health these days, but I feel a bit of a rant coming on.
The kinds of testimonies I seem to be hearing lately at churches or reading about in ministry fundraising bulletins that outline how successful the ministry is going are driving me crazy (even though I must confess I have been guilty of doing this myself over the years).
Testimonies that ‘make the cut’
(That I believe very much can be true, but seem to be the exception and not the rule and if not nuanced properly can alienate many listeners who have not had the same experience)
“I used to live on the streets and be addicted to crack cocaine. Then I met Jesus and he took away my craving. Now I am clean, I have my own place, and I’m giving back to the community.”
“I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I was given six months to live. I cried out to God for healing and He took away my disease. The doctors were amazed! That was 10 years ago. God is good.”
“I used to be depressed. I wasn’t in a relationship, I couldn’t find a job, and everything around me seemed dark. Then I met Jesus. And He brought light into my life. Now I am married, I have a wonderful job, and I no longer struggle with depression.”
Testimonies that do NOT ‘make the cut’
(That I also very much believe are true and seem to be the norm)
“I was addicted to crack and was homeless. Then I met Jesus and invited Him into my life. I did manage to stay clean for a couple of months, but then I relapsed. Some of my Christian friends thought it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough or being faithful enough.
That hurt me.
I am now aware that I am a Christian who is addicted to crack. I hope and pray every day that this affliction be taken from me. I don’t understand what God is up to and why I still have to deal with it. All I can do is trust in God that there is a plan for me.
“My spouse just left me out of the blue. I didn’t see it coming at all. Now I am raising my kids and trying to figure out what went wrong. I cry out to God for answers, but there doesn’t seem to be any coming to me. I will continue to try to put my trust and faith in God, as hard as that seems. The end.”
“I’ve been a Christian all of my life. I have tried to do the right thing all the way along, though I know I have failed miserably along the way. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That disease has been a constant presence in my and my family’s life for 20 years now. And it’s getting worse, not better. I have lost my ability to walk. I use a walker, a chair lift, and a scooter which are mostly used by seniors. It hurts me when friends my age make fun of these aids.
Sometimes I need to go to the bathroom really badly, that’s one of the joys of MS, but because of my slowness I can’t get there in time. So I end up pissing myself. Humiliating.
Sometimes I’m so depressed I don’t want to see anyone. Sometimes my energy is so depleted it takes every ounce of strength out of me just to get out of bed and get dressed. Multiple sclerosis sucks. I do cry out to God on many occasions to take it away from me. But that hasn’t happened. Every week I recite the creed which outlines what I believe. Sometimes when I read it I have to choose to cling onto those words, even though I often struggle to believe them. Is God really good? Does God actually love me? Is there really a divine plan in place? I will continually choose to believe those things to be true, even though there are many days when I don’t get it. The end.”
My buddy Tom, who understands suffering as well as anyone, wrote a song called ‘Hallelujah Everything”. The point of it is that we try to give God thanks for everything; not just the good stuff.
I’ll get through Lent.
Easter is coming.
In the meantime I will work, as much as I have strength, to say “hallelujah Everything”.