(…continued) The song “Sounds Like Life to Me” by Darryl Worley is a good song, and a true song, and it says some of the very same things as those Bible verses in yesterday’s meditation. And it can be a helpful song for someone like Johnny Ray who is just going through some tough times and needs to hear that perspective. There are many perpetual grumblers, drama queens, and people having a rough go of it (and that’s all of us at least some of the time), who do need to listen to the message of that song, because that’s just life. We all need to suck it up sometimes (in the words of the song), or, as the Bible might put it, remain ‘strong, firm, and steadfast,’ and just get used to the unpredictability and ongoing misery of life.
But the song certainly doesn’t say everything there is to say on the subject. The song is a little bit too sarcastic when it says casually, “you’d think you were caught up in some tragedy.” In my work I get around to many people who really are caught up in some very real tragedies, and they won’t be comforted by a cute little country song by Darryl Worley, no matter how true it is. More needs to be said.
That also goes for those Bible verses about life’s misery. The verses are true– it is God’s Word after all, and we do need to hear those words and take them to heart. That is indeed just how life is. But again, more needs to be said, and the Bible does have more to say. It says, as in Psalm 40, that God does hear our cry, and that he will not leave us in the desolate pit, but God will lift us out and give us a firm and hopeful place to stand. Psalm 40 doesn’t go into all the details of how God does that, but there are a thousand more pages in the Bible where it is more fully described.
That best loved Psalm of all, Psalm 23, begins to hint at how God does this when it says in the last verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever…” Forever, it says. Most of us are pretty good at putting up with tough times for a while, if we at least have the hope that things are going to get better. And every life does have its ups and downs, and usually we are okay if we can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are those times that come into every life where there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and due to terminal illness, permanent loss, old age, or whatever else, there are not going to be any more ups to follow the downs. But when the promises of the Bible speak of forever, that changes everything. Now there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, now there is no situation that is completely hopeless, and now we know that God always has another place to put us on a firm foundation, even when everything, even life itself, slides out from under us here. God has an endless amount of time, forever and ever as we say in the Lord‘s Prayer, in which to make things right again for us. And we find that kind of hope and promise only in the Bible. Psalm 23 begins to hint at this forever promise of God, and it reaches its fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and in his promise to all believers that “Because I live, you shall live also.”
In John 1:29 Jesus makes his first appearance as an adult. John the Baptist had been so powerful in his preaching about the coming of the Messiah that people began to believe that he, John, was the Messiah. In verse 19-23, John had to tell the religious leaders that he was not the one, but merely the one who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Then, in verse 29 when John sees Jesus coming to him, John says, “Here is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was here, John said, to ‘take away the sin of the world.’ All that misery and despair of life, so well described by the Psalmist and by Job and by Darryl Worley, all that trouble was brought into the world by sin, says the Bible, and now, Jesus was here to take away the sin of the world.
Believe in Jesus, and you will be all right, says the rest of the New Testament. God has all eternity to make things right for you, and in His own good time He will ‘lift you up, set your feet on a firm place, and give you a new song to sing;’ and that song won’t be “Sounds Like Life to Me,” but it instead it will be “I’m Bound for the Promised Land” where “sickness and sorrow, pain and death, are felt and feared no more.” And in the meantime, allow those afflictions that are just a part of life remind you of that other life, and call you back to Jesus, and teach you to put your trust in Him. Because as you well know, the better things go for us here, the more likely we are to forget all about our need for God. Our afflictions do us the favor of calling us back to God.
A while back I was in the waiting room of an Intensive Care Unit with a very worried mother and father. “We never prayed so much as we have in the last three days,” they said. I knew that couple had been a little weak in the faith, church, and prayer part of life these last few years. They have been richly blessed, and had begun to take for granted the Giver of all those blessings. A few days in the ICU was enough to remind them to get back in touch, and they did.
I do like that song by Darryl Worley, but if I could tweak it a little I would add just one word to the title. Instead of ‘Sounds Like Life to Me,” my ‘Christianized’ version could say, “Sounds Like This Life to Me.” I would make that change because not only does God lift us out of the desolate pit, as the Psalmist says, God also will one day lift out of this life and out of this world, and bring us up into His heavenly home and his promise of an eternal, and perfect, life there. There is always that light at the end of every tunnel, no matter how long and how dark. Jesus is the light of the world, says the Bible, and the light at the end of every dark tunnel of your life.
John 1:29 — The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
I Peter 5:6-7…10 — Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you… And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Revelation 21:1a…3-5 — Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and 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!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Gracious Father, be pleased to touch our hearts in time with trouble, with sorrow, with sickness, with disappointment, with anything that may hinder them from being hard to the end and leading us to eternal ruin. Amen.
–Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), father of Matthew Arnold