Today I was window shopping at some local stores, and something caught my eye. I walked back to look at what I thought I saw. It was what I thought I saw:
A t-shirt brand name – Life Is Crap – complete with a logo of a bird flying over and pooping on someone’s head.
Seriously? This is what people are shopping for at Christmas time? Shirts that say “Life Is Crap” on them?
In retrospect, this logo is probably a counter cultural response to the “Life is Good” trademark, but I was struck at the statement printed on t-shirts, hats, and other clothing items.
Life Is Crap.
It is ironic, because the past several weeks a group of believers I meet with have been wrestling with the uncertainty of God’s goodness when life circumstances are not good, when life feels like crap…..there seems to be an uncertainty about God when life deals uncomfortable, harsh, and downright bad things.
Where is God ?………. a normal response most of us have experienced at some point in our life.
For me, this question came with the death of my mother-in-law, a woman who was the image of Jesus himself. When words of her unexpected death came to us by the hospital chaplain, everything I thought I knew about life, faith, and God, was shattered in an instant.
Lord, she is the joy and love of our lives, how could you take her from us so early?
I remember saying to God, shaking my fist inside of my heart,
“I do not know what you are doing!…..”
……..but the only thing I know, in this moment, is your character……..
and your character is good.
I held onto that truth for days, weeks, and months to come as the foundation of my faith was shaken by that one event. I remember standing in my kitchen one day, crippled by deep grief and pain, shaking my first again, saying,
“Lord, how you let me love someone so much that when they are gone it hurts this bad?”
and He said to me, in a quiet voice, “as much as you loved her, do you love me more?”
This was a defining moment in my faith journey. My Lord and Savior desired love from me, more than I loved this precious woman. I go back again and again to the first commandment,
“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your strength.” (Matthew 22:37)
I wonder if our theology as Christians is skewed, that when life becomes difficult, the circumstances determines who our God is? Is God only good when life is good? When life is bad, is He bad? Can a good God allow bad things to happen? Do we only love God when life is good, making our love conditional on life circumstances or our feelings?
As a parent, there are days I do not feel love for a particular child based on their behavior, but when the my crappy feelings subside, I still adore them. It’s one of the mysteries of the parent-child relationship. Unconditional love.
I wonder if that is what God desires from us when He says
Love me with all your heart, with all your soul
with all your mind, with all your strength.
Love me when times are hard.
Love me when the pain is deep.
Love me when you don’t understand.
Love me when you don’t feel like you can love me.
I made you.
I love you.
I love you when you don’t love me.
I love you when you curse me.
I love you when you do things against me.
I love you when you grieve my heart.
I love you, even when you reject me.
I love you, and desire relationship with you.
Even in the hardest times, I have to remember that who God is does not depend on what is happening around me…..cancer, broken relationships, earthquakes, terrorists, abuse……
While He is in control, he allows suffering. He suffered, for me. Should I expect something different?
These things are not simple. I’m challenged as a Christian, that we don’t settle for the “Life is Crap” theology, and or even the “Life is Good” theology….but perhaps a… Life is life theology…..good, crappy, joyful, painful, full of mystery……
and when life isn’t what we expect, we don’t lose sight that
God Still Is. Always has been, always will be.
That’s the life slogan I want to hold onto.
Maybe I’ll even put it on a t-shirt.
I am Who I Am……..Genesis 3:14
(some books to read that wrestle with these difficult questions include “When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer” by Jerry Sittser, “The Blessing of Brokenness” by Charles Stanley, and my favorite, “What About Unanswered Prayer” by Douglas Rumford.)