Gratitude for God’s Surprising Work

Gratitude for God’s Surprising Work

God’s work sometimes leads to strange stories. Last night, I was privileged to hear the whole of Handel’s Messiah in a local church. Parts of it are so familiar that the drama of the Messiah can take us off guard. What comes right after the “Hallelujah” Chorus, in a section devoted to the Christian life in light of the resurrection? Is it a song about one victor piled upon another? It is a song of expectation, of waiting, of hope — like in this season of Advent. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” But after this line declaring hope in God, the next one is: “And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” These quotes from Job 19:25-26 remind us that though God’s promise is great, and our bodies are very good; yet our bodies are wasting away — they are corruptible. It’s only by God’s promise that we can hope to “see God” in the flesh. We inhabit resurrection hope as sinners in a broken world, as embodied persons who are wasting away. This is a drama with minor and major keys, both of which point us to the world’s hope in Jesus Christ.

In recent months, I have been privileged to hear the stories of many who participate in God’s surprising, strange story in Christ. Often I have heard these stories in response to Rejoicing in Lament. I did not want to walk this cancer road, and I would be out of it in a second if I could be. But I’m still grateful for the ways in which God works powerfully, in surprising ways.  Moreover, through the cancer journey, I’ve been particularly privileged to enter into a space that I had not before: hearing the stories of many who are at the end of their rope, but are open to hearing words of hope from God.

Whether through notes or Amazon reviews or in face to face meetings in Illinois, Florida, or Georgia in recent months, the stories in response to the book are diverse:

–one family read the book aloud in Hospice, using it as a discussion-starter for their final conversations together; through the book and the Psalms, they sought out “a spacious place” in a narrowing future;

–a friend gave it to a anti-religious colleague who had been diagnosed with cancer and had started to ask questions again about faith; he stayed up and read the whole book in one night;

–young adults and older Christians who have never heard that it is OK to bring laments before God, and had hidden wounds about the death of a family member; the stories go on and on.

The stories are often very raw. But the testimonies are that God is active — and that the book has been a small tool used in that. I’m so very grateful.

Here is one particularly vivid response of a reader who posted a response to Rejoicing in Lament on Youtube — I found it very moving. In viewing it, I’m reminded that we can join in the words of lament and hope: “though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Disease will not have the final word. Tears will not have the final word. Death will not have the final word. As we wait expectantly for our Savior in this Advent season, our whole lives cry out in hope, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We can be grateful that God works in the most surprising places.