Inconsolable

Despite the well-known and empirically-proven fact that all Christians are hypocrites (Image result for emoji wink), I am truly bothered (and sometimes bewildered) when I find myself falling into wrong.  This is particularly true of wrongs I never thought I’d fall into.  Such a wrong is inconsolability.

I’ve seen people be inconsolable in my own time.  I’ve seen it and I haven’t like it too much.  I’ve seen it in the Bible as well.  Perhaps the best example is that of Jacob:

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You might say, “Well, you can hardly blame Jacob for being inconsolable at that moment,” and I would agree with you if I weren’t a critical, judgmental Christian (again, Image result for emoji wink).

Honestly, the fact of the matter is that I’ve never liked such inconsolability, whether it is Jacob’s or some modern person.  I’ve always thought it was faithless or melodramatic or who knows what.

Until, that is, I began feeling it myself.

I’ve been inconsolable the past couple days.  My inconsolability has been different from Jacob’s.  I’ve not told anyone I’m going to mourn until I die.  But I have been resisting encouragement lately.  Some of that encouragement comes from my mentors; one of my mentors was trying to encourage me yesterday.  Some of it comes from God itself; in my reading yesterday, I came across Genesis 8:1 (Then God remembered Noah), which I thought was an encouraging word from the Spirit Himself.  In both of those cases my reaction was, “Eh, I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t want to believe it.”  I knew I should both hear it and believe it, but I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want people (or God) to try to encourage me.  I didn’t want to be encouraged.  I wanted to be inconsolable.

Understandable.  Maybe?  It’s always understandable when it’s us, isn’t it?  But it is still wrong.  Yes, this hypocritical, judgmental Christian is admitting he is doing wrong or, perhaps more accurately, has fallen into wrong.

And I don’t know how to handle that wrong, quite frankly.  I could say something like, “We should not be inconsolable” or “We must be willing to be encouraged.”  Such a something would be true enough, I guess, but I don’t think it would be effective.  It’s kind of like telling people to, “Calm down.”

If I had to guess (and I have to here; I’m in uncharted waters, after all), I’d say it might be more effective to remind ourselves who our God is and what His story is.  It might be more effective to remember that our God is not only telling a good story with a good ending but is inviting us into that story/ending.  I say might.  Feelings are feelings, after all.  Moods are moods, and getting out of bad ones is a hard thing to do even for the faithful people of God.  That is the best I’ve got on this one, though, and honestly I don’t think it is half bad.

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Anxiety and Kingdom

I’m not preaching tomorrow.  I’m too sick.

I started preaching full-time when I was 19-years-old.  That’s close to 25 years.  For the first 15 of those years, I preached at least twice a day (at both the Sunday morning and the Sunday evening service).  The church I’ve served for the past 10 years only has the morning service, but I sometimes preach for the Indonesian congregation which uses our building in the afternoon, so I still get in two a Sunday sometimes.

And I’ve missed very few of those sermon engagements.  Very, very few.  I’ve probably missed so few that I can count them on one hand.  Tomorrow will increase that number by one.  I can still count them on one hand, but I will have to use one more finger.

And I’m not happy about that.  I’d rather be preaching.  I enjoy it very much.  I also enjoy the other interactions I have at church, the opportunities to speak into other peoples’ lives and to have them speak into mine.

I’m not entirely unhappy about that, either, though.  I’m not entirely unhappy about it because I know it was not only the right decision but it was made for the right reasons.

Here’s how it happened:  I woke up sometime very early Saturday morning with chills and incredible congestion.  I got under an electric blanket and went back to sleep, confident I would feel better in the (later) morning.  But I didn’t.  Even a shower and a shave didn’t make me feel better.  In fact, at some point during the shower I developed stomach pain as well.  And so I ended up on the couch instead of taking my daughter to the library as I do every Saturday.  At some point, I decided to contact a preaching buddy  to see if there was a chance he could be ready to go tomorrow “just in case”.  He could, but he needed to know by 4 PM.  He then called me about 1 PM to see how I was doing, and at that momentI decided it was time to throw in the towel.  I said he should plan on taking my spot.

That might not seem super-significant to you, but it was to me.  You see, one of the reasons I have missed so few preaching engagements is that I’ve been afraid of missing them.  Missing a preaching engagement, whether because of sickness or weather (snow often hindered church services in Ohio) or family situations or what have you, was always a major anxiety for me.  I thought people would be unhappy that I wasn’t preaching and leave the church, or that the leadership would be unhappy and let me go, or that I wouldn’t be able to wow any new visitors and they wouldn’t come back, or that I’d somehow forget how to preach during the off Sunday, thus causing my ministry to collapse.  And so there were many Saturday nights spent evaluating headaches or snow accumulation with a great deal of apprehension.

And I realized this time that such apprehension is not a part of the Kingdom.  I realized that Kingdom people who are confident in both the love and guidance of God don’t make decisions based on anxiety, that anxious decisions aren’t Kingdom decisions, that anxiety is not Kingdom.  And so, even though I was tempted to ask my preaching buddy if he could give me more time to make my decision, tempted to try to “see how I was feeling later”, tempted to push myself to preach even though I didn’t feel up to it, I decided to pass the pulpit to him.  I let him take over knowing that neither my congregants nor my God would be upset with me, that nobody would leave the church, that I wouldn’t be fired or forget how to preach.  I let the preaching engagement go, refusing to allow anxiety to make me do it when I really didn’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) do it.  I let the Sunday go knowing that God’s will would still be done, and that will would be good.

It was a victory, I think, a new maturity in my walk with God.  I’m not criticizing anyone who hasn’t had this victory yet; I know how difficult anxiety can be, and you’ll find no condemnation from me if you are struggling with it.  But it was a victory for me.

Now if I can only shake this cough.