God Gives Better Than You Have

To hate your life in this world -- what a disturbing phrase. To detest, despise, genuinely hate something -- and not your lifestyle, not your way of life, not the things you have, but your "soul," the thing that makes you a living, breathing, human creature. This isn't usually what we mean when we say, "I hate my life." And when it is, when we have utterly despaired of being alive, when living itself has become horrible to us, we are in deep danger of taking our own life.

I don't feel so pressingly driven to speak to that first, more banal "I hate my life," though I still have a word for you if you're in it. But today's gospel is for the real, desperate anguish of the despairing. Which scares me more than a little, because I know I'm not adequate to the task. But God is. And the gospel for today is that God loves you. That no matter where you are, God hears you. That surrounded by the threatening nothingness as you are, God is there with you. And no matter what happens, no matter how it feels, God does not leave you. The love of God is planted deep inside of your heart, and the Spirit of God is with you in your every breath.

And so the first word for you is that you are not called to hate yourself. You are not called into depression and anxiety and these creeping threats to your own life that lie in wait for you. That voice that tells you that you're no good? That's not God. That voice plays for the opposition. You are a good creature, God's very own design, and yes, you're also messed up -- but it's not your fault. What you are suffering is not something God made, it's not something you made, and it's not something someone else made -- it's nothingness trying to unmake you. And it will not succeed.

(And for the rest of you, this is not what Jesus means by hating your life in this world -- Jesus speaks of preserving your life, and in fact of God who preserves your life so that you don't have to get so attached to the idea of being alive that it rules over you. So fond of your life that you grab hold of it and let go of other things -- like your neighbor. You can rate your life so low because God rates it so high, and God will not let you go, even if you die. God gives better than everything that you stand to lose once you stop loving your own life. And this is because God loves your life -- not that stuff you have, not your lifestyle, not your way of life, but the very livingness that is inside of you and that makes you who you are.)

And the second word for you is that, no matter what the consequences of your actions, no matter what consequences of others' actions that you may be stuck in, God will always step in, and pick you up, and wash you clean, and -- if not in this moment, then by sure and certain promise -- will give you reason to celebrate. God is at work right now, in the depths of your heart, in the breath of your life, God's Spirit with your spirit, healing and setting right every damage of this world. Crying out as you cry, praying as you pray -- praying even and especially when you cannot pray, when even the strength to reach out to God is gone. Praying, not for his own life, but for yours. Fighting, not for his own life, but for yours. Because God has decided from the very foundation of the earth to rescue you, and nothing -- not even nothing -- can stop him.

(And for the rest of you, yes, when you do bad things in the world, bad things happen. And when you do good things in the world, bad things happen. Generally, bad things happen. And God does not cause them, but God also doesn't shield you from interaction with the world. You belong to this world full of creatures -- you are part of it. And even at your best, not everything will go right for you. And at your worst, things may go well for you, but horribly for your fellow creatures. And you are responsible for what you do. What you do matters. But God is working, praying, and fighting just as hard for your life, because you have every right to sing the psalm today as loudly and sincerely as you like. Because it stinks, this world where bad things happen. And you remain God's good creation, and God continues about the work of dusting you off and re-creating your heart and your spirit so that you can act like it in true freedom -- in a freedom greater than any you have right now.)

All of us fail -- but none of us are failures. All of us are guilty -- but none of us stand condemned by God. All of us are in trouble -- but God stands with each and every one of us to rescue us and guard our lives from real danger. Jesus did not shrink from doing what was necessary to save your life from the threats that surround you -- and still does not shrink from protecting your life in his. The Father who raised him up to glory in the resurrection is just as absolutely just by comparison to this world in mercy toward you, and cares for you and lifts you up every day to new life. And the holy Spirit of God cries out with your spirit, and will rejoice with you as well. And you have brothers and sisters from all of history, the blessed saints of all ages, who were just as you are, and have been where you are and stand with you now in Christ. You have brothers and sisters around you right now, who are now or have been where you are, and stand with you. You are not alone. We are in this together, and God is in it for us. And so that you may know that this is true, go to the table of grace without fear, whether you receive God's presence there alone with the saints around you, or with all your brothers and sisters. Go to the font and feel the water there and know that you are being washed clean of every failure. These things are given for your benefit, signs and realities of God's genuine help.

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