Sometimes Life Is Just Hard
Ready? Ok, here’s the first one. “Bad things happen to good people.” (Warned you…) We’ve all heard that mantra so many times we can probably repeat it verbatim. For some of us it’s tattooed on our very souls, forever emblazoned upon our spirits. Like some never-ending nightmare the words of that cliché resound and echo across the canyons of our minds. The truly tragic part is that even though we know it’s true we still want to believe somewhere within the deepest recesses of our hearts that it just doesn’t apply to us. We have become fooled into believing that we are the lone exception, the only one who is somehow shielded from tragedy, trials, and temptation. But then reality comes crashing down upon us and our fantasy world evaporates like an early morning mist before the heat of the rising sun. Sickness, disease, divorce, lost jobs, crippling debt, troubled teens, family problems, pain, injury, depression, disappointment, despair, and even death remind us that it’s an inescapable truth. Bad things do indeed happen to good people.
Now, to be entirely fair, the cliché is trying to capture a very specific point. It’s emphasis is on the seeming incongruity that we have all felt and experienced in our own personal experience. But even that issue is our own fault. Somewhere along the way we began measuring ourselves with the person next to us. Instead of looking to Christ as our standard, we starting judging ourselves against other people. Because of some specific changes in habits and lifestyle we began to believe that we had attained some measure of special kingdom status. (You know what I mean… the whole I’m a pretty good guy thing. I don’t drink, smoke, look at porn, fill-in-the blank. I go to church, tithe, read my Bible, fill-in-the-blank. Hey God, I’m a good guy.) The problem is that such thinking is wrong at it’s very core. The theological reality is that no one is good. It’s the Biblical truth. Paul said it this way in Romans 3, “There is none righteous, not even one;” Isaiah tells us that, our righteousness is filthy rags (i.e., not even fit to clean the toilet). In reality, bad things don’t happen to good people because there are no “good” people.
Now, I say all that to bring us to my second cliché for the day, “She must have sin in her life.” It’s a favorite of the religious, holier-than-thou, hypocritical, I told-you-so crowd. People have been tossing that one at the less fortunate since the dawn of time (just ask Job). But this cliché also has a few major problems. First of all, we have already established the fact that when it comes to sin, we are all in the same boat. All have sinned. You. Me. Everyone. All means all. If sin is the sole or primary reason for suffering, than we should all be covered in boils, lamenting the overnight loss of family and fortune (again, talk with Job). I’m no better, no different if that is the basis for suffering. If anything, if sin is the litmus test, I should be in a lot worse state.
That brings us to Hannah. Look at verse 5 in 1 Samuel. “…but to Hannah he (Elkanah, her husband) would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb.” Hannah wanted a child… desperately. It was such a deep longing in her life that she will eventually work her way to the altar and strike a bargain with God. She yearned for children. But God had closed her womb. Not chance, not circumstance, not even sin… the Lord had closed her womb. Now, I don’t want to guess as to the reasons why God did what He did. I just know from personal experience and 20 years of counseling that the people around Hannah were probably feeding her a steady stream of clichés. “Hannah, you know, bad things happen to good people… Look at her, she must have sin in her life.” If you have ever been on the receiving end of such sentiments, you know how much it hurts. Life was probably not very pleasant for this desperate and deeply hurting woman.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with one last cliché. Is that okay? Cool. “God causes all things to work together to those who love God.” Huh… what’s that you say? That’s not a cliché? Oh… that’s right. That’s actually in the Bible (Romans 8:28, to be exact). I want to remind each of us today that our faith is built not on clichés but on the eternal promises of a loving God. A cliché may have a measure of truth but it also has a measure of deception. But God’s Word? All truth, all the time. Hannah had it rough. Her life didn’t work out the way she had either hoped or planned. But instead of listening to clichés she turned to the truth. She turned to God. Regardless of our current need or difficulty, we have the same choice, the same option, available to us. Clichés or truth? The choice is yours.