Maintaining Joy in Troubled Times

The Shoes of Readiness

There was once a Cheetah who ran in a very important race. He had been preparing for this race for years. He fully expected to win the race, or at least to do very, very well. He knew that a victory party had already been planned. When the race began, he quickly pulled away into the lead. Then in one moment, everything went wrong. The cheetah's toe hit a stone, causing him to trip. All of the other runners quickly passed him. The cheetah was devastated. All that he had worked for years to obtain was gone. No one would ever respect him again. He would be considered a loser for the rest of his life. He lay there in the dust, bemoaning his fate. After a moment, he felt a paw touch him. It was his big brother. He helped the runner to his feet. "Come on." said brother. "You have to finish the race." At first, he protested, prefering to simply drop out and go home, but after a moment, he rose to his feet. With his arm around his brother's shoulders, the cheetah hobbled his way down the track. The crowd roared its congratulations as the two of them crossed the finish line at long last. A tear left the athlete's eye when he realized that despite losing the race, everyone still respected him and counted him as a hero because he found the fortitude to finish.

On Monday of this past week, tragedy struck when Furs Fur Christ, closest thing we have to a sister church, lost one of its people to suicide. While I am sorry to have to touch on a very painful subject, it is because it is so painful that I know I must, because we all want to prevent such a terrible thing from happening again.

There is a great deal of sorrow to be experienced in this life. There will be defeats, there will be tragedy, there will be pain. Often, it seems like too much to bear. There is the temptation which all of us have faced or else will face to quit. Life is hard and Heaven is good. Sometimes we just and to throw our paws up and go home. Finding enough joy to continue on becomes very difficult.

Before I continue, I want to share with you the lyrics of a song. This is "Everybody Hurts" by REM.

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When youre sure youve had enough of this life, well hang on.
Dont let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.

Sometimes everything is wrong. now its time to sing along.
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think youve had too much of this life, well hang on.

Everybody hurts. take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts. dont throw your hand. oh, no. dont throw your hand.
If you feel like youre alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

If youre on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think youve had too much of this life to hang on.

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. and everybody hurts sometimes.
And everybody hurts sometimes. so, hold on, hold on.

There is some very good advice contained in this song. I am going to add a few other points of advice. You will each receive five pearls of wisdom with which to fortify your armor.

1. Remember good. Remember our special definition of joy? Joy is the knowledge of good. When troubles surround us and there is no reminder of peace or of right, when happiness fades to nothing, it is often difficult to remember that good exists. One can easily get to thinking that life is suffering. It is like being in a tunnel so long and dark that you cannot see the light at the end. Remember that even when you are in that dark tunnel, there is still light outside. The world has not gone dark. There are still happy things to do and experience. Maybe not now, but they will come. That brings us to pearl number 2.

2. Pain is temporary. That dark tunnel may be long, but it does not go one forever. If you can hold on long enough, things will get better. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, your troubles will come to an end. Maybe not soon, maybe not in this life, but there will be a time when they are gone.

3. You must finish the race. Paul frequently referred to life as a race. Life is not a race for sprinters. It is long and arduous. A marathon. When running a marathon, it is a special honor to come in first. We should all run our races so as to be the one who wins first prize, but ultimately, gold medals are not important. The important thing when running a marathon is to finish the race. Jesus gives special honor to those who endure to the end. Those who quit prematurely will have to stand before Jesus and account for themselves. That is a shame I most definitely would not want.

4. You're not alone. Whatever it is that you're going through, you're not the first one. Others have been through it before you and made it through alive. King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. The technology around us may change, but life is still basically the same. the problems we face have been faced before and they will be faced again. Remember that everyone has trouble. Everybody hurts sometime. There is no trouble that is worth giving up on life. God will not allow you to be burdened beyond what you can bear.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many people make the mistake of assuming that they have to bear their problems themselves. While it is true that your problems are your own responsibility to solve, it doesn't mean that you have to go it alone. There is no reason anyone should ever have nowhere to turn. If you are a Christian, you always have the right to petition God in prayer. Many forget that.

Someone once posed the hypothetical question: "If a poor boy is famished and his mother is too sick to provide for him, is it morally acceptable for him to steal from the supermarket?" They then went on to ask "Where is the boy's father? Where are his grandparents? Where are his family? Where is his teacher? Where are Mom's co-workers? Where is the church? Where are the authorities? Could he not even go up to the manager of the supermarket and say 'Sir, I'm hungry. May I have some bread to eat?'" The original question assumes that once Mother is incapacitated, the boy is on his own. That is simply not true. Whatever the problem you are facing, it is okay to ask for help, no matter what the problem may be. Whatever you do, do it with all your might, but do not forget that "all your might" includes your friends and loved ones. It includes God. It includes your church. It includes me. You never have to be alone. We may not be able to solve your problem, but we can at least help you bear the burden by lending an ear, if nothing else.

That's it. I realize this sermon has been extremely short, and that's okay, because that's what I wanted. I simply want you to have these five pearls of wisdom so that you have the strength for the journey of life.

There is one more thing I am going to do. On Thursday, January 29, I am going to undertake the Ottter Day Eve endurance event. (The human version, of course.) I will earn a white scarf, the prize presented to all those able to keep going through the entire challenge. I do this to encourage all of you to hold fast and keep going when times are hard. I hope that I can inspire your faith and determination so that when we stand before Jesus, we will all bear the victor's crown because we overcame and finished our race.

Today's reading: Revelation 2:8-11
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.