I was so mad.
It was Sunday morning and I just wanted to go to church, then I learned about an activity taking place in town and figured I’d be the one to go.
But I wasn’t happy.
I complained to a friend of mine. I’d complain to her, then apologize for complaining, before starting in again.
She smiled and told me to count to 10. I tried that on the way to the location and managed to get to about six, before complaining to God about … well … a variety of things.
Please understand. I love my job, but we all have times when we get weary.
This was one of those times.
I was heading to the site, when I knew I’d better straighten up and put on a happy face as I prepared to see what was taking place and whom I’d interview.
Funny thing, I ended up having something in common with the person I interviewed.
Both of us had spouses who’d died.
My interviewee’s loss was recent. I could relate to the terrible pain that can accompany fresh grief and was glad I was able to say that it wouldn’t always hurt so badly.
I had a few moments to talk with my source later that day. I knew I couldn’t download eight years of what I’d learned about grief and loss in one conversation.
But I tried to talk about some things that had really helped me.
So I talked about when my friend, Jeanine Porter, gave me a hug and said: “When you are in your deepest, darkest times, you cry out to God and you will heal.”
I said how it’s important to cry, because tears can help wash the pain out of the heart. I forgot to say that if you have a lot of pain, you need a lot of tears.
At the same time, I quickly shared Pastor Rick Warren’s analogy of a cake. When we make a cake, we use things like flour, oil, an egg and salt.
Individually, these things taste terrible.
“So how is it that God can take five things that taste bad and turn it into something good? And that’s what God does with your life. He takes the good and the bad and mixes it together into something good,” I said.
It was nice to see my source smile.
I didn’t get the chance to share that the “cake” is our character when we become more like Jesus.
And we want good character, because that’s all we’re taking with us to heaven.
I did get to share about Itzhak Perlman, the great violinist. Rick tells about the time when Itzhak, who wears leg braces, went onstage to give a concert.
Itzhak was preparing to play when a string broke on his violin. Itzhak could have made the audience wait while he got another violin.
Instead, he played the entire concert on a violin minus one string. When he was done, the audience rose as one and applauded enthusiastically, because the music had been so beautiful.
Afterward, Itzhak is reported to have said: “Sometimes, it is the task of the artist to see how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
Rick says we can’t just look at what we’ve lost. We’ve got to look at what we have left and how we can use that for the glory of God.
I could see pain in my source’s face. I probably was saying this too soon in this person’s grief journey.
It takes a while to reach this point.
Actually, it takes a while to reach a lot of points on a grief journey. It takes time for grief to heal.
I didn’t get a chance to say much else, but my interviewee expressed sincere appreciation and, somehow, I hope and pray that I was able to help.
Sometime later, I was listening to some Scriptures on my phone. I was in the book of Luke, when I stopped short.
Chapter six begins with a time when Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field of ripe grain on the Sabbath — the equivalent to our Sunday.
The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest, but the disciples are walking through a field, pulling off heads of grain and eating them.
Nearby, some religious leaders are indignant. Bible teachers say the religious leaders, called Pharisees, weren’t mad because the disciples were taking the grain. Taking some grain was allowed by law for hungry travelers.
Instead, the religious leaders were crabby because taking the grain was kind of like reaping — which was work.
And people weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath day.
So why were these guys breaking the Sabbath rule?
Jesus stands up for his disciples. He asks if the Pharisees remember when David (who became king) entered the house of God and took bread meant for the priests and gave it to hungry men who were with him.
The book of Mark also records this situation, adding that Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
In other words, the Sabbath was started to ease our burdens, not cause them.
Christ then sets the record straight: He’s in charge of the Sabbath.
On another Sabbath, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. A man with a withered hand is here and the Pharisees are watching to see if Jesus will heal him.
Jesus, who knows what they’re thinking, calls the man to him. The man stands up and Christ has a question for the crowd.
“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or destroy it?”
I love how the Message Bible puts it: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? … Helping people or leaving them helpless?”
After looking around, Christ tells the man to stretch out his hand. When the man does, his hand is restored.
Can you imagine the man’s face as he saw his hand being healed?
I have two thoughts: People don’t have to be helpless to need a little help and encouragement and Christ can provide the healing we need as we reach out to him.
After hearing these Scriptures, I apologized to God for complaining.
What if he’d had a job for me to do? What if instead of just interviewing and taking photos, I was supposed to provide some words of hope to a heartbroken, grieving person?
And what if this person needed to hear it from somebody who’d already been on this type of grief journey?
I was mad, because I couldn’t go to church.
But that didn’t stop God from tenderly teaching me a lesson.
Jesus really is the Lord of the Sabbath. He knows what he’s doing. He wants to help us and he wants us to help others.
I’m not saying we should miss church. One of the 10 Commandments tells us to honor the Sabbath day and to keep it holy and to not work on it.
The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews also says not to neglect meeting together. We need to worship God, hear his word and have fellowship with other believers.
To me, that’s like making a deposit in my spiritual bank account.
I need church.
But I know that our God is creative. He can find more than one way to teach us.
And I hope I don’t forget the lesson I learned that Sunday for a long time.