And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.--Ephesians 5:20
When I hear any version of Wicked Game, I am reminded of Judas, the friend of Jesus who had very strong and concrete expectations for the Rabbi and when those expectations were shattered, his very soul was shattered. It's strange what desire can make foolish people do.
It's the song he sang in Mark 14:10, "Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them."
Sorrow, anger, disappointment and despair. He felt betrayed by God.
"This thing…no, THIS thing right HERE is what I wanted you to fix…THIS is what I expected you to do, not THAT over there! I don't need or want THAT!"
Have you ever said that to Jesus? Maybe you didn't say it but you felt the words deep within your bones. They are words of divine missed expectations, when you expected God to do one thing, when you asked him sincerely, and he seemed to do the opposite.
Judas' story is extremely sad and complicated. I think there was a deep love and a passionate desire within him and I hesitate to psychoanalyze him so all I'll say is that I, too, understand disappointment; where my expectations for the way God should behave were drastically misdirected. He had wagered his life on his expectation that Jesus was the true Messiah. He had levied his time and money and resources on the fact that there was a powerful movement and something big was about to happen but then his expectations were dramatically shattered and something clicked in his psyche: "It can't be this way. It shouldn't be THIS way! I have to make it right! I have to fix what Jesus is messing up." The disappointment took over.
I get it and I see the warning. So even in the midst of incredible disappointment, I don't want to lose thankfulness. When I lose thankfulness in the midst of whatever situation I find myself, I risk losing hope, which plants the seed of cynicism, which can start to strangle hope and lead toward ambivalence, which is where hopelessness resides.
Thankfulness does necessarily get rid of disappointment. I actually think it is possible to be disappointed AND thankful at the same time. I once heard a pastor say that the key to thankfulness is to have a bigger view of the moment, big enough to include the future, the ultimate future.
You see, in the end we will look at our life and see how all things work together for the good and I don't exactly know what that means but I think a part of that includes the idea that, when it's all said and done, I am going to say something to the effect of, "Oh, NOW I get it! Wow! I'm really glad you did things that way. Oh I see. If I had gotten what I asked for there it would have gone really bad…thank you! Thank you so much for working all things together for The Good!"
If you are going to eventually say "thank you" for your current situation, you might as well start saying "thank you" now, no matter how disappointing it is.
Do you see how glorious this is? How liberating this is? How counterintuitive this is? It's this perspective of bringing future thankfulness into the present that drastically changes the way we navigate the world. All the expectations and disappointments don't have to necessarily go away, they just get coupled with thankfulness instead of resentment, ambivalence and hopelessness.
Only Christians can live in this paradox where we say, "I am deeply thankful for this moment that is massively disappointing."
The world looks on, perplexed, yet intrigued because they want that kind of fortitude. They want to feel that kind of hope. They want to experience true humanity. And when they ask you, you can give them a reason for the hope you have and you can do it with gentleness and respect because you have been humbled by your experiences of disappointment. You have a compassion for folks whose expectations have been shattered because you have been there. You have been in the dangerous place of having to choose between hope and despair. You have played the game of desire and you have experienced the joy of being plucked out of that wicked game by this beautiful thing called thankfulness.
I want to show you a picture of our future in such a way that breaks into and shatters disappointment in a startlingly joyful way. How about a commercial that embodies the way thankfulness can sneak up on us?
Listen, here is the difference. Your life is no prank joke that God is playing on you. He knows what he is doing. Every situation is divinely orchestrated as part of God's loving masterpiece designed for your good and his glory. But I can truly relate to this guy. This video does convey the swath of emotions that we have toward God while we are along for the ride of our life (bleeped out curse words and all).
Nevertheless, God is good.
When you see how he has worked all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, when you see the glory and majesty of a God who works through the craziness of your life with his divine love, when you are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses, you’ll say what that dealer said, “Wanna do it again.”
Can you imagine saying that now? Can you imagine watching the replay of your life with Jesus in heaven and saying, “Oh, I see now! Let’s do it again!”?
Hope in Christ means that you WILL say this one day. You will look back at the entirety of your life and you will be filled with such unimaginable thankfulness at the way that he worked it all out!
I confess it is so incredibly difficult to imagine I'll be thankful for how things are and have been. Forgive my current disappointment. I confess my thankfulness that you are working all things together for the good. Give me the shockingly joyful faith that rests in the powerful arms of a Savior and says, "Wanna do it again?". Amen.