I took a break on Sunday to watch some television. What I came across was a tremendously inspirational example of the axiom: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Extreme Home Makeover selects deserving, struggling families, and with donations of materials and labor they build the family a new home with new furnishings. Just last year the show was in the Ozarks and built a home for a very deserving Ash Grove family who needed more room to care for their children.
Sunday evening, however, the family had different problems—“lemons” dealt in their lives—their son’s limitations caused by spina bifida and the husband’s diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a terminal diagnosis. Caring for a child with a disability can be a weight on a family, but with the father’s diagnosis they had even more needs to be met, such as therapy and access to their home.
Lemons. We all get them. And I’m not just talking about automobiles. The interruptions and detours that redirect our lives often bring a sour taste to our spirits, a taste that turns into anger, depression, and hopelessness. Recent “natural” detours in our area include financial downturns, storms, and floods.
These interruptions aren’t always natural. In Springfield , two young men will be charged with murder on Monday in the shooting of a high school student on his front porch. A family strives to cope with the loss of their son to death, and two other families strive to understand the possible loss of their sons to prison. They may be asking themselves: How did we get here?
Some lemons come to us with no invitation, and others come because of actions we have taken. However they arrive, we need to do something with them. We need to use them somehow so they don’t rot and “stink up” our kitchens. Too often, when these detours and STOP signs come into our lives, we allow them to stop us in our tracks, to not only point us in another direction in life, but to point us away from faith, away from the God who seeks to walk with us on this journey.
No one likes to suffer. No one likes to lose. Yet it happens, sometimes in spite of our faith and commitment. One such example is found in Job. A wealthy, successful man, Job had it all—a wife, sons and daughters, livestock and lands, and a strong belief in God. For reasons, not understood by him, his life was dismantled. He lost his sons, his livestock, his home, his servants, his health, and all that was left to him was a body wrought by boils and a wife who encouraged him to “Curse God and die!”
Job’s friends tried to explain his downturn by finding fault in Job, his faith, his attitude. Yet, even as Job tried to understand what was happening to him, he still expressed a strong commitment to God. “Though he slay me,” Job declared, “yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!”
Another example is that of King David, when his child to the wife of Uriah died. David had used his power as king to access Bathsheba, a married neighbor woman. When Bathsheba was found to be with child, David connived to cover his sin, resulting in Uriah’s death. Thereafter, David took the widow as one of his wives and accepted the child as his own. However, the child became sick, and David fasted, cried before the Lord, and begged for the life of the child. Nevertheless, the child died. David stood, cleaned himself, and ate a meal.
“Why are you acting this way?” They questioned him, “While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
David replied, “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Like Job, David recognized that what was done could not be changed, but that it was time to move forward with God.
COPING WITH THE DETOURS OF LIFE.
These examples come from two different sources, one man who truly was righteous before God, and one who, though he loved God, had sinned and brought shame upon himself. In each case, these men had a choice to make: Trust in God in spite of the problems OR Curse God and die.
How do you respond to detours and seeming “dead ends”? How do you face the lemons that are handed to you? I’m sure each of these men spent hours considering why such things were happening. I am also sure that they moved through the stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, etc., before they came to peace with God.
The common thread between them, however, is that they did choose to continue to walk in faith in spite of the lemons. They chose to make lemonade, to take the sour, bitter taste in their mouths and add sugar to make it something that would eventually refresh and strengthen them.
An aspect of this show I mentioned earlier, one that touched me deeply was the husband’s continuing commitment to life. He continued to function in his family and in his community, where he continues as a football coach, teaching and molding young men, teaching them honor, commitment, and teamwork. In spite of the progression of the disease, now affecting his speech, he presents a joyful, encouraging attitude toward the young men he coaches.
Each of these men could have chosen otherwise. They could have chosen to let their disappointments in life affect their commitments to life. They could have just withdrawn into anger and misery, letting the lemons rot in their hands, their lives becoming useless to anyone.
Disappointed with the curves you have come across in life? Frustrated because nothing is as you have planned? Feeling guilty because you believe the detours have come because of your choices?
While all of the above may be true, it is also true that
–there is no sin too big for God to forgive,
–there is no struggle too harsh that God cannot carry you through it.
–there is no disappointment too great that God cannot restore your joy.
Job was healed and restored by God, justified in his commitment. David and Bathsheba, now married, had another son, Solomon, who grew up to inherit the throne.
The family on the TV show? No, the father and son were not miraculously healed. The son is still in a wheelchair and the father still has a terminal diagnosis. However, through the grace of many and the TV show’s actions, they now have much of what they will need to help both of them remain strong as long as possible and be able to live at home as long as possible. With a therapy room and built-in tracks to help move Dad around when he becomes unable to ambulate, he will be able to live at home as long as possible.
Who knows, maybe scientists will find a cure for ALS, or for whatever ails you or someone you love. But if they don’t, and if you find yourself in a pinch you don’t understand, why not allow God to carry you through the times of discouragement and wondering by adding the sweetness of God’s grace and mercy the lemons in your life. You will truly be refreshed.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church