Victory and defeat. Triumph and tragedy. Life is filled with both.
We have a lot of expressions that attempt to convey that reality. All my life I have heard, "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose."
Joe South wrote a song that Lynn Anderson recorded in 1970. It reached the No. 3 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and remained the biggest selling recording by a female country artist until 1997. I wonder if one of the reasons it was so popular is that it said what people knew and experienced. We were "never promised a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there's gotta be a little rain sometimes."
As I write this I am completing my income tax returns and preparing to send a hefty check to pay additional taxes due. Along with the benefit of a salary comes the responsibility of taxes. You have to "take the bitter with the sweet."
On March 9 Luis Salazar was sitting in the first base dugout during an Atlanta Braves spring training game when he was hit in the face by a foul ball. The 54 year-old minor league manager was fortunate that the result was only the loss of his left eye and not his life.
Our current economic condition has brought a new reality to people everywhere. Foreclosure has become more than a word in our vocabulary. A record number of U.S. homeowners understand it now from experience. Talk to my neighbors Charles or Brad. Unemployment is at a record high. Perhaps you or one of your friends can explain it like Jerry did to me.
You are working at the church and you are brutally assaulted. You feel a little lump on the inside of your leg and soon you discover that you have a rare form of cancer. You are on the road going about your business when and you have a head on collision. You were breezing through life and then you ran into a wall.
On March 11 at 2:46 PM large areas of Japan's northern Pacific coast were swamped by a devastating tsunami, engulfing entire towns following a major 9.0 offshore earthquake. Tornadoes ripped across the southeast this past weekend killing 25 people in six states and destroying hundreds of homes. Daily routines were suddenly interrupted and lives were changed.
In circumstances like these it is good to be reminded of another old saying: "It's always darkest before the dawn." I do not intend to make light of any situation. There are many tragic circumstances and much suffering all around but tragedy does not have the final word.
This is Holy Week for Christians. It began yesterday with the remembrance of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. It is also called Passion Sunday because what began in victory takes a dramatic turn before the week ends. We remember the accolades Jesus received as he rode the donkey into town on Sunday but we also remember his betrayal, suffering and subsequent death on Friday.
Before this time next week we will celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and be reminded that even "death is swallowed up in victory" (I Corinthians 15:54).
As we live into the future we will experience all kinds of trouble, but we will not be crushed. We may not be sure what to do, but we know that God is not confused. We may be perplexed, but we will not despair. We may be harassed, but we are not alone. God is at our side. We may be knocked down, but we are not knocked out (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9).
Thanks be to God who makes us conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," April 18, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]