Feels like the preseason these days. There is lots of excitement building for the possibilities about to unfold.
The “preseason” on the farm is also a great time to shop for new or used equipment, and learn about upgrade potential. This is the time when a well thought out buying decision can be made, as opposed to that pressured purchase that comes with an immediate need. There is nothing worse than figuring out during a snap bean harvest with a two day window that the old combine really wasn’t ready for another year! (Can I get an amen!?)
So, in the wake of a couple of years when we endured “emergency” capital decisions, we have prudently learned to make our wish list and shop before the last snow, even if we didn’t know the last snow would coincide with the first day of spring.
It was during such a procurement outing that I recognized the wisdom of the book of James with fresh insight.
The writer in James 3:9-12 cautions us:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Oh, but we can be so casual with our tongue, so careless! We don’t know people’s stories — their joys, their sorrows, their proud moments, their regrets, their shame, their hidden selves.
You Will Have Trouble
Not long ago, we were looking at a disc harrow-cultipacker combination at a local dealer, and we were skeptical about a few things. We pressed the salesperson for some answers. For whatever reason, he was not forthcoming with a ready answer, and one among us got impatient, making a few sarcastic comments.
The salesman reacted sharply, “What did you say?! Are telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about? I spent my whole life farming! How long have you amateurs been farming!”
He walked off in a huff.
Our sarcastic words had insulted him. Is sarcasm ever really funny? At least, not since Don Rickles.
We were a bit taken aback — surely he didn’t think we were disrespecting his experience! Alas, in his mind, we had done just that. Everyone’s story contains struggles and sorrows, along with moments of joy and achievement. It is axiomatic to say that at some point during our lives, we will experience suffering. Even more than that, it is a promise of God!
We like to rehearse and “stand on” the promises of God that work in our favor — “He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), or “nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).
But what about this promise: “In this world, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)?
In our humanity it is very tempting during Holy Week to want to jump quickly from the glory and hosannas of Palm Sunday to the victory of the empty tomb on Easter morning. We don’t want to experience betrayal, rejection, humiliation, and suffering — i.e. the passion of Christ. But in the midst of the persecution and pain of Jesus’ walk to Calvary, he accepted the Father’s will. As his disciples we should be prepared for no less.
How should we prepare our hearts for the suffering that is surely to come, or even at our doorstep now? Consider the rest of the passage in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As we grow in grace and mercy, we understand that each of us experiences suffering, and we are mindful that the person we interact with this day may be struggling mightily with the hardships and sorrows of life.
Many bear it quietly, privately, fearfully. Jesus came to set us free from that, and to call us to help carry one another’s burdens.
Jesus came to show us that approaching one another with a heart of compassion can turn even a brief interaction into a divine appointment, centered in the love of Christ. A time of blessing, not cursing. Then, the promise of God has special meaning:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).