be grumpy and rejoice

The discussion in Sunday Bible class went this way.

Parishioner: What do we make of all those evangelical denominations that claim you have to be happy to be a Christian?

Pastor: It’s a lot of Law.

Parishioner: It seems like a lot of work to pretend to be happy all the time.

Pastor: Yeah, I don’t like people who feign happiness just because it makes them look more pious. That’s just not Lutheran.

Me: But what about the flip side? If you were to track with Facebook, you’d think it’s hip and relevant to be down in the dumps and generally grumpy.

Pastor: This is why I hate Facebook.


I’ve noticed a few posts going around Facebook today about how difficult certain vocations are and how tough life feel sometimes. And it’s true. In this broken world, we are no strangers to suffering.

But we also don’t wallow in it. To quote one LCMS pastor: “Do not think that you are better than others, that you work harder, are busier, or are smarter. And do not think that your life has been more difficult, that you have suffered more. The difference between you and the drug dealer, or between you and Mother Teresa is the difference between two pieces of straw in a pile the size of a house. It is not great enough to be measured, statistically it is non-existent. Get over it. Get over yourself. Repent.”

And then, before you get indignant and yell at me, also know this:

“[Your suffering] is not meritorious, but it comes from Fatherly care. Your Father knows what is best. He chastises you and He intervenes in your life for your good, often in ways that conflict with what you think you want. That often means sorrow and pain. Who can know the mind of God? His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. He sends you crosses for your good, to purify you, to keep you from things that would hurt you, to teach you to live by faith and to pray, and He also sends them for the good of your neighbors. We would not choose these things for ourselves. We rightly pray for relief. But we are only children. We do not know what is best. These crosses do not merit God’s love, but come from God’s love and from our love. Because we love God, who has loved and forgiven us, we submit to His will and wait for the time when all things will be revealed. Sometimes relief does not come until we are transferred through death and into life.”

Be grumpy some days. But also rejoice. Drink milk out of the carton. Read a bit of poetry. Kiss your spouse on the forehead, and turn on some country music. Two-step across the kitchen, and sleep with the window open. Through Baptism, Christ saved you from hell. Everything else pales in comparison.

16 thoughts on “be grumpy and rejoice

  1. Your comment on the happiest couples going to church together is exactly the point many Pastor’s wives are making. We don’t get to go to church together. We miss out on the opportunity to be a part of the happiest couples because we don’t get to attend church services together.

  2. I read the sermon, but he makes no mention of the complaint psalms or the widow who continually nags the judge. There IS a place for righteous complaints among the people of God, and there IS a time when we righteously cry out to God for Him to notice us. Complaining is not always the same as bragging. There are times when sufferings NEED attention and the cause of the sufferings needs to be corrected. While it’s true that suffering is not meritorious in and of itself, keeping quiet about suffering is also not meritorious. The Bible spends extensive ink on how we are to address sufferings, how we are to achieve civil justice, how we are to treat one another when people sin against us for the sake of reconciliation.

    “And if you hunger for honor, find it in your table mates at the Lord’s Supper.” What if it’s the people who are at the table with you who give you no peace or honor and live in unrepentant sin–they are never admonished, never receive the Law? Where is the comfort? Where is the honor? Where is the peace to be found? Either the complaint must be registered so that the sinners may repent and reconcile with one another, or the suffering one must leave for an altar rail where everyone knows they are sinners and aren’t judging, criticizing, and emotionally killing others.

    Sometimes when people complain they aren’t asking for people to give them attention. They aren’t thinking they’re better, busier, or smarter than everyone else. They are asking people to be aware of huge problems that are not being dealt with in a Christian manner. If a person is suffering from a physical ailment, he has spiritual and emotional help available to him. If a person is suffering from psychological ailments, he has help available to him. If someone has been wronged in a criminal way, he has civil avenues for justice. If a persons’ work place is hostile he can get justice through the law, help from a boss, or change jobs. In almost every case of suffering, a person has his church and pastor available for spiritual help or just good old being fed with God’s Word–even if the sufferings in his vocations are not eased. Scripture says the people of God are to bear one another’s burdens.

    There are some people who are overlooked and have no help or comfort from anyone, neither in the civil realm nor the Church. That is the difference. These people are asked to keep their mouths shut, suffer silently and expect no help, comfort, or empathy from anyone–not even from those within the Church. That is wrong.

    And when the suffering one notices that there is a whole class of people in the same situation, that person realizes that the complaint is needed not for his own relief, but to help others who need it. It’s done out of love for the suffering neighbors. If that person were the only one suffering it wouldn’t be as hard to bear it and go about his life just like everyone else. But there is a point when someone needs to speak up in defense of those who cannot speak for themselves.

    When we hear a person speak out about his hard life or something he’s suffering with and we dismiss it or fail to take it seriously, that too is wrong. If there’s a problem, we need to help fix it if it’s within our control. It doesn’t matter what the person’s vocation is, and it doesn’t matter if my life is just as hard as the person suffering. Just as two wrongs do not make a right, the fact that everyone suffers does not make it right to dismiss a man’s complaint.

  3. i seriously appreciate this. it sort of encompasses a lot of my internal monologue as of late. i would like to repost it if it’s alright with you 🙂

  4. This is a fantastic sermon. But I would actually like to know which one it is. You know, so that I can “borrow” from it…

      1. Isn’t this common knowledge by now? 🙂 Oh, and Geoff, I’m sorry there are no pictures in this post. #fail

    1. It’s true – country and western doesn’t do grumpy very well. Lonely and heartbroken, yes. Grumpy? no. When Johnny Paycheck sings “take this job and shove it!” even that won’t make you grumpy.

    2. According to the Wall Street Journal, the happiest couples in the world have three things in common: They listen to country, they dance, and they go to church together. So there. 🙂

      1. The happiest couples in THE WORLD… Really? Around here, having to listen to country music is considered a punishment! My husband and I enjoy listening to Bach (and so do our teens). We’d rather enjoy a great meal together than dance (We’re foodies), or sit back and relax as our kids take us out on a sail… But we do all go to church together (and sing together!)

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