Under the Cross: Beautiful, Heartbreaking World

By Michael Keith

I recently had the opportunity to hang out with a blues musician the day before he performed a concert. This blues artist is a master of words and is very poetic in his everyday speech. During our conversation he said something that really resonated with me. He talked about "this beautiful, heartbreaking world."

There are so many wonderful things that we receive as gifts from God: our very life itself, our family, and friends; food and drink and the enjoyment they bring; the beauty of creation; the amazing technological gadgets and gizmos around us. This world is full of beauty and wonder, which at times can be awe-inspiring.

Yet, there is the other side of things: the pain and suffering we see in this world; the harsh words and mean-spirited actions we often experience or perpetrate; severed relationships, broken bodies and broken lives; even death. The world is full of such sorrow and sadness that it can,  at times, lead us to despair.

There are those who only want to focus on the positive. They shut their eyes to anything that might be ugly or sad or broken. They will encourage you to only emphasize the good things of life to the exclusion of the negative--to make sure all your thoughts are positive thoughts, or to hide yourself away from the darker realities. But you and I both know that's not real.

As Christians we can fully embrace both the beautiful and the heartbreaking. As Christians we can be real. We can give thanks and praise to God for the beautiful and receive it as a gift. We can turn to God in our heartbreak and seek His love and forgiveness. We understand that God is not only with us in the beautiful, He is also with us in the brokenness. And that changes everything. No, it doesn't answer all the questions we may have, but it assures us even in the midst of them.

As we live our lives in this beautiful, heartbreaking world it has been revealed to us the beautiful heart of God the Father as He sent His Son to be broken for us on the Cross. As Jesus took upon Himself all the brokenness of this world, He made you beautiful before the Father. He sent the Holy Spirit so that you would be called and gathered into the Church and receive this all as a gift. At the font, in the Word, at the altar, the gifts are given to you so that you might journey through this beautiful, heartbreaking world in faith and trust--intimately knowing God's love and mercy for you in Jesus.

Yes, we do live in a beautiful, heartbreaking world. It's great. It’s also really hard. It's up and it's down. Sometimes we're not sure what it is or which way we are going. However, we know that through it all our Lord is with us. He will strengthen us and guide us through His Word and Sacraments in His Church so that we can recognize Him as the true source of all beauty and be assured that we are not alone in the heartbreak. We can be real and face life as it truly is because we know that He is Emmanuel—God with us—in this beautiful, heartbreaking world.

This article was originally published on the Higher Things website on 5/31/16.

Rev. Michael Keith serves as the associate pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada.

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