Hope In The Heartbreak
“So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
-Jeremiah 18:3-6 NRSV
Amidst the homecomings, the birthday parties, the Rangers’ playoff run, the marching band competitions, and all of the excitement of this part of the year, the most common phrase I’ve heard lately is,
“It’s just so sad.”
As you might guess, the primary reference is the developing war between Israel and Hamas/Hezbollah. On a Saturday morning, a little over a week ago, we woke up to gruesome images and reports of unspeakable violence perpetrated by members of Hamas against nearly 2,000 concert goers, farmers, children, and more. As the week has unfolded we know that thousands more Palestinian men, women, and children are suffering and have died in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s answer to the injustices done to its people.
The sights of war are inescapable. On the TV’s at the gym, there are rockets that explode over a reporter’s head. On Tik Tok and Twitter there are real-time videos shared by those affected. In the midst of our leisure, we can’t help but say,
“It’s just so sad.”
In a conversation on Sunday morning, someone added on, “And we’ve basically forgotten about the Ukrainians! It’s like our sympathy has time-limits now…
…It’s just so sad.”
And here in Texas, the sacred institution of the State Fair was desecrated by yet another act of gun violence – a headline that seems to make a more frequent appearance on the nightly news in our area that before. As the idea of violence goes from afar to our own hometown,
“It’s just so sad.”
And that’s not to speak of any number of our loved ones facing dementia, job loss, school struggles, etc.
By now you might be wondering where the “Hope” part of the title is, because these e-mails are supposed to be part of God’s perpetual light that drives back the darkness. Let me offer up the thought that hope is found IN the heartbreak.
The text of Jeremiah is a rollercoaster between God’s judgment of Israel and God’s promise of redemption of Israel. Jeremiah is a prophet, and as we’ve learned “prophets tell the truth.” Prophets do not sugar coat that “all is well” and ignore both the heartbreak caused by the people nor the heartbreak that is coming as a result of their actions. But prophets also bring hope. The hope here in Jeremiah 18 is that God is a potter that can fix misshapen clay or cracks that develop when the clay hardens and breaks. God is never done with God’s creation, so even when we make every attempt in the world to destroy it, God keeps changing hearts, molding minds, and re-creating us to be righteous once again.
What I want to offer to you is this: When you are overwhelmed with sadness, give thanks that you feel that way.
The hope we can find is that people aren’t desensitized, apathetic, or cruel enough to feel okay about the images and news we are seeing.
The hope is that people like you still care enough to feel sad.
It’s when we stop feeling heartbreak that we should worry.
There was a gentleman I’ll call “Rod” who, all at once, lost his business, home, mother, and marriage. It was literally the worst 5 months of a person’s life that I could ever have imagined, and yet Rod smiled through it all – in public. Internally, he was a wreck. He was completely lost, completely confused, and broken through and through, but externally, he was cool, calm, and confident.
Until he wasn’t.
He held it together for those 5 months and about 2 months later, until someone lovingly patted his back while walking into our church, and Rod just broke down. He hadn’t admitted how much it hurt. He hadn’t admitted how lonely he was. He hadn’t admitted that not all was okay. But that loving touch reminded him that he wasn’t alone. It wasn’t the first loving touch he’d received, but it was the one that broke the camel’s back, and Rod wept and wept and wept.
The beautiful part was that Rod was surrounded instantly by strangers and friends alike, who wept with him. Who lifted him up. Who brought him tissues and water. Who sat with him and held his hand in worship. Who found him a therapist and brought him to us to talk to the pastors. What no one had realized before, was how isolated Rod had been in his success. He had gone from victory to victory, seemingly on top of the world, but traveling from victory to victory because he never had anyone to really share the best parts of life with.
He told our senior pastor, “If I hadn’t have broken down, I don’t think I would know how much people really love me.”
I’m not saying that it requires pain to realize love, and I’m not saying that bad things happen so that we’ll find God – please don’t read me saying either of those things. But, I am saying that when we feel heartbreak, it means we recognize something isn’t right. And if we’ll be vulnerable and open with what is not right, then generally others will join you in your struggle. And when others join us, not only do we gain the love of community – but we often find a solution to the problems we face.
Perhaps I’m naive, but imagine how many acts of violence in our community might be stopped if the aggrieved party just sat for a moment and told someone they were sad – before jumping to anger, revenge, or a similar more harmful feeling?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”