We heard from someone at one point or another that life was not always easy. But depending on our age at the time, it either went right over our heads or in our naiveté we were sure we could handle it. We believed (or wanted to believe) that person was just trying to scare us or cause us to doubt ourselves, but as we lived a bit longer, we discovered that life isn’t easy a great deal of the time.
“Living is difficult. There is much that goes wrong. We lay our plans carefully and things still go badly. We try to get ahead, but unaccountably something interferes, and we end up flat on our faces. Accidents. Weather. The general cussedness of life. Murphy’s law.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
When we talk about things being difficult or hard and whether or not we have what it takes, we wonder deep within in if we can handle “it” (whatever “it” happens to be at the time). We define the “it” as the situation, but if we go just a bit deeper, we might discover the tougher question: Can we handle the truth?
Writing that question immediately brings a movie scene to mind, the 1992 legal drama film, A Few Good Men. For those of you who may have seen the movie, you know immediately the scene I refer to. The military lawyer played by Tom Cruise takes a risk by calling the commanding officer involved with the case to the stand in the trial. That commanding officer, Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, is pressed during the intense questioning by Cruise with pithy language on both sides. Then Cruise punctuates things by telling Nicholson that he wants answers, he wants the truth, and Nicholson speaks the unforgettable lines, “You can’t handle the truth.”
It’s a movie, but in real life, what about us? Can we handle the truth?
The truth is that ever since the creation of humankind when we needed to abide by one rule of denying ourselves fruit from only one tree in the Garden of Eden and were seduced by Satan to doubt that edict, we have been prone to exchange the truth for something else that was more palatable and didn’t require us to give up something we wanted.
The consequences of that garden scene are woven into the DNA of every human being. We want things to be different than they are, believe things are better, that we are better, and those thoughts permeate most of our choices and behaviors until we determine to grapple with the truth (whatever “it” is).
One of the attributes of the Christian life is that the Lord doesn’t sugar coat the truth. He loves us too much to allow us to stay lost in deception (whether by our own choosing or not). Sadly, as the world around us grows darker, deception grows, and we have been enticed by it for so long that too many of us no longer easily discern the truth found in scriptural foundational tenets. We actually prefer the plastic fruit that looks so perfect rather than the real fruit that usually will have a mark or two on it here or there.
Paul describes the time we are living in in his second letter to Timothy:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
It is easier at the outset to believe what we prefer, what we want to hear, and say it is true whether or not it is. Satan’s subtle power works his deviousness by not letting us see the cost of choosing that path. J.R.R. Tolkien shows us that over and over again when men, elves, and dwarves seek “the one ring to rule them all” without seeing that once gained, it will destroy them.
One of the grandest things about coming to know the Lord and accepting his offer of forgiveness and grace is knowing that He sees the truth of who we really are and loves us anyway, chooses us anyway, and promises to never leave or forsake us, to dwell within us and transform our character we can NEVER accomplish on our own.
“Yes, God loves us. But his love is passionate and seeks faithful, committed love in return. God does not want tame pets to fondle and feed; he wants mature, free people who will respond to him in authentic individuality. For that to happen there must be honesty and truth. The self must be toppled from its pedestal. There must be pure hearts and clear intelligence, confession of sin and commitment in faith.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
The prophets of old were never very popular with the people of the day because they said hard things, warned of hard things ahead that might be avoided if they accepted the truth of their waywardness, repented, and leaned on the Lord rather than the others they looked to. Sometimes they did, but many times they didn’t choose the truth.
Few things will do more to cause us to grapple with truth than love. Loving, really loving deeply, will never be easy. It will expose our weaknesses, our selfishness, and more. It will mean we face losses that we never quite expect and that will wrench our hearts in two when they occur. It will cost us something. It cost God everything so we could be free and enter into relationship with Him despite the garden consequences.
Life is difficult but being willing to see the truth will make it more bearable for us even though it seems like a paradox.
This year (2020) has exposed us to a broader view of darkness and evil, but also revealed the truth about what our foundation is and what we truly believe as well as whether we will stand on it even if we stand alone (save the Lord with us). Hopefully we now recognize something written by Kristina Morris in Bridge of Scarlet Leaves about another difficult time (WW II):
“Life goes on, despite our misfortunes.”Kristina Morris
And in the midst of life going on, the Lord is with us, even closer than we can imagine.
“The life of faith is very physical. Being a Christian is very much a matter of the flesh – of space and time and things. It means being thrown on the potter’s wheel and shaped, our entire selves, into something useful and beautiful. And when we are not useful or beautiful we are reshaped. Painful, but worth it.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Can you handle it?
Can you handle the truth?
If you are the Lord’s, the answer must be “yes” because He is truth and will be in, with, and around you as you do.