No, It’s Not Going to Get Better


In the fall of 1983, the biggest thing on television was the TV movie, The Day After.  Coming at a highpoint in the Cold War, this movie depicted a war between the Soviet Union and the United States that becomes nuclear.  The movie centered on the lives of people living in and around Kansas City, Missouri. I never saw the movie itself.  What I did see was a clip from the movie that was shown on 60 Minutes.  It shows the last few seconds before the bomb hits KC.  There is chaos in the streets.  Freeways are clogged with people running away even though there is no place to hide.  The iconic scene for me is when Jason Robard’s character is stuck in traffic and peers out of the driver window when..boom the sky turns an ugly shade or orange and a mushroom cloud appears over Kansas City.

It was hard to sleep for nights after that.

I calmed myself by believing that God wouldn’t let something like that happening.  Yes, it was a lie, but it worked.

Thirty-five years later, I am wondering if a war with North Korea will turn hot.  There are already scenarios out there that show how an errant tweet might rain down death from the sky killing millions. The fear is back.  I want to tell myself that things will not careen out of control leading to some kind of apocalypse.  But there is also a voice telling me that yes, things could be bad very, very bad.

If there is something that I will be keeping in the front my mind in 2018 is to have a healthy sense of lament. Yes, you heard correctly. Over the last few days, I’ve encountered a few postings on social media that seem to tell us that yes, the worst can happen, will happen and is happening.  Normally, my MO is to ignore these postings and focus on hope.  What is happening will at some point pass, is what I tell myself. But I’m learning to not immediately go to hope.  I feel like I need to spend time in terror and despair. The above tweet is part of a tweetstorm that talks about how fragile “modernity” is. Progress is not certain. We can move forward in progress or backwards as is evidence in the technological advances of the Rome, that were lost when Rome fell.

Farooq Butt’s tweets remind us that our present can unleash forces that send us backward in progress and when that happens, it can take decades or even centuries to get back to square one.

But people will say that things were worse in say, 1968 as opposed to today.  They have a point.  But we don’t know if our relative calm is truly a sign of a better day or if it is the calm before a storm.

I think that we are living at a time when we feel like we are at the edge of a precipice. When a trip to Korea in the fall of 2018, has a pastor and his spouse talking about nuclear war, we are not in a time teeming with hope.

The reason I’m thinking about lament is because of an Instagram post by religion writer Jonathan Merritt.  He decided to ring the new year with a downer:

If I had to describe #2017 in one word, it would be LAMENT. I had to release and mourn destructive relationships that had sapped my emotional health for too long. I had to grieve the words and behaviors of many fellow Christians, which distorted the Gospel of peace. And I was consistently frustrated by a president who attacked minorities and women and immigrants and shamelessly used racial slurs in public. This, and more. So much more. . In 2017, I wept alongside the Psalmist and shouted angry prayers: “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself!” (Ps 44:23) . I’m tempted on this New Year’s Day to sanitize my sorrow from last year. To cling to cliches about the darkness before the dawn. To use the #bestyearever hashtag and pretend that I believe it. To proclaim that “joy comes in the morning” in hopes that you all click “like” and share it far and wide. . But yesterday at @tgctribeca, @edgungor preached a masterful sermon that liberated me from this impulse. Sometimes, he said, we should refuse to be comforted. At least for a time. Because pain is something to embrace, something to sit with, something that humanizes in a way that candy-coated cliches cannot. . So if you’re still reading, here’s your permission slip to keep grieving, keep mourning, keep wailing WITH ME. There is no indication that #2018 will be the dawn to 2017’s darkness. It may be bleaker and harder and more painful, actually. But if we lean into it, we may just find a God who teaches us lessons in lamentation that we could never learn in celebration. Stop to smile in the midst of your pain knowing it is doing its job and you’ll be better for it. . “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” – Barbara Brown Taylor . #barbarabrowntaylor #inspiration #truth #grief #sadness #mourning #lament #theology #Christianity #honesty #quotes #Christianquotes #newyear #newyears (📸: @kaylajohnsonphoto)

A post shared by Jonathan Merritt (@jonathan_merritt) on

Sometimes,…we should refuse to be comforted. That’s hard to hear, but more and more I am accepting it. Sometimes things don’t get better. Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes all you are left with is lament. Lament is not the same as despair, but it is about not trying to put lipstick on a pig when life just sucks.

The thing is, being a Christian doesn’t mean bad things will never happen to us. Just because we think God is in control doesn’t mean that evil will never harm us or that the sun will come out tomorrow.

But the thing is, God will be with us as we lament. God can take our tears and fears and sit with us in the dark. It is a God that will be with us even if the worse happens.

I don’t know what 2018 will bring.  Maybe there will be war. Maybe not. Maybe other things that will happen that could bring calamity.  That is a time for lament and sadness.  It is a time to be like those mothers mentioned in Matthew 2 who refuse to comforted after Herod kills all the baby boys in Bethlehem and not try to talk about things passing, because they just might not.

But even in our lament, even in our fear I know paraphrasing the Apostles Creed, that I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.



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