lemons, lemonade, and faith

Capture Your Grief // Day 12: Lemons and Lemonade + Day 14: Beliefs and Spirituality //
The “lemons into lemonade” analogy rubs me the wrong way. It feels trivializing.  “Oh well, let’s just make lemonade!” But no amount of blood drives, or non-profit fundraisers, or good-will can make my pain go away.  Lemonade feels like a cheap substitute.  Or maybe I think lemons are too easy of an analogy.  Sure, let’s take this delicious, tart fruit and turn it into something.  But, I feel like I’m trying to make lemonade out of something that does not even resemble it, like gasoline.  You can’t make gasoline into lemonade.  No amount of sugar can cover over that.  Or maybe it feels too much about the doing and me,  and less about the being and Him.   
Romans 8:28-30
 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Some Christians use this verse as a “lemons into lemonade” analogy. But perhaps the lemons remain just lemons, and we’re refined by them.  I’ve appreciated Timothy Keller’s sermon “A Christian’s Happiness” (it’s on youtube or in the backlog of his podcasts).  It’s originally from 1997.  I was 11. (!!!)  Still so good nearly 20 years later.  
I listened to it last year, and re-listened to it this week.  Here’s the main takeaways for me. 
1) The bad things turn out for good.  
-The phrase ” in all things” means that no one is immune to bad things.  Terrible things happen to anyone, even if you love and serve God (although some teach and many believe otherwise). Bad things will happen! We shouldn’t be shocked by this.  Good things are not the promise. Though bad things happen because we live in a very broken world, God can work them for good.  This does not mean that they are not bad things.  They are, in fact, bad.  They are not “blessings in disguise” and perhaps there is no “silver lining”.  Sometimes they are just bad things.  But, the promise is that “God will take the bad things and work them for good in totality.”  This might not happen this week, this year, this decade, or even in this lifetime.  And this talk of “working for good in totality” is not meant to trivialize present suffering.  The biblical worldview actually takes suffering seriously.  It is real and it is hard.  Christ didn’t keep himself immune from pain.  He knows.  
– “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This does NOT mean better things are on their way.  Sometimes, the better thing doesn’t come.  He uses the example of not getting into the grad school you wanted, but having the thought that God has “something better around the corner.”  While this can be true, sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes you don’t get in, and never get in. Sometimes you don’t married.  Sometimes you don’t have kids.  No one wants to hear that, but it’s the unsugarcoated truth. But, “the best is yet to come” is in eternity.  
2)  “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” “God doesn’t promise you better life circumstances, he promises you a better life.”  Circumstances can be lost, but the promise is for a joy and hope that is above and beyond circumstances. The good things can never be lost.  “Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer, but so that when you suffer you will become like Him.” We are conformed to the image of Christ as we suffer and understand suffering.  Conforming daily, through suffering, and become more: wise, courageous, loving, humble, selfless… 
3)  The best things are yet to come. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  Eternal glory. Restoration of all lost and all broken. The ultimate defeat of evil. In The Brother’s Karamazov, Dostoevsky writes: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”  
I’m still learning this, and learning to believe it. It still doesn’t mean that there was good in my sweet children dying.  And it doesn’t mean I like it or will ever quite understand it. Sometimes I yell out: “I don’t want this path!” Even so, I do see tiny glimpses of good in things that are happening after losing Clive and Winnie.  The relationships, compassion, heart changes, and so many other things inside. However, this doesn’t just happen naturally.  It does take some choices in fighting bitterness, resentment, and comparison. (The struggle is real!)  It does take choices in being a survivor rather than a victim. Our hearts can’t be changed if we’re stuck in those things. (And some days, I’m stuck, but that’s okay. I’m human. Work in progress.) God can work our suffering for good, but we also have to be willing to let Him, right?  
So maybe the “lemons and lemonade” analogy doesn’t quite work.  Maybe I was onto something with the gasoline trying to be lemonade.  Maybe it just is bad.  Undrinkable The smell is nasty, and we have a lifelong headache from it.  But (in His strength) we learn and grow and transform and conform in the midst of it.  And in the end it’s burned away, as if it never was, and everything broken is restored.   And then, and only then, our cups will be filled up with something that is much better than lemonade.

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