I moved into my dorm room at college and unpacked a few suitcases and boxes. I took up half of the dresser and half of the closet. I had a long move-in-day to myself getting ready for classes the next morning.
At nearly midnight my roommate showed up. After bringing in a few books and assorted items, he then carried in two trash bags full of clothes, which he dumped into one large pile in the corner of the room, apparently done unpacking.
Each day I would go into the dresser or closet to select clothes, and then my roomie would go to his pile and put on clothes, none of which had been folded. Of course, this was the height of the “grunge-era” and so wearing a pair of jeans with a crumpled flannel shirt was what you might select for a fancy date. So he was set.
Over time the one pile would become two. The first remaining clean, but unfolded, and the second being the clothes that had been worn once or twice, or even three times. As the first pile got smaller he would dress from the second with more frequency. He still tells me, “Some clothes are dirty, Dave, they just need a rest is all.”
Eventually the two piles became three. The third being the clothes that were worn so much they necessitated separation from the pack of merely “lightly worn” clothes, lest the stink rub off.
I had a name for the three piles: “The good, the bad, and the ugly.”
When you look back on it, I wonder if you have had your own share of the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life.
The good are the things that have gone your way. You dated someone you wanted so badly, and you got married. You got the job you had in your sights. Your career flourished. Or you had kids that look better than you. You got awards and achieved goals. Maybe a few degrees. Things came together for you, and you got some of the good things in life.
Other times were the bad ones. You lost a job. Or a loved one. Your health. Maybe even a marriage. You were betrayed: wronged in some way by a boss, a pastor, a co-worker, a family member, a church, a school, or that a friend you don’t talk to anymore. Hard times hit. The bad started to pile up and it all hit the fan.
Some of your life has even been ugly. This is the stuff you don’t want to admit. The bad is what others did to you. The ugly is what you did to them. You were the one who wronged someone. You betrayed a friend, a family member, a co-worker. Maybe even a spouse. This is the stuff you’re ashamed of, the really ugly stuff you’d rather I not talk about right now.
The good stuff may have distracted you from God. It has a way of doing that. It’s not like you actively resisted God, you just forgot about him. In the busyness of life, family, and work, your faith just sort of slipped away. It became less of a priority. The irony is you might even work in a Christian organization, but even all of that distracted you from a truly personal faith in God.
The bad stuff just makes you mad. You’re angry at those people that betrayed you, or those groups. You might be mad at the kinds of organizations that hurt you in the past–or certain kinds of people. You never thought you would discriminate, but you would admit that certain kinds and groups of people are suspicious to you–because you’ve been burnt. You might even be angry at God for letting all this happen.
The ugly parts of your life make you run from God. You’d rather not be in places that bring up this stuff in your mind. Others might not even know about it–but you do–and when things start to feel “convicting” you are out of there. You might even stop reading this because of it. You label things that make you feel this way as a “guilt trip” and figure it’s not worth the heartache to go over it all. “Forgive and forget,” you’d like others to say, but you haven’t even forgiven yourself.
I don’t know if it’s the good, the bad, or the ugly that has robbed you of your faith, but I’m here to tell you that you can get it back.
Jesus found out a friend of his had died, and he wept about it. Jesus had a whole lot of “the bad pile” in his life too, remember. His friend was named Lazarus.
As he walked up to the place where he was entombed, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, practically scolded Jesus in her grief, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Sister Mary came out and said the same thing.
Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
Thinking this was just “end times talk” she replied, “Yes… he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
But Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
Jesus had them roll the stone aside, shouting,“Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus did. The dead rose again. A resurrection.
Your faith may feel as dead as that man in the tomb. But today I’m asking you to consider letting God raise it to life again.
You may have many objections. Mary and Martha did. They had quite a bit of faith–but raising people from the dead was beyond their faith. You may think it would be impossible to believe again.
You may have doubts you’ve never been able to shrug off. You have data you’ve looked at. You have experiences you can’t overcome. You might even have some practical objections–things you don’t think could work out.
Martha did too, when Jesus wanted the tomb opened, she said, “The smell will be terrible.” (Which, coincidentally, is the exact same thing I had to tell friends walking near my roommate’s third pile of clothes.)
Jesus shouts over all your objections to the resurrection of your faith, saying, “Dead faith, come forth!”
And it will walk right out of the tomb of your doubt. It will. If you listen for his voice. For he is calling you.
He wants to recapture what the good, bad, and the ugly has robbed of you.
He wants to resurrect you.
Will you let him?
As the semester marched on for my roomie, the first pile, the good one, would disappear. He would be relegated to fishing through the bad pile, and in desperation, sometimes even the ugly pile, in order to get a whole outfit together. I knew things had gotten bad when he would push all the clothes he owned into one pile, bumming quarters off a few of us, and taking his pile to the laundry room at the end of the hall.
It was nice when he came back with a huge pile of clean clothes. Of course he would drop into one good pile in the corner and it would all start over again.
I hope you have mostly good piles from here on out–but whatever you face, know that you’re never beyond the voice of Jesus calling into the dark places of life, wanting to resurrect your faith.