My 70th birthday arrived recently, and my wife, Sharon, kept telling me it’s a big deal. I think she means a big deal this year; next year, when it’s her turn, we’ll see. It causes me to think about why 70 is such a big deal.
For a long time, I never expected to live past age 50. I was born in 1950 and lived with the effects of polio, so it just made sense to me that living to the year 2000 and getting 50 years out of this disaster of a body would be a worthwhile accomplishment. Since 2000 has come and gone, I’ve considered this is extra time. It’s like a soccer game that continues after time is up. The referee lets them keep playing for an unexplained period of time. I’ve had 20 years of extra time, so perhaps 70 is special.
A few weeks ago, I was taken to task by a Facebook Person (I’m not going to call him “friend” because he knows nothing about me). I had expressed a differing opinion on something he advocated. He suggested that I needed to experience more of life so I could better understand the power of God.
I’ve experienced as much of life as I can handle, both good and bad. Being told that I don’t know God’s power because of a lack of experience was insulting. Even if I had given up the ghost 20 years ago at age 50, it still would not have been true.
This Facebook Person (whoever he is) has missed a great truth. Some of you have heard me talk about the three things I have learned in my lifetime. First, life is hard. Second, God is good. And third, we need to laugh more. The problem is that many head straight to No. 2 without experiencing No. 1. In other words, they focus on the goodness of God with the hope they can avoid the hardness of life.
Many people only want the comfort of the goodness of God, but if you haven’t experienced the hardness of life, you never will appreciate the goodness of God. These people run to God out of fear every time something appears on the horizon. This explains the popularity of prosperity preachers. They promise that life doesn’t need to be hard; all you need is faith enough to skip to the “God is good” part of life.
“If you haven’t experienced the hardness of life, you never will appreciate the goodness of God.”
My Facebook disagreement centered on the subject of abortion and his refusal to admit that some women face impossible choices about having a baby — if I knew enough about God, then I would know God will make everything fine. Here’s what he didn’t know, or he would have kept his mouth shut. I’ve had 20 extra years of life and have learned that God doesn’t make everything fine very often.
I’ve not only had 50 years to learn that life is hard, but an additional 20 years drove that truth home. Therefore, I also know better than many (at least this one guy in Arizona somewhere, I think) that because life is hard, God is good. I know the goodness of God because I know the hardness of life. I get to relearn it every day.
When I get out of bed every morning, it takes me about an hour to get dressed, with a little help from Sharon. Perhaps I could do it faster, but I would have to lay back down for a nap afterward. If the house is on fire, maybe 10 minutes. But once I’m up and dressed, ready to get about the task of living, I’m in a position to understand and appreciate the goodness of God fully. If I simply got out of bed and threw on my clothes, I might go all day without even thinking about God’s goodness.
I figured all this out during the extra 20 years of my life. If you haven’t had many hardships in your life, get on your knees and pray to God that you will be allowed to suffer. Until you do, whatever you say about the goodness of God is merely repeating what others have said.
“Life’s hardness teaches us about God’s goodness, which allows us to enjoy life fully.”
Let me quickly add the third truth that we need to laugh more. I love to laugh, and I especially love to be around others who love to laugh. Laughing is the ability to view the hardships of life through the eyes of God. Genuine laughter occurs when we cast aside the cares of life and abandon ourselves to the goodness of God. It goes like this: Life’s hardness teaches us about God’s goodness, which allows us to enjoy life fully. We can’t skip the process.
By the way, I did not apologize to my Facebook Friend after I blasted him with the truth of my experience because I wanted him to experience some of the hardness of life for himself.
I’m going to enjoy my 70th birthday. The family is getting together for dinner. Jaclyn is making my favorite strawberry cake, and I’ll get to see about half the grandkids. But I’ll be honest: I don’t think I can do this for another 20 years. For several years before he died, my father talked about being tired, and it wasn’t a reference to an especially tedious day. He was worn out by life. I’m not there, but I can understand how he got there.
In the meantime, I’m going to laugh as often as I can.
Happy birthday to me!
Terry Austin says from his first day of life he was taught to love the church. He has lived out that passion in various ways as a pastor, church consultant, author and critic. He is currently a full-time writer and book publisher and actively engaged with house churches.