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Jesus And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Those of you who read to children, will be aware of a delightful little book entitled “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” In the book, we learn that Alexander had one of those days when nothing goes right. He ran smack up against one disappointment or tragedy after another. Like the old saying has it: “If it weren’t for bad luck, Alexander wouldn’t have any luck at all.” Here is the way the book begins: “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, now there is gum in my hair, and when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard. By mistake, I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running, and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Then after a terrible day at school, a horrible visit to the dentist, and a no good stop at the shoe store, Alexander, on the verge of total defeat, slumped in his chair at the dinner table. Nothing changed. His troubles just continued rolling over him wave after wave. Listen, “There were lima beans for dinner, and I hate limas. There was kissing on TV, and I hate kissing. My bath was too hot. I got soap in my eyes. My marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad-train pajamas. I hate my railroad-train pajamas. When I went to bed, Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep, the Mickey Mouse nightlight burned out, and I bit my tongue. The cat wants to sleep with Anthony and not me. It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Well, that children’s book is a lighter treatment of a much heavier subject. The fact is terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days can create a great deal of stress, tension, pain, and despair in our lives. The reality is that sooner or later all of us are going to have to face those situations which create a real crisis for us: the death of a loved one, a divorce in the family, the loss of employment, the heartache brought on by a sick child, the news from a physician regarding an examination, and the list goes on, and on, and on. Yes, sooner or later in life, all of us have those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days when crises threaten to overwhelm us. And without any doubt, this past Monday with the overwhelmingly tragic massacre at Virginia Tech, we, in this nation, experienced a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At a time like this then, it is good to remember that Jesus himself knew all about terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. He was always having to deal with the hardness and the harshness of this world in His own life, and in the lives of the people around Him. And therefore, when Jesus speaks about how to deal with the crisis times in life, we would do well to listen. The parable from Matthew 13 is a case in point. It is usually called the “parable of the weeds,” and it deals with the terribly complex issue of pain, suffering, and evil—a problem which has baffled theologians, philosophers, and preachers since the beginning of time. In response to that age old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?,” Jesus told this story. And if we are smart, we will tune our ears to hear what He has to say.

As is true with so many of His parables, this one obviously is based on an actual event—one with which His listeners were familiar. Jesus told of a farmer who carefully supervised his farm workers as they sowed high quality wheat seeds in the fields. However, at night when he and his helpers were asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds in the farmer’s fields. Why? I don’t know—maybe to exact revenge for some perceived wrong or maybe to gain a competitive advantage at harvest time. In any case, it was a diabolical thing to do. What made it so difficult was that this particular weed—it is called darnel—in its early stages of growth, closely resembles the appearance of wheat. Now when the farmer and his workers realized what had been done, the workers wanted to know if they could pull up the weeds. The farmer cautioned them not to do so. He knew that because the weeds and the wheat looked so much alike, they would inevitably pull some wheat with the weeds. Furthermore, he knew that, beneath the surface of the soil, the roots of both the wheat and the weeds had become entangled. Thus, pulling the weeds would damage the wheat crop. And so the farmer said, “Let the wheat and the weeds grow together. Then at the harvest when the wheat and the weeds can be easily distinguished, we will separate the two keeping the wheat and discarding the weeds.” When Jesus explained the parable, it is quite clear that we are to deal with the painful crises of life exactly as that farmer dealt with the weeds. So this parable offers valuable help for us in coping with the crisis times in our experience—in dealing with those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that come our way.

The parable reminds us that there will always be weeds among the wheat.

We live in an imperfect world, a world in which there are weeds. Some of those weeds have burrs and thorns. Some of them are toxic and poisonous. Consequently there will always be crises of one kind or another. There will always be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Those tough, hurtful, painful, times are like weeds in that we may never be certain where they come from, and no matter how hard we look to keep them out, sometimes when we are not looking and when we least expect it, something or someone comes along and sows weeds in our lives.

Jesus put the blame for that on “the enemy”—on the devil. I know there are many, so-called “enlightened souls” in our time who dismiss the idea of the devil as foolishnesses. Of course, that’s one of the best tricks the devil pulls—to convince us that he doesn’t exist! But that wasn’t a problem for Jesus. He knew that evil is present in this world, and He knew the cause. So whether we want to argue about the cause or not, the fact is we do have to deal with the reality of evil and suffering in this world. There will always be the potential of blowing up a building in Oklahoma City, or bringing down the Twin Towers in New York, or the massacre of innocent college students in Blacksburg, Virginia. There will always be the potential for violence and abuse in our society. The seeds for the weeds of evil are always being sown amongst the good wheat. Jesus’ parable reminds us that because evil is present in this world, there will always be weeds in life. There will always be sins, sickness, and suffering. There will always be heartache, heartbreak, and hardship. There will always be trouble, tribulation and tragedy. There will always be. . . yes—terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. We have to face that and deal with it.

But the parable also reminds us that God is in charge of the harvest.

It may seem too difficult to understand, but we are to let the weeds and the wheat grow together because God isn’t finished yet. In other words, we are to “wait for the Lord.” Now waiting may not be our game and patience may not be one of our virtues. Like the workers in the parable, we would like to pull up the weeds, but the farmer reminds us that the best thing to do is to wait. Does that mean that we are never to fight against the evil of this world? Of course not! It simply means that the best way to oppose evil is to trust God. Let me carve these truths upon your heart so deeply that you will never forget them.

God does not lie. God keeps His word. God entered this twisted, tarnished world in Jesus Christ to live among us, to share our hurts, to show us His power, and to redeem us to a life that is eternal. He came in Jesus Christ so that we might be certain that the One who could take a crown of thorns and twist it to His glory, the One who could take a hideous blood-stained cross and transform it into a symbol of victory, the One who could crack open a sealed tomb and raise His Son to new life—this One can deal with our tragedies and ultimately lead us to victory. I think here of David Heath. He was nearly finished with medical school when he was stricken with cancer. The prognosis was not good, but with treatment, he made it through training and one year of practice before he died. Not long before death came, some insensitive soul said to him, “When you realized how sick you were, why didn’t you just drop out of med school?” David Heath replied, “Because God called me to be a doctor.” The other man then said, “Well, why would God call you to be a doctor when He knew that you were going to die?” David Heath answered, “I’m going to ask Him that as soon as I get to heaven.” Do you hear that? He believed that God does not lie. He didn’t know the reason for the tragedy, but he was certain of God’s claim upon his life and he was willing to wait to find out the answer. God does not lie.

Jesus does not leave. Jesus says, “I will not leave you desolate.” Nothing happens in our lives which is beyond the bounds of His vision, beyond the circle of His caring, or beyond the reach of His power. That means that there is never a broken heart, never a darkened home, never a painful decision, never a serious illness, never a sore temptation, never an open grave but that Jesus is there with us, and Jesus never leaves us. I know. Believe me, I know. Many of you will know that some years ago, the Edington family was jolted to the core by the tragic death of our son and brother, John David, age 22. In the midst of all the desolation his death brought to our lives, Jesus never left us. And it was Jesus who led me to see that the question, searing our brains at the time, “Why did this happen to us?” is an unanswerable and pointless question. The better question is, “Now that this has happened to us, what are we going to do about it, and what are we going to do with it?” That question has shaped all the subsequent years of my life. You see, I’m going to live the rest of my life with the weeds, with the pain. It will never leave, but Jesus won’t leave me either. It’s Jesus who has shown me that I am to live my life in such a way that I can bring significance both to my life and to John David’s tragically shortened life, that I am to use the lessons learned from my pain to bring relief to the pains of others, that I am to build this church so strong and spiritually powerful that other peoples’ sons and daughters can know my Jesus, that I can so burn myself up in the sheer joy of the Gospel ministry and the Christian life, that, by the light of that fire, others might find their way to Jesus Christ. . I’m going to let the weeds and the wheat grow together. The pain is there . . . yes, but the promise is there as well. Jesus does not leave.

We do not lose. Paul says in Romans 8, “In everything, God works for good.” That means that even in the darkest days, even in the most hurtful moments, God is at work bringing from them His ultimate good for us. So we can face the trials and terrors of this life with this prayer on our lips, “Lord, if it be possible, remove this pain. If it cannot be removed, then give us the power to live through it, and if we cannot live through it, then when we lose our life here, raise us to new life in the Kingdom of Heaven.” You see in everything, no matter how tragic, hopeless, or diabolical it may seem, God will bring to us His good. We do not lose. Therefore the best way for us to cope with the crises in our lives is to wait on God and to trust God no matter what happens. Why? Because God does not lie, Jesus does not leave, and we do not lose.

So…

Back in April of 1963, the USS Thresher went down in the North Atlantic with 129 crew members aboard. During the tense period when it was not known whether the crew was dead or alive, the wife of the captain made this courageous statement, “I have confidence in my husband, in his knowledge and skills, and in his sense of responsibility toward his crew. I pray for him and all the crew members, but even if the worst is true, God is still God of the earth, and the sky, and the sea.” What a powerful witness to the sovereignty of God. Dear friends, when you find yourself in one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, or when you find yourselves in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life, just remember …

God is still God of the earth, and the sky, and the sea.

Amen and Amen

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