Summary: The word "while" alerts us to the sources of our frustration: weakness, pride, and broken relationships. But God in the crucified Christ has an answer to each of these issues.
Why are so many people so unhappy?
Why is it that there are so many people with so much ability and with so many resources, but they still feel profoundly unhappy and frustrated?
A great many people do, you know. Some of them show it in the obvious ways; some of them are angry and even dangerous because they are, ill housed, ill fed, and ill clad. It’s pretty easy to see why they would be unhappy and frustrated.
But this deep discontent, this frustration knows no boundaries of class or education or wealth. By now we know that we can’t be fooled by the plastic images we see on TV. By now we know that a good many of the glittering public personalities are embroiled in lawsuits, their marriages are breaking up. Some are into drugs because they want to escape their real lives, and some lie on psychiatrists’ couches for endless hours, because they want to discover their real lives!
Where does this unhappiness come from? How do you interpret all this frustration? And what is its remedy? Who has a cure?
The apostle Paul gives us a very pointed description of the human dilemma in the Roman letter. In just a few brief words he puts labels on some of the frustrations we feel. If you listen carefully while I read, and you listen especially for the word "while", you’ll identify the levels of our frustration.
Let me highlight those three "whiles", those three levels of frustration: "While we were still weak", "while we still were sinners", and "while we were enemies". Remember those three key words: weak, sinners, and enemies.
And then let me highlight God’s response. How much does God care about us? Enough to die for us. "While we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly" "While we still were sinners, Christ died for us" And "while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son."
To get you into thinking about this, I have a parable brought to you out of my basement. I have a plumbing parable that will teach you about these levels of human frustration.
About three or four weeks ago I was cleaning something very dirty and greasy, and I was doing it in our basement laundry sink. The next time somebody tried to do a load of laundry, we had a minor flood in the basement, because the sink drain had stopped up. Well, I tried the usual remedies. I waited to see if it would correct itself, I poured in some Drano. But to no avail.
And so I dismantled the sink trap and got my plumber’s snake and went to work. With enough wiggling and jiggling I think I got that snake in about 12 or 15 feet before I hit the problem, and with some twisting and turning, I brought out some of the gunk. I thought I had accomplished my goal.
But a test proved otherwise. This time instead of water backing up in the laundry sink, it began to bubble up out of the floor drain, along with slimy, smelly yuck. The truth is that I wasn’t strong enough and my equipment wasn’t powerful enough to bring all the plug out. Frustration because of weakness.
So next I did what every red-blooded American male would do. I ignored the problem and went on. I let it sit there. That’s what you do if you are a man. You are certainly not going to ask for help! Why that would be almost as bad as asking somebody for directions when you are lost! It just isn’t done! So I ignored the problem. I had no particular game plan, except to hook up a garden hose so that we could send the washing machine water out the back door and put soap bubbles into the rose bushes. Who knows? Soap might be good for roses!
Now at this point, do you see the label for my frustration? What was I experiencing now? At first weakness, but now pride. I couldn’t get done what I wanted to get done because foolish pride wouldn’t let me ask for help.
Well, it all came to a head this past Monday. When my daughter phoned and said, "I want to bring over some laundry, what’s the situation?", that was bad enough. When my son came home and said, "Do we have a drain yet?", that was hard to take. But when my wife said, "I want that taken care of and I want it done today" … well, that was the end of the line!
Why? Because what had started out as a nuisance, and I just didn’t quite have the strength to take care of it ... and what had moved on to be a badge of pride … now had become a disruption of relationships! Suddenly the issue wasn’t plumbing anymore; now it was how family members felt about me! Now it was feelings! And that really got my attention!