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Summary: Loving God when life is easy is no challenge. Loving God when life is horrible - that's a challenge that God equips us for.

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Sermon for Outdoor Service – “Loving God When Life is Hard” – August 24, 2014

No matter where we were to find ourselves at any one moment on this planet, we would discover that we have a great many things in common with every other human there.

We all need to eat, sleep, be clothed - there’s a bunch of really basic things all of us need.

But we also have experiences, or types of experiences in common. We laugh, we cry, we have high points and we have low points. We suffer. We are wounded, We recover. We are stronger for it.

We have Christian brothers and sisters across this globe. We share a common humanity and a common dignity with people of all other faiths and people of no faith.

Whether or not we acknowledge it, we are made in the image and likeness of God, and because of that we all have inherent dignity, value and we have a Creator God who loves us with an everlasting love.

These are among the things that we have in common with every other person on this planet. And there’s a lot of us. 7.162 billion according to the United States Census Bureau

But you don’t have to read much past the front page on the newspaper of the home page of an online news source to hear about tragedies. To hear about suffering.

In the past couple of weeks Robin Williams committed suicide. ISIS, or the Islamic State, a radical fundamentalist group with a strange bloodlust has hunted Christians and others who were of different faiths, first giving them the option to convert by force, to pay a heretic tax, or to be killed.

That same group executed an American journalist a few days ago. You’d think we were in the middle ages. One man beheads another man. Unbelievable.

There is such suffering and hardship on a global scale. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said recently “the world is a mess.” She’s not wrong.

So it’s all very disconcerting. It feels like there’s a lot more unknown than known both about what’s happening now in the world and what’s coming in the future.

And in our own lives, life is hard. Barbara and I just got back from having some time away on vacation. 3 weeks in to our holidays we get a call saying that George Hardy, our brother-in-law, Barbara’s sister’s husband, passed away.

He had just come through surgery, things were looking great, all his vital signs were good. And 4 days later, still in the hospital, he just died. We don’t really know why.

Leaving the hospital a few hours after George died, Barb’s sister Erika, now a widow, is being driven home by her other sister, Sylvia, with 2 other family members in the car. Another car, a truck actually, runs a red light and smashes into them, totalling their car.

But for a micro-second when Sylvia saw the other car zooming through the intersection out of the corner of her eye and turned her car slightly, avoiding being T’d by the offending car...but for that millisecond, that day would have been grief compounded upon grief.

They’re ok. Tender but ok. Bruised speen. Mild concussion. Shock. Squeaky joints. But they’re ok.

[Pause]

In our own lives, life is hard. Life can sometimes pull no punches. Struggle and difficulty can weigh us down like nothing else.

What do we do? Where do we go? When one of the funniest men who has ever lived chooses to end it all. When terrorists threaten and kill. When life has all the joy sucked out of it [make vacuum noise], what are we, really, to do?

I suppose throwing up our hands is an option. Becoming cynical and fearful is an option. Hunkering down and hiding away from life through drugs or booze or sex or whatever - those are options.

But is there a better way? I think...I’m of the opinion, the conviction, that there is...a MUCH better way.

Our Scripture today directs us to another path, to another set of responses. The wisdom of the Word of God opens doors and, if we’re willing, lights our path to a very different place than despair.

It begins by pointing out that the end goal, the final purpose of all this - the good, the bad and the ugly of life - is the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Freedom and glory. Freedom and glory. When you think of it, the opposite of freedom and glory is...what? Captivity and shame, I think. That’s the bad news.

The good news, or part of the good news, is that our Creator’s purpose for us, for our lives, for our world, is a good one.

Far from wishing captivity and shame upon us, God has created us for liberty - responsible liberty of course - not the freedom to be selfish, and He’s created us for glory.

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