When life lets us down...

Huw Williams | 07:15, Monday 19 September 2016 | Turin, Italy

There's a CD on shelf that I get down from time to time. It is called "Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong". If that combination of jazz greats doesn't pique your interest, then I imagine that the rest of the musicians at these sessions won't excite you much either - Oscar Peterson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Herb Ellis (guitar) and Buddy Rich (drums). If you're not much interested in jazz, suffice to say that to get these people in the same studio, at the same time, to make music together was a feat of aligning six of the brightest stars in the jazz firmament. It must have been the most exciting of prospects.

And how's the record? It's OK. I mean, it's certainly not bad. But it's not great. It's not the explosion of creative energy to exceed the sum of these formidable parts that one might have expected, at least not to my ears. It's fine - in places it's good - and it's not as though I don't listen to it from time to time, but it doesn't blow my socks off.

Sometimes these disappointments can leave us feeling a mild sense of anticlimax, at other times the consequences can be devastating.

There are very understandable reasons for the slightly underwhelming feel to these sessions (primarily that both Fitzgerald and Armstrong were exhausted from extensive touring going into them) but it reminds me that life is full of disappointments. Mercifully not always, but often our experience of life can serve up considerably less than we had hoped for; friends, careers, families, spouses, holidays, the best-laid plans and projects can all deliver less than they had promised (or at least less than what we thought they had promised) at times. As I reminded my congregation a few weeks ago, if I haven't disappointed them already, I probably will soon. We can even find ourselves feeling disappointed with God.

Sometimes these disappointments can leave us feeling a mild sense of anticlimax, at other times the consequences can be devastating.

And doesn't it make you wonder why? After all, God is sovereign and God is good, so why does He allow our lives to be laced with so many disappointments, small and not-so-small? Let me propose another question in an attempt to answer that. When things don't go quite as we had hoped, why is it that we feel any sense of disappointment at all? Unless we have lived extremely charmed lives, shouldn't we all by now, when facing the latest let-down, shrug our shoulders and declare that that is what we were expecting anyway? Most of us have met such people - and find that particular brand of cynical pessimism exhausting. But why? There seems to be something in-built to the human condition to expect, or at least to hope for things to be better. Are we simply incurable romantics, unrealistic dreamers in need of waking up with a bucket of cold realism? Or could it just be that we are actually made for more?

At the end of John's Revelation, God underlines his vision for the future of His people and His creation:-

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'.” (Revelation 21:1–4)

It is a passage which rarely fails to bring tears to my eyes, and more so as I get older because the more disappointments come my way, the more I find myself longing for a life which is free of them. And God understands that.

He Himself will wipe away our tears, while death and its consequences will be a thing of the past. Why? Because God will take His heavenly eraser and simply remove certain aspects of life from His new creation? Actually, there's more going on in this passage than that - it will because of the presence of Life Himself, living with His people. He says it twice lest our incredulous hearts miss it - "... and he will live with them... and God himself will be with them." - in a manner, in a fullness that we have not yet experienced. And it has always been this way, the one relationship which will never disappoint us is with or Father in heaven and the Son He loves in the love of His Spirit. And when this relationship is in place life cannot disappoint us - in the eternal sense. Adam lost it in turning from it. Christ brought it to us in coming to us and dying for us. He rose from the dead so that we might rise with Him to that life in the Spirit. And He is returning to bring us into its fullest reality.

So if life's disappointments can keep us looking forward, maybe there is gold to be found in amongst those broken pieces.

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