Most days are average to good days, where optimistic social media posts with sunny bible verses feel appropriate and encouraging. Some days are hard days, where the passages about struggle and pressing on toward a better future feel more relevant. Then there are the black hole days. The days when you can’t see past the pain. The nights when your fear feels so real that you could reach out and touch it. In times like these, trite platitudes fall short. The Bible verses that used to bring comfort feel, at best, distant and irrelevant, at worst, obtuse and offensive. Where can we turn for hope on these days?
Enter the awkward uncles.
We love the Psalms that fit neatly on a coffee mug with a picture of a deer, but what about the ones where the author is calling down bloody judgment on his enemies? Or calling into doubt whether or not God has any idea what’s going on in the world? In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah sounds like the last guy you’d ever invite to your church to speak. What a drag! The author of Ecclesiastes spends 99% of his book raging against the injustice and unfairness of life. Descending further and further into hopeless despair only to pull out of the nosedive just inches from the ground, with a somewhat hopeful sentence right at the end. What about Job, who starts out strong but then goes on to question God’s judgment, compassion, and justice for chapter after chapter… after chapter… after chapter?
These are the awkward uncles of the Bible. The ones that everyone hates to have over to family dinners because they don’t know how to behave themselves in civil society. They show up drunk and make everyone uncomfortable by bringing up disruptive topics and making inappropriate comments.
But even the drunk uncles have their wheelhouse.
These passages, that we tend to avoid on the sunny days, resonate like nothing else in the dark ones. We find ourselves cheering on these anti-heroes as they boldly yell their questions at the painfully silent skies. We sympathize as they wonder why God has abandoned them in their desperation. We feel the heart-ache in their words and hear a familiar chord ringing in our own hearts. And, in some mysterious way, the passages, that used to alienate us, become emissaries carrying the message we most need to hear… we’re not alone.
You’re not alone.
You’re not the only one to feel this way.
You’re not the only one to think those unthinkable thoughts or utter those unutterable words.
How does God feel about all of this? Well, these stories weren’t buried. They weren’t hidden away in the secret vaults. They were preserved in the most sacred collection of books and letters ever assembled. A collection God has claimed as his own. He has basically hung them on his refrigerator like a proud parent.
Because life isn’t always sunny.
If the Bible was chock-full of sugary optimism it would never ring true in a world that calls out a much broader range of emotions. God is comfortable with your emotions and all that comes with them. He welcomes your rogue thoughts and feelings just as much as he does your sweet and endearing ones. He’s even offered you some examples.
So, here’s to the awkward uncles. It’s your time to shine…or shade. Whatever it is you do best.
[Disclaimer – I should note that my uncles are not awkward or drunk, at least I don’t think they are. It’s still morning as I write this. I mean no offense to uncles, in general. This is actually not specifically about uncles. It could be a cousin, brother, step-dad, maybe even an aunt. You know, it’s just short-hand for a weird family member.]