A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those days. I'm not really sure how to describe "those days" other than "those days." Work was exhausting - filled with tiring conversations, and overwhelming list of things to do, and not much accomplished at the end of the day. Coming home, I knew my wife's day was even worse - filled with tiring toddlers, a house that reminds her of a never ending to do list, and waiting for me to arrive to give her some sense of rest. And on top of that she was fighting a migraine - which means trying to get naps in between nausea and the chaos of two toddlers wreaking havoc on the house.
That kind of day.
When I opened the garage door, the two kids who spent the day giving my wife anything but peace and quiet welcomed me with shouts of joy - shouts which are heart-warming to me but not likely pleasant for my wife's migraine.
I walked into the family room and got my first glimpse of their destruction. It was like a bomb went off. My wife sat on the couch feeling like a bomb went off in her head waiting for me to give her a break. I immediately looked around and thought, "How in the world am I going to clean all this up?"
And then it happened.
My kids started to dance around singing, "God is great! God is great!"
Seriously. I can't make this stuff up. The last thing I wanted to do was dance and sing about the greatness of God. If anything, I was ready to ask God to get me through the rest of the night. But my kids in that moment decided it was time to dance through the mess and shout, "God is great!"
Post-impromptu-worship-dancing, things continued as before. My wife finally had an opportunity to get some peace and quiet... at least as much as I could make possible. I fed the kids. I tried to make sense of the dreaded post-Christmas bills. Emmy vomited her dinner back up after spinning one too many times.
Some days you can just feel weight of the mess. Of course, I'm not talking about physical messes, but the chaos and the burdens of life that weigh on us. It's tiring. It's frustrating. Whether the mess in your work, your home, your family - the mess makes the days long. Relative to the big problems, like an illness or death, it's minimal, but the struggle is real.
I wonder if my kids noticed the mess.
They certainly noticed the toys all over when Eli suggested, "Great job cleaning daddy." And both of my kids could tell Jessica had a migraine; you could even sense in their craziness that the mess was getting to them. They just wanted to run and laugh and play with daddy.
But who sings, "God is great," in the midst of the mess?
Maybe it's only a child that can dance and sing God is great when everything is a mess. Maybe it's only a toddler that can have joy in the midst of the mess. Maybe it's only a childlike faith that can find God hidden in the chaos, confusion, and exhaustion.
Martin Luther called this the hiddenness of God. He wrote, "He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering.” God is hidden in the messes of life. Instead of simply looking for God in the answered prayer - the promotion, the clean bill of health, or the new baby - we also find God in the struggle. In the hurts and the pains, Jesus is at work. It's in the mess that God meets us. Jesus isn't waiting for us to get out of the mess, he's meeting us in the midst of it. The cross signals the arrival of Jesus in the mess. @@The cross isn't about a life free from the mess, it's about Jesus meeting us in ours.@@
Whether the ordinary, everyday struggles or the unbearable, life-altering struggles - Jesus is at work in the mess. In the everyday - a bad day at work, tiring toddlers, or a pile of bills - Jesus is hidden in the mess. And in the suffering - the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, or the betrayal of a friend - Jesus is hidden and at work in the mess.
The Psalmist understands this when he writes, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" The Psalmist struggles in a way that leads him to ask God, "Where are you?" It's the soul struggle that makes him cry out, ready for God to show up and do something. Yet moments later this same Psalmist also proclaims, "But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing | to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 31:1, 5-6) He doesn't indicate that the struggle is gone, but he seems to trust God in the midst of it.
Maybe my kids accept the mess and embrace God in it. Maybe my kids can see through the mess and see what was hidden to me. Maybe my kids realize whatever the mess, whatever the pain, and whatever the chaos, "God is great." Jesus came into the mess of this world - he embraced the pain, he leaned into the suffering, and he gave of himself for us. And because of that, I can say God is great even on the days when it doesn't feel like it.