Fortune cookies. Like most folks, I’m quite willing to pop one open and chow down on it at the end of a Chinese sort of meal.
Like most folks, I look at the little piece of paper inside.
Like most folks, except for the kind of people who actually pay “palm readers” and “psychics” as an alternative to stuffing their money down a toilet and taking a chance with plumbing bills, I usually pay no attention at all to the poorly worded little messages inside. But . . .
I still remember one I pulled out years ago that would quickly catch anybody’s attention, kick-start some introspection, start a belly laugh, or make a person pack and leave town: “That which you thought was secret is known by all.” Whoever wrote that one was in a weird mood.
Just the other day, I cracked open a fortune cookie and read this: “You will have good luck and overcome many hardships.”
Hmm. Just how many hardships can a really lucky person bump into, overcome, and still be considered a very lucky person?
Being a pastor, I tend to mull over the theological implications of everything from a “good morning” to, yes, even fortune cookie “wisdom.”
“You will have good luck . . .” Well, okay. I like “good” much better than “bad.”
But a friend and mentor, Eddy Ketchersid, taught me something years ago. A ministry intern, I did some simple task at the church and spouted, “Well, I had good luc
Eddy smiled, “It might have been a blessing and not luck.” Christians should use the word “luck” sparingly, if at all; most of what the world chalks up to “luck” are blessings from the hand of God, better filed under “God’s love” than “good luck.”
But the cookie’s words went on: You lucky person, you! You’ll “overcome many hardships.”
I don’t like hardships. It just takes a windy, brown, dusty day to make me surly, and on days when I’m dealing with, or my family is facing, a certifiable “hardship,” I’m very disappointing.
Like almost all of our society and most fat, lazy, and selfish western Christianity (which holds an utterly inadequate view of suffering), I tend to equate the most blessed life with the life that endures the least pain. I know not to trust most of them, but I’m tempted to buy the message of TV preachers who pawn off a “magical” view of Christianity as “self-help” where you dump all the right ingredients, “principles,” into the pot, and a life of health and wealth and blessing pops out.
Oh, we like our witch doctors. We want lives of unbroken blessing. Heaven here. Never mind that such an approach forgets about Christ’s cross, focuses on us and not God, and is at heart cruel, implying that if you suffer, you just didn’t cook the recipe right.
But change a few of the cookie’s words, and suddenly it speaks profound truth to God’s people: “You will have great blessing and overcome many hardships.” Yes, both. Not because of luck. Because of your Father.
The Apostle Paul said it like this: In “all these things [hardships] we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org