As a Christian, I felt like I was taught to always look on the bright side – to be positive. I think other Christians have been conditioned the same way. So when bad things happen we put on a smile and remember what our parents told us, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” (Or, if you had less conservative parents, maybe you heard the same illustration but with Chicken Salad.) The only thing that’s different in a Christian context is that we ask Jesus for help in doing this. Here’s the issue. I don’t see too many stories in the Bible that reflect this principle. I actually can’t think of any. Lot’s of people in Scripture have jacked-up things happen to them, but God’s lesson wasn’t just, “turn that frown upside-down.” No, God does something incredible. He doesn’t always do something right away. But he always does something cool. He does the totally unexpected.
For instance, Joseph. He’s just a kid when he’s sold into slavery by his psychopathic older brothers. Then, he does the right thing by not ‘getting down’ with his boss’ wife. She lies and has him thrown into prison. None of this was Joseph’s fault. Joseph didn’t turn lemons into lemonade. He was stuck in a Middle East prison. God turned lemons into chicken salad. Joseph became like the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet at the time. Whoa!
Or what about Ruth. She gets married to this nice little Jewish boy. His whole family moves to her country of Moab (think moving from L.A. to Guatemala). But then her husband dies. Her mother-in-law needs someone to take care of her, so she decides to move back to her hometown near Jerusalem. Ruth wanted to go with her to take care of her. The only “job” she could get was picking up leftover wheat in a field, after the pickers got all the good stuff. Ruth didn’t turn lemons into lemonade. She was a poor widow taking the scraps from migrant workers. God turned lemons into chicken salad. Ruth became the wife of a rich, unmarried relative of her husband, the same guy that owned the field she was picking. Oh, and by the way, she was the great-grandmother of King David. Boom!
Then there’s Elijah. He’s one of the few good guys left in the northern part of Israel. There’s a full on drought, no matter how much he prays God doesn’t send the rain, birds have to bring him what little food there is to eat, the King is trying to kill him, and almost no one believes in God anymore. So Elijah challenges all the prophets of the false gods to meet him on top of a mountain. Elijah is left with nowhere to hide and will surely be killed after whatever sermon he delivers. He actually proposes a contest. Pray to your god and Elijah will pray to his God and let’s see who catches the alter on fire. The prophets of the made-up gods prayed and screamed and cut themselves in order to get a little spark. Nothing happened. Elijah had his alter soaked in water, calmly prayed for God to bring the heat, and a giant pillar of fire came down from heaven and consumed the entire alter. Elijah didn’t try to turn lemons into lemonade. Elijah didn’t help God make the fire. He didn’t assist or aid or do what he could. Elijah stood back and watched God turn lemons into spicy chicken salad. He brought down fire that day, and when the King and Queen stilled tried to kill Elijah, God sent down chariots from heaven to give Elijah an early premiere of eternity in heaven. Dang!
Do I even need to bring up Daniel? He was put into slavery as a young boy. He got selected to work in the palace, which is better than most places to be a slave I guess. But the King ended up liking him so much that he was seeking his counsel more and more often. Which just ticked off the royal advisors. So they kind of tricked the King into outlawing prayer to anyone other than him, knowing that Daniel prayed to his God every day. So sure enough, Daniel prays just like he had every day knowing that he’d be arrested and thrown in a pit full of hungry lions. So tell me how Daniel turned lemons into lemonade? Did he fasten weapons from the sharpened bones of previously digested lawbreakers? No. God turned lemons into chicken salad and shut the mouths of the lions. The royal advisors became the Fancy Feast the next day. Whoo!
Then we can just case and point this with Jesus. Jesus never sinned. Jesus healed a bunch of people. Jesus was the best preacher anyone ever heard. In the history of the world, the greatest person who ever lived was killed for blasphemy because he claimed to be the one and only Son of God. (Incidentally, that was the truth.) So Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion, the worst of all deaths. Jesus hung on a cross for hours and hours, and no one came to His rescue. Jesus controlled the universe and could have called down Superman, Thor, or any other characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes to free him and punish his enemies, but that was not God’s plan or purpose. Jesus came to die for the sins of the world. God is not in the business of turning lemons into lemonade, but turning lemons into chicken salad. He doesn’t do the improbable, He does the impossible. Jesus died on that cross, but He rose from the dead beating sin and beating death! Drop the mic!