It will be 11 years on January 25th since my father passed away. Dad, you are dearly missed. You planted seeds into my life many years ago that now are starting to come fully into fruition. You were a true man of God with a servant’s heart. Your greatest saying, “Every day is a gift, so you better make the most of it,” is something I will never forget and try to live my life by.
In honor of my father’s 11th year since he has passed and went to be with the Lord, I wanted to share one of his most famous sermons, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” This sermon along with many others can be found in the book I put together to honor my father called, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: The Inspiring Life Story and Words of Hope from a Palestinian Christian Pastor.
Enjoy these words of inspiration and hope from my dad.
Troy Ismir, MS
Personal Trainer and Health Coach
I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN
By Pastor Samih A. Ismir
“I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
along with the sunshine
there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes”
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan.” Romans 8:28
Lord Jesus when the skies grow dark in our lives, help us to come to you not for a pill, but for your abiding and enduring love, for your unparalleled promise that you are with us always.
One of Lynn Anderson’s greatest hits from the 70’s was “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” This popular song put into expression a well-known fact, it stated a profound truth, into each life some rain will fall. That is the way life is.
Who of us hasn’t seen the skies of our existence grow dark? Who hasn’t felt the dark shadows take from our presence a loved one? Who hasn’t felt the ugliness of an incurable disease? Who hasn’t feared an unknown future?
But what do the skies really tell us when they grow dark? The first thing we learn when the skies grow dark is that problems are a part of every person’s experience. Here is a great hearted woman who for more than 50 years shared in the life of her frail and aging husband where now she sits in a lonely hospital room and watches him slowly slip away.
Here is a dedicated and loving father and husband who was with his family enjoying Father’s Day when a man who had too much to drink slammed into their car and in a matter of seconds his wife’s life was snuffed out leaving all of us with the everlasting question, why?
Here is a high school girl who gives birth to a child out of wedlock. Fiercely she clings to the child yet deep within her grows the haunting knowledge she can’t provide the financial security or the emotional health the little fellow needs. What should she do?
Here is a young executive who had worked hard to arrive at his present position within his company but due to a merger and reorganization he is forced out of a job. All of his hopes, plans and dreams burst like a bubble upon the surface of his life.
Here is a young mother of three lovely children who goes to the doctor for a routine checkup only to discover that she has a rampaging malignancy. I could go on.
I could go on to point to the homes going into foreclosure, to the down economy. To the crimes committed daily. To the winds of pain of loss and grief which come whipping into our daily lives. But why go on? You and I know from personal experience that there are times in our lives when the sky grows dark. There are times in our lives when the rain falls. I never promised you a rose garden.
But there is more to life than dark skies, tragedies, heart aches and disappointments. There is the beauty of the sunset and the evening stars. People thrill at hearing great music, poetry and drama. There is the infant’s first awkward step, the adolescent’s first fumbling kiss, and the teenager’s first car. There is the utterly indescribable impact of a parent’s life as they look into the eyes of their first born child.
There is more to life than dark skies, there is more to life than tragedy, and there is more to life than rain. There is loveliness and joy, health and contentment, and there is richness and splendor.
The second thing we learn when the skies grow dark is that how you and I deal with our problems makes a difference. It is not difficult to accept life when everything is going well. When our health is in good shape, when we win the game, when we get a promotion at our job. We all feel like singing everything is going my way. But it is a totally different story when we lose the game, when we are forced out of a job, when our health is in shambles. Then what you and I do is important. The fact that dark skies come into our lives is relatively unimportant. What you and I do when those skies get dark is supremely important.
One person will break down, literally break down. Another person will become bitter, cynical, and hostile and infect his surroundings with his own misery. And then there are those among us who become angriest even at God as they shake their fist at God and say what kind of God are you? I have had enough.
Fortunately for all of us, there are those who refuse to break down. There are those who refuse to become bitter, hostile and angry. Instead they turn inward. They turn to their inner resources of faith and courage. The great novelist, Albert Camus once wrote, “In the midst of winter I suddenly discovered an invincible summer within.” It is this invincible summer within that you and I must turn when our skies grow dark.
Nadeem was a high school classmate of mine. He and his family lived down the street from us in the city of Jerusalem. In 1948, the war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. One night we heard the drone of airplanes. Bullets and bombs were flying all around us. I remember hiding under a table for safety and security. The next morning when I got up and went outside I could see about an inch of grey powder from the shelling that took place. I found out at the end of our street where Nadeem and his family lived their house was destroyed. His entire family was killed, but Nadeem’s life was spared. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors had to amputate his arm and leg. For several months he was in and out of hospitals. He was able to go on as he drew upon inner resources of faith and courage. He finished high school with high honors.
I came to the United States for my education. He went to the American University in Beirut, Lebanon to finish his education. He majored in teaching and education. I remember when I came back to the Holy Land I looked him up. I found out he had been spending his time teaching in a refugee school in the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem and that same year he had received the honor of being the teacher of the year. There is a man who had discovered an invincible summer within.
Dr. Tom Dooley was a great missionary who established missionary hospitals in Laos. He died at the age of 34 a young man. In 1959 doctors operated on him for chest cancer and the doctors at that time told him he had a 50/50 chance to live out the year. How would you react? Listen to what Dr. Dooley wrote. “I knew I wasn’t going to abandon what I think is the correct thing to do in life simply because of shadows on a page nor was I going to quit this living loving passion which I have for life simply because of a statistic. There is still much work to do. I must continue to do this work as long as God permits me time.” Cruel circumstances did not thrust Dr. Dooley’s back against the wall rather with the hearty inspiration which comes with his kind of greatness he was able to draw upon inner resources of faith and courage and rise above the dark clouds of his life.
You may forget everything that I have said so far, but I do hope and pray that you will never forget the powerful fact that the heart of our Christian faith is the insistence that there is not a situation beyond despair, no pain so raw, no fear so stark as to frustrate the gracious purposes of God and that all things work for good for those who love Him.
It is in God’s love and our response to that love that you and I discover the power to overcome. The great Apostle Paul expressed it this way. Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall fear or tribulation or nakedness or peril or sword? He emphatically answers no, for we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I am confident that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. Not because God provides us with a pill, rather because he provides us with powerful promises. Come to me you who are weary, who are troubled, who are burdened, who are experiencing dark clouds and rain and I will give you rest. This is where our faith helps us to overcome. When I say faith, I don’t mean a shallow kind of faith that promises an easy way out of every predicament, I don’t mean a faith that is a rabbits foot or an escape hatch, rather I mean a faith that is rooted in God’s love and promises to be with us at all times.
I had once talked to a man who had lived through the Great Depression and it must have been a terrible time for many people. This father told me when he was a little boy his family didn’t have two nickels to rub together. He had to walk to school every day for two miles through rain and snow. He had to work when he was a young boy to help the family. But one thing he said he could tell his son was that he wouldn’t have to go through what he went through. I felt sorry for that man. I felt sorry because he was going to deprive his son the opportunity to grow in his faith. It is when things get tough, that God is able to make something out of us. Faith doesn’t want us to remain children all of our lives, pampering us with the things we want and the things we need. Rather faith makes us strong as we stand firm on our own two feet, placing our hand in the hand of the living God who sits by you today and goes with you wherever you go. That same God says to each one of us, come unto me, you who are weary and burdened I will give you rest.
I am not going to tell you that life is easy and that our problems are easily solved. If I did that you would know I am out of touch with reality. You and I have at one time or another seen the skies of our existence grow dark. We have felt the dark shadows of death take from our presence a loved one. We have felt the ugliness of a dreadful disease. We have gone through the trials of a divorce. We have endured a broken heart. We have feared an unknown future. We have had insurmountable debt. We have lost a job at the most inopportune time. We have dealt with seasons of loneliness and despair. God never promised us a rose garden, but take heart because we have a great God, a God who promises us to be with us always and a God who says to each one of us, be strong and have great courage.