A country classic of yesteryear begins with the somewhat startling lines,“Someday when things are good, I’m gonna leave you. I can’t seem to leave when things are bad.” Whew! What a haunting admission that is! But those particular lines are the recurring theme in Merle Haggard’s thirty-first number one hit. And I suppose if I had to make a choice, I would have to say Merle Haggard is my favorite Country and Western singer; but only because of his music—certainly not because of his personal life,. A closer look would reveal that those lines are also apparently the recurring theme of his real life. As with many people living under the bright lights of the entertainment world, Haggard’s love life can only be described as wishy-washy. He has been married five times. Whew!
Ironically, “Someday…” wasn’t the first ballad related to his love life. Several of his other songs would seem to indicate that his up and down love life has been nothing short of a train wreck. For instance, another such song, “Today I Started Loving You Again” was co-written with his second wife, Bonnie Owens, who was the former wife of Buck Owens. Haggard readily acknowledges that song was inspired by a sudden burst of special feelings he had for Bonnie while they were touring together. During their marriage she also helped care for Haggard’s children from his first wife, and was then Leona Williams’ maid of honor in Haggard’s third marriage. Really! Leona had also joined Haggard’s road band in the mid-1970s, and soon became his love du jour, supplanting Bonnie. Oddly enough, Leona wrote two of Merle’s No.1 hits, “Someday when things are good”, and “You Take Me For Granted”, and charted yet another duet with Haggard titled “We’re Strangers Again”, Evidently, things became good enough for him to leave her, so he and Leona became ‘strangers again’ after a seemingly (up and down) five year marriage.
Sadly, such ‘on again–off again’ love affairs as those are not limited to couples spot-lighted in various pop culture media. They are not even limited to the populace in general. The lyrics of ‘Some day…’, seem to strike a nerve with a number of different people in a number of different ways.. Would you believe that affairs such as those actually exist between Christ and His bride. Seriously, they do! But, rest assured, ‘up and down’ feelings between Christ and His bride never originate with Him—NO SIR EE! Never ever! “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NASB).”
So, if those wishy-washy feelings never, ever originate with Him, then the onus is obviously on us. We’re the culprits. We’re the ‘wishy-washy’ ones in our relationships with Jesus. Perhaps, unwittingly, we too could sing, “I can’t seem to leave when things are bad.” Maybe it’s just human nature, but that’s the sad truth. Many, many of us tend to really draw close to God only when ‘things are bad’. We can’t seem to leave Him when life is dealing us some knock out punches. When things are bad, we tend to follow Him around like little puppy dogs, never letting Him get out of our sight. Our prayer life becomes much more urgent, we become more dependent on Him; we become much more faithful and dedicated Him. He becomes our ‘BFF’. He is our only refuge during the storms of life. On any given Sunday, our churches are filled with people who are hurting. As we look up and down along our rows of pews, we can be reasonably sure that at least some on nearly every row are there because they are enduring stresses in their lives. They’re searching for answers and/or some degree of solace. They are crying out for help. A common phrase we hear during such times is, “I can’t imagine how people go through times like these without God!” I know; I have uttered those very words on numerous occasions.
Now, backing up to the beginning phrase in that poignant equation, “Some day when things are good, I’m gonna leave you”. Sadly that phrase is also just as true regarding our relationship with Jesus as is the second phrase just discussed. It’s in the good times that we tend to stray away. In the good times it’s easy to loose sight of Him. When all is well—when we have our health, and happy, stable relationships; when we have steady jobs with enough discretionary income left over to travel and enjoy our toys, we tend to wander away. When ‘Life is good!’, we seem to have no need for Him. If we are not careful, our careers and steady paychecks unwittingly become our ‘gods’. It’s easy to forget that He is still the One who is putting the roof over our heads and food on our tables. we tend to forget that it is still God who is supplying all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). We tend to forget that He is the God of our mountains just as surely as He is the God of our valleys.
It should also be noted here that God is certainly not oblivious of our ‘up and down’ nature. He has emotions too. In Exodus 20:5 we read, “for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God (KJV).” That emotional declaration is repeated 5 times in ensuing chapters. He obviously wanted to make sure that got the point! We get an up close and personal picture of God’s hurt feelings when things are going so good in our lives that we loose sight of Him—when our attention turns to other ‘gods’ in our lives. In the 2nd chapter of Revelation we read, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: …I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first (verses1,4 ESV).” Not good!
I am reminded of a somewhat humorous little story that illustrates our relationship with God. A young lad was climbing up on the tin roof of a barn in direct disobedience to to his parents. Sure enough he began sliding off, facing serious injury plus the wrath of his dad. Obviously, in situations such as that, God became his very best friend. It was prayer time—serious prayer time. “Please God, please help me! Don’t let me fall!” And, God miraculously answered his prayers by catching his pants on a perfectly positioned nail. With that, the little boy ended his prayer, “Never mind, Lord, I hung on a nail…” thus, like many of us, giving all the credit to the nail rather than to God.
And once again, I must remind us that if we are not careful, we too might start thinking we are self made made successes, not giving the credit to our loving Lord. That’s easy to do! I can attest to that truth from my own personal experiences.