A Greater Joy

There will be times of great sadness in your life. There will be times so heartbreaking you wonder how you’ll ever get through.

I truly believe that God never gives us all the details about what’s coming up in our lives because that would completely overwhelm and destroy us.

I do believe that God does sometimes give us more than we can handle– in our own strength– so that we can find out that He is completely reliable and dependable to carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.

Most of all, I believe that beyond every great sadness is an even greater joy that awaits. There is one final and ultimate joy that awaits every believer, one that can and will never be taken away.

Above all, God is faithful through all the sadness and joy. He will not fail you.

 

Grief and Sadness


It sounds weird, but I feel like I’m grieving over my terminally ill cat, even though she’s still alive. The knowledge that she’ll soon be gone can sometimes be overwhelming and brings me to tears, and the sadness of it is always present.

Grief and sadness are exhausting. It seems that it takes almost superhuman energy to function on a normal level when you’re especially sad.

Also, I’ve noticed that grief makes me feel weak and small. I don’t want to adult. I just want someone to hold me and tell me that everything will magically be alright, like I’m still 9-years old.

I know everything will not be alright. I still pray for a miracle for my Lucy and will up until the last possible moment, but I’m also prepared (as much as you can be) for the worst when I have to say my final goodbyes.

Even in the midst of all the sorrow, there have still been some beautiful moments that I will cling to after the sadness passes. I will remember the way she still got in my lap, even though she was weak and sick. I will remember how she still wanted to be near me.

I cling to the promise of God that grief lasts for just a night, but joy comes in the morning. Joy is always on the other side of grief for those who see with eyes of faith.

Right now, I’m hanging on and believing in spite of everything I’m feeling. It’s been a beautiful and wonderful 17 years that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I still believe with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sorrow will not have the last word in this or any other story.

Sadness and Joy

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life).

It seems like lately there is so much sadness. So many people I know are grieving over loved ones who have passed away. So many are heartsick over those they love who have received bad news from the doctor in the form of a cancer diagnosis. So many who see those close to them slipping away from Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia.

The sadness can feel overwhelming at times.

But there’s joy, too.

It can be hard to find, like trying to catch a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, rainy day, but it’s there.

Joy is knowing that God can take the worst imaginable circumstances and transform them into the best possible outcome. He can truly work all things together for good, including grief and loss.

Jesus endured willingly all the shame and sorrow of the cross for the joy set before Him. So you and I can endure the seemingly unendurable because we know that in the end, death and sadness and loss and pain will not have the last word.

Joy will. Love will. God will.

 

So Much Sadness

I found out today that a friend had to tell her son that his new puppy had died tragically. As I read the words, it was almost like someone punched me in the gut.

There’s so much sadness lately in the world. Too many people are having to say goodbye to loved ones, whether people or pets. Too many parents are having to bury their children. Too many children are watching their parents grow old and feeble.

Even the best moments are tinged with regret and sadness. It’s almost as if there was a longing inside of us that nothing in this world could satisfy. Many places and things and experiences come close but none of them quite fulfill the inner hunger.

The beauty of the gospel is that sadness is temporary. For us who believe, mourning may last for a night, but joy does come in the morning. We may go out weeping, but we will come back rejoicing.

There’s a lot of tragedy and evil in the world that I do not understand. I know that humanity and creation are fallen and the effects of that fall can be felt everywhere. What we see and hear and touch is not what was meant to be and is not what truly is or what will be.

That doesn’t discount the sadness, which at times is too deep for words and sometimes too deep for tears. The ultimate  hope of all who believe is that Jesus and the hope of the resurrection mean that sadness, loss, and death do not have the final word.

There’s nothing beautiful and noble that won’t be resurrected in the age to come and there’s no sorrow that can’t be redeemed and transformed into something glorious.

The hope of the gospel is that joy is victor and that Jesus has already overcome.

 

Return to Randomness

This is what I do when I can’t think of anything productive to write about. I start typing and let the words fall where they may.

I’m thinking a lot about what it means to live gratefully. It’s harder than it sounds. It’s definitely counter-cultural when every other ad tells you that you need to be more, do more, buy more, invest more, and try harder in order to be happy. It’s funny how each of the ads has a different idea about what will make you whole and complete.

I’m thinking still about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. He/she may look and act different, but those old fears and hang-ups are still there. You can’t change yourself from the outside in– it’s the other way around. I do hope he/she finds true peace and fulfillment, but I wonder what will happen when all the hoopla dies down and they turn off the cameras.

True peace comes from knowing Jesus and reclining fully on everything He is– everything He said and did and promised– and believing in that completely. Not minus anything and not plus anything else.

The key to fulfillment (as I am learning) is to see your life as a gift and every adversity as a tool to chisel you into something better. That’s what truly transforms you. Plus, it costs a whole lot less than an operation.

I know people are struggling with issues that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I can look at a person’s profile picture on Facebook and see only a smiling face and not all the secret baggage, hurt, and pain that person bears each and every day.

I still believe that Jesus is in control and that He will set all things right one day soon. I still believe that nothing is impossible for God and it is never too late to become who you might have always been.

On top of all that, I’m starting to get interested in Major League Baseball again. According to Back to the Future Part II, the Chicago Cubs are supposed to win the World Series this year. Also, those day-glo hoverboards should start showing up just about any day now.

That’s all the randomness I can muster up for one night. I’ll see you again tomorrow with something more organized and normal.

 

Looking for the Pause Button

Sometimes, I wish life had a remote control, like in that Adam Sandler movie where he fast-forwards through the boring parts of his life.

Only I wouldn’t be looking for the fast-forward button. I’d want to pause my life.

Today, I went to the funeral of a friend’s dad. I hadn’t seen or talked to him in a long time, but I remember him as being a quiet, gentle man who loved his God and his family and who also happened to own the first PC that I had ever seen.

I saw him lying in the coffin, looking like a perfect wax replica of a person. Then I remembered that I was looking not at the man, but at the shell. The moment he breathed his last he was instantly in the presence of Jesus, fully alive and healthy and happy.

I heard where two Briarcrest students who were set to embark on their senior year of high school died Friday at the hands of a drunk driver who had four DUIs in the last five years.

There’s too much sadness and loss in the world. Too many people had to say goodbye to the ones they loved, while more than that never got the chance.

I sense more than ever how precious and fleeting this life is. I understand more how important it is never to take anyone in your life for granted.

I’m thinking about the quote from the movie The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel– “There’s no present like the time.”

I recall a pastor who said that at best this life is like a clean bus station. You don’t set up a bedroom suite and move all your belongings into a Greyhound terminal, because it’s only a stop along the way toward your final destination.

This life is so brief because this is not our final destination. Heaven is. As much as I keep forgetting, as much as I want that pause button to work, I know that I can’t stop that second hand from racing clockwise toward another tomorrow.

I can only choose to live each moment fully and to be fully present to every person in every place at every moment that I’m given. I can know that in God’s economy nothing is ever wasted and the good a person does follows after them. Your legacy will far outlive you and in the end, it won’t be what you did for a living or who you knew, but who you were and what you did with what God gave you.

 

For Those Who Grieve

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace” (C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed).

C. S. Lewis wrote this after his wife passed away from cancer. It is the most brutally honest book on grief that I’ve ever read (not that I go around reading books on grief all the time).

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.’

‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!'” (Rev. 14:13, HCSB).

“I heard a voice out of Heaven, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master from now on; how blessed to die that way!’

‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they’ve done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end’ (Rev. 14:13, The Message).

 

 

Still Yet Another Good Reminder

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“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

I don’t know why I gravitated to this quote. I’m not dealing with any kind of loss or grief or even sadness, yet these words spoke deeply to me.

Maybe because I realize lately how fragile life is and how easily those we love can slip away from us, how quickly those little babies grow up and leave home, how fleeting are the days.

The most tragic remembrance in the end will be how we took so many people for granted and left words of love and gratitude unspoken. In the end we will not treasure our trophies or promotions or rewards, but the relationships that made us come alive and be better people.

So all that from a quote I stole from someone on Facebook.

Music I Heard: For All The Ones I’ve Lost

While this year for me is a happy time, it’s also brings a bit of sadness with it. The memories of those I’ve loved and lost come more alive at this time of year than at any other time. I’ve been thinking about a particular poem by Conrad Aiken that makes me think of family members whom I wish I could talk to but never will again this side of heaven:

“Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart that you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, –
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.”

The good news is that there is the other side of heaven where I WILL see all these people again. And Jesus will be there to wipe away every tear from my (and everyone else’s) eyes.

 

Joy in the Midst of Sadness

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I celebrated with the rest of the family as my niece turned 2. Finally, I can stop counting in months. I was seriously running out of fingers and toes to count on.

I loved seeing the pure unadulterated joy on her face when she saw her presents and the complete love and trust she has for her mommy and daddy and two big brothers. It did my heart good.

But I also remembered Adrian Peterson’s 2-year old son who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend. My heart hurts and I have questions I can’t answer.

Who does that to a 2-year old? For what possible reason?

I know we live in a broken world filled with broken people. Creation groans for deliverance and for everything to be made right. Too many defenseless and helpless children suffer, too many people go to bed hungry, too many marriages fall apart, and too many die way too young.

Then I remember how this story ends. I cheated and read the last page. It’s about God wiping away every tear from our eyes. It’s about a new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth where lambs lie safely next to lions, where others is no need for sun, moon, or stars because God is there.

I love what the guest pastor said. God didn’t want an only child, so He chose us to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus and become heirs with Jesus to all the promises of God.

I love this version of Romans 8:29-30: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

That’s what keeps me going in the midst of so much suffering and sadness. That’s why I can find joy in everything. Because ultimately Love does win.