Yesterday we came home from the beach; from a week full of sunshine, delicious food, family, friends, and relaxation. Extra hands and help all around me, and lots of time to slip away to the beach and spend time alone with my Savior. This morning, I am back to the day to day. Dishwasher emptied, Bible opened in hands, getting ready to get the girls fed and ready for physical therapy; the noises in the background being less ocean, more neighborhood Monday scuffling.
Halfway across the world, the unthinkable occurs. Men, women, and children being tortured, raped, and killed out of the depths of evil of the human heart. It’s not that this doesn’t occur on a day to day basis; but the magnitude of it, the genocide of it all, is unimaginable. Toss your child off the mountain so they do not have to walk through such horror. A quick death is better than an ending full of such horrendous suffering. I truly cannot fathom having to make this choice for myself, much less my child. It is easy to skirt it all under the rug when it isn’t in front of our faces. We must never forget this is not a movie; this is the reality of our fellow human beings lives right now.
There is an unbelievable amount of suffering that occurs on a daily basis. Between the news and our own circle of family and friends, each of us has tragedy placed all around us. Some of us, brokenness and hurting right in our own homes. How do we find joy in light of it all? How do we spend time laughing with those we love on vacation when brokenness abounds? We can’t ignore it. We can’t shut our eyes to it all. So, what do we do? Does God call us to happiness on this side of heaven, or mere existence?
This is something I have contemplated often the past few months. To many of you, this concept of joy in suffering is extremely foreign. To some, this blog may be “too much” in the sense that my emotions and hurts are displayed sentence after sentence. There is a culture in our world that wants to encourage us to pacify our pain with the temporary things around us. Had a hard day? Get some ice cream or a glass of wine. Tired on a Monday morning? Drink a little extra coffee. Feeling sad? Find a pill to take the sorrow away. Need to feel wanted? Give yourself to anyone and everyone around you. Whatever you do, do anything to not process or focus on the reality of the hard around and within you. I am as guilty as the next at wanting to run away from suffering and hold on to the easy. To jump from one exciting thing on the calendar to the next. Here’s the problem: it doesn’t take away the hard; it just ignores it. It doesn’t take much looking back on history to see that while some things have changed, some things have remained the same. Suffering has existed from the moment that Eve took that first bite of the fruit. From that moment on, sin rooted its ugly head in all our lives and while we can pretend it isn’t there, it doesn’t change its reality.
The other day, someone asked me if I was happy. I tried to find the words to attempt to explain where I was at with happiness, but could not seem to do so. The truth is, I am somewhat over the word “happy”. To me, happy expresses an emotion void of all hurts. A smile on your face at all times. Carefree living. This, I am definitely not. But joy. What I am, is joyful. In fact, I believe that in light of this suffering God has allowed in our life, I experience more joy than I ever have before.
A few years ago, I would have placed a good bit of hope in a fun week at the beach. I would have built it up in my head, and when it was over, I would have come home feeling pretty empty. Sure, I would have said that my hope was in God alone, but sometimes it takes affliction to truly bring us to a place where this is truth in our lives. These days, the reality of our life is not changing. We have twins with special needs, and I am faced with the questions and hardships that go along with this at all times. I know that, with good intentions, many people think that “getting a break” from it all could fix things. But the truth is, just because I am not there or on “mommy duty”, doesn’t mean it isn’t still going to be there when I get home. Beyond that, while I enjoy spending time alone with Hugh or friends, and while time away occasionally is healthy for everyone, the thing I really want to portray is that even in the midst of all the pain, I love being their mommy. I love mommy duty! Just because pain and hurt is a piece of the puzzle, doesn’t mean that it isn’t joyful. So goes all of our lives on this side of heaven.
Here’s the thing: we are all going to experience pain and suffering. We are all going to walk through hard things, some seasons being tougher than others. Those of us who experience the unexpected might have a layer of this that never goes away. We do not have to deny the reality of it when our hope goes beyond today. If our hope was in something here on earth, it would be depressing to constantly be aware of the hards. If we didn’t have the knowledge that one day, there will be no more tears and no more pain, than the smart thing would be to spend our lives trying to avoid it all. But, because of Christ, because of the hope we have in Him, we are never in despair. Joy in suffering. The truth is this: I have found the deeper my suffering is, the stronger my joy is. You see, joy isn’t based on anything around us. Joy is based on the knowledge of Him, and He and His promises have always been the same and always will be. Walking through this season, God has taught me to long for heaven like never before. I long for Him. I crave the day that He takes away all the brokenness both in my life and the lives of those around me. And you know what? I don’t think I would have really wanted Him to come back if things had gone easy peasy. I think I would have desired to live the comfortable, long life that the American dream falsely promises… and then, would have wanted to meet up with Jesus after it was all over. But now? Now, God has opened my eyes to the innumerable amount of pain that so many walk through. I have realized the magnitude that He went through on the cross when He took all the sin of the world onto Himself. I want to be face to face with the One who did this out of love; to finally be able to comprehend what it means to know Him fully. But in light of this, how do we enjoy the here and now? The moments that pass before that day comes? I believe it is through walking each moment always aware that we will one day be with Him that causes us to live fully right now. This is true joy. Being able to take each and every second as a gift from God, whatever the moment holds, knowing that He is making all things new. This is where I am today. I know that the reality of our earth is not going anywhere. I also know that bigger than that, more powerful than that, is a God who has taken it all and nailed it to a cross for all eternity. That someday, all of our hurt and all of our pain is going away. These hardships are truly temporary. It’s like seeing a movie for the second time and knowing the ending. Instead of grieving the middle, you can relax and smile at what’s to come. Way better than happiness that is based on circumstances and fleeting moments. True joy. And you know what? Having this mindset causes each day to be that much more beautiful. It causes you to seek out the true, never fading beauty in all people and all things. It helps you to navigate the struggles gracefully, knowing that they truly are passing.
Yes, we have been hit with a truth for our lives that prevents me from viewing this world with all rainbows and giggles; but wow, what training it has given me for all eternity. While I may not wear rose-colored glasses on earth; I have heavenly lenses that carry far more riches than anything more comfortable circumstances could ever offer. When I write or speak about our girls, not a single word is said or typed in anything but pure joy. Much more satisfying than false hopes of anything this side of heaven has to offer. Don’t let the presence of pain overshadow the glory and magnitude of the God behind it all.
Friends, the choice is ours. We can seek out the happy that is based on situations and comfort, or we can seek out the eternal joy that comes from the knowledge of Him. Every moment is full of His riches that never fade if yet we would just have eyes to see. I can promise you this: it will not be easy. It will stretch you beyond your emotions, beyond what you think you desire. But you know what? It will be worth it. He will be worth it. And on that day when He chooses to walk us into His courts, we will be able to bow down before Him, arms open wide, and confidently whisper the same name we have desperately desired to lean on: Only Jesus. Let’s seek true joy, albeit Him, today.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.”- Psalm 90:12-16