Joy to the world! The LORD has come! Let Earth receive her King!
Fact is, some are sad right now. Like the loved ones of the twelve mowed down by ISIS in the Christmas market on Monday in Germany. While we’re singing peace on Earth, some are creating chaos and spreading terror and grief.
How do we have JOY when we grieve with our fellow brothers and sisters in a foreign country, knowing one of those twelve could have been one of our loved, looking forward to celebrating Christmas with us in a few short days?
Bringing the question closer to home—as in THIS home . . .
I asked Nick about joy yesterday while driving home.
“Do you think we can have joy and fear or sadness or some other feeling we don’t like at the same time?”
“Did you have joy while you were in the ER last week?
“I was really scared. But I also had joy.”
“Well, I was really scared because I didn’t know what was wrong with me and when the paramedics came and put all those wires on me and took me in the ambulance I was REALLY scared. But I had joy because I knew I was in good hands and even if I died I knew I’d be with Jesus.”
So there you have it. Straight from the mouth of an 18 year-old whose teacher called me an hour after school began telling me Nick was having a hard time breathing—that he felt faint and couldn’t walk without assistance—that he was shaking—that his fingers and toes were numb—that his face was flushed and sweating—that it all came out of nowhere and that he had been perfectly fine during his first class.
After half a day in the ER, turns out Nick had his first ever, full-blown panic attack. A week later, he still has no idea why. He’s happy (“a 9 out of 10, because no one’s life is perfect,” he says). He’s healthy and pretty darned laid back, according to everyone who knows him. When I asked him how he would feel if I wrote about his panic attack in this piece he blurted, “Great! Whatever brings glory to God is good with me!” And I know he means it. (Oh, how these kids are balm for my soul, even in the midst of all our twists and turns and inside-outs.)
In this family of multiple invisible disabilities, we know from experience how life can throw us unexpected curves that challenge what we thought was rock-solid faith—that crack our surface—that break us open—that spill out raw with wild emotion. But THIS is the place where our faith grows. In the cracks. In the break downs. In the feelings we’d rather not have.
Because cracks and breaks create soul-openings for God to enter when body and mind would rather keep God out.
We don’t think we want to keep God out, do we? But really?
Wouldn’t our flesh rather stay in control? Wouldn’t we rather avoid pain? Wouldn’t we rather just learn our life lessons on our own than learn to rely on God? Wouldn’t we rather just be good people and call it a day? Or a life? Wouldn’t we rather by-pass the broken and spilling out of what others might judge? Wouldn’t we rather hide and pretend and look like we’ve got it all together? Because we think looking like we’ve got it all together glorifies God and makes people want to follow Jesus? Really? And maybe, just maybe, we might fool somebody? And maybe, just maybe, fooling somebody might help us keep fooling ourselves?
Maybe, just maybe we can learn to be satisfied with the roller coaster ride of life. Where we plaster on the smiles and lie when people ask us how we are. Where joy comes and goes with the “good” and “bad”, as we define “good” and “bad”. But what if our definitions of “good” and “bad” are wrong? What if our hiding and faking doesn’t glorify God OR help us grow?
What if the hurt and tears and fears and weakness of this life actually strengthen our relationship with God our Creator? What if they actually strengthen our relationships with one another?
Could it be—that in the very things we avoid—God has something greater in mind than our minds can even conceive?
What if the closer we get to God through weakness, the more we have TRUE JOY that doesn’t depend on circumstance?
What if nothing we go through in this life full-fills of our hearts and souls like an intimate relationship with Jesus? With Jesus. Who went through everything for US—because of LOVE—for US?
What if our minds can’t hold the greatness of His goodness and how everything that happens to us will cause us to sing wild praise to Him forever and ever, so full of thanksgiving we’ll be?
Sounds like Heaven, yes?
And yet, we’re here—on Earth—where we’re in a mix of beauty and broken. And we know full well that this isn’t Heaven. Not yet. Not complete. Because we still shake and break and cry and die.
God knows. And Jesus feels right along with us. Because he suffered, he holds our shaking hands and wipes our sweated brows and collects our dropping tears and calms our panic attacks, turning even what we most hate into precious gems of glory for one day coming. He’s with us now in our greatest panic, our most horrific attacks, our deepest sorrows. His Kingdom is coming. And it’s partly here now. And because the Son of God came to Earth—fully human, fully divine—my son can have JOY in the midst of his fears and tears. So can I. So can you.
We can cast your cares onto the One who never stops caring for us.
All will be well.
And because all will be well, we can be well right now, no matter what. NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE that is in Christ Jesus!
So feel all your feelings and be there with others in theirs. Be fully human as Jesus was fully human. But guard JOY with every fiber of your being, with the strength of our resurrected Christ. Keep looking ahead and beyond as Jesus did . . .
. . . who for the JOY set before him endured the cross . . . (Hebrew 12:2, emphasis mine)
There’s a greater goal beyond every cross.
Let’s help each other keep our eyes fixed.
A merry, JOY-filled CHRIST-mas to you all!
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.