by Michael Gallup
Perhaps the hardest question have I asked God in all of this is “when?” Sure, I have suffered some and God has began to speak healing into those situations, but it has never felt even partially complete. With every victory I have encountered, the moments of joy were merely fleeting. If joy was a product of suffering, then why am I still depressed, why do those in far worst situations than me find themselves still burdened by troubles? If we are to find joy in the victory over our struggles, when is that day coming?
Of course, Jesus has something to say about all this. As he too is preparing to face his great moment of suffering but also victory in the cross, he begins to instruct and inspire his followers. He tells them a story about a woman giving birth. He tells of her great pain because the sufferings of her pregnancy have come to a head. But the pain is not only relieved in the birth of a child, it is erased because of the joy of a new life. Jesus then looks at his friends and declares, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Jesus makes two promises here, that we WILL suffer in this life, but also that a new age is coming in which Jesus himself will hand us his pure, unfiltered joy and it will NEVER be taken away. This is a passage that we can hope in. Our moments of joy now are fleeting because the ultimate victory is not complete. Our labor has not reached its final climax and so we struggle and suffer but we also wait and hope because the day is coming and coming soon. The labor pains may be increasing but so is the expectancy that new life is coming too.
Jesus later personalizes what this day will be like. He gives his friend John a vision of that day of birth, of new life. Jesus’ vision of victory is not just of a conquering king but also of a compassionate one. John sees something that we can hardly imagine, he says that in that day God himself wipes away every tear from our eyes. I really believe this is no metaphor but a reality. God will kneel down beside us and not only wipe away the tears we shed on our darkest days but will wipe away his own tears he shed on those days. And when we peer deeply into his infinite eyes we will know a healing that is complete and a joy that is complete and a love that is perfectly complete.
There may be little hope for this kind of joy, healing, or even love right now. But we do get tastes from time to time, foreshadowing the joy that is coming. Last week I wrote how sports champions experience such highs because they suffered so much to achieve their great victory. I believe that the greater the suffering the greater the joy. And that has given me the most hope. As I see those that have suffered more than I can ever imagine and my heart aches for them, I have a hope that one day, in the victory of new life, my greatest joy we be to see them truly alive. To see the cripple leap for joy and the starved filled to the brim with the greatest meal ever. And all I will want to do is watch and in that simple act my joy we be complete.
I still have little clue how all this works but I am gaining faith that is DOES work. The day is coming when my faith will no longer be needed because I will see and know and on that day Jesus will give me his joy and nothing will ever take it away.
Michael is a recovering addict of various shades. He awaits the glad morning while studying to be a pastor at Denver Seminary. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.
2 responses to “Surprised by Joy: Some Glad Morning”
Truly great ideas.
“I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,
A-travellin’ through this world of woe,
But there’s no sufferin’, toil or danger,
In that bright world to which I go.”
We grew up (“down South”) on these beautiful songs and themes from the “spirituals.” Their deep effect is transcendent and indelible. When I was young and happy enough, they led me to an inner place of greater experience and understanding. When the impossible-to-carry “weight of the world” began to enter my consciousness, and a lot of sadness along with it, and then a lot of awareness of widespread injustice and downright cruelty, a sense of being lost and very helpless within it all began to settle in my soul.
But the “hype” of this world being a “great place” was beginning. Advertising picked it up quickly — GE’s “Progress is our most important product!” summing up the materialistic spirit of advancement of the times to a “T.” Movies, tv, entertainment, and eventually, even “religion,” (claiming not to be “religion”), began to incorporate the program for “earthly success and mastery from a ‘biblical’ and ‘spiritual’ point of view.”
Earthly success is, at the very best, yet a temporary phenomenon. Within the best efforts we make, will come the time of turnaround, the time of relinquishing and passing things on. Hopefully we have planted a harvest of things that will “stand the test of time,” that will endure with us “in paradise,” that will also be a blessing to others. Hopefully God’s values have become our values.
It is good to handle our earthly responsibilities well, and better to keep our focus and trust in God. As we do, we also experience His faithfulness and love (and understanding and guidance) toward us. We gain hope and strength from God to endure the difficulties of our time and our walk here, and may also experience the mysteries of His Presence with us, His benevolence, kindness and joys — mercies toward us, that are renewed every morning.
22 “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I hope in Him!'”