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Sunday, September 27, 2015

To Want Joy

I'm often surprised upon self-reflection how what I want and what I really want are contradictory. This is never more true than with suffering. On one level, I want it to be removed. I want eradication of all my pain and the agony that surrounds me in the broken world. I want peace. And I want it immediately without struggle or tension or battle. I just want it to appear magically and envelope me in the safety of the presence of God.

But in another sense, this is not at all what I want.

What I really want is Beauty, which is code for value and worth and essence.  I want the suffering to mean something and to matter to what is ultimately important. I want the pain to increase the glory. That's what I really want. And, by the mystery of grace, that's what Jesus really offers. Not a magic spell to erase the effects of sin, but a strong, faithful hand holding mine in the dark. A friend in the valley. A fellow struggler on the trail. What I want is Emmanuel, who felt and feels my pain. He suffered for me so He can now suffer with me. I'm not exempt from the bitterness of the curse, but I'm not alone in it either. And somehow I know that exemption would cheapen it in the end. So I smile in the company of His presence and take another step.

It's like the summer I went hiking in Alaska. I wanted to climb the mountain more than anything. Ask my fellow camp staffers and they'll tell you how I trembled with excitement. What for most of them was the annual team building exercise was for me an adventure of epic proportions. Nothing in my athletic experience had ever looked so daunting and so inviting at the same time. Of course, my goal was to reach the top, but I didn't want to be transported there by some Star Trek voodoo. I wanted to climb. I wanted to feel every step and touch the trees on the way up. And having reached the top, I wanted to remember the journey as the excellent means to a glorious end.

Without the agony of the climb, the mountain would mean about as much as a stroll to the mailbox on junkmail day.

I do not minimize the longing for restoration. Actually, it is that longing that drives Frodo to Mt. Doom, isn't it? And the metaphor holds true. For the joy set before Him, He endured. For the joy set before us, we endure. What I emphasize here is that suffering does not hinder our longing, but increases it. It galvanizes the experience into something also worthwhile. I wish I spent more of my life remembering that God values the journey.

How could He collect our tears if He did not walk with us each agonizing step up the path?

How could the God who put Himself in the position to give His own Son for our sake remain ignorant to our pain and deaf to our cries?

How could He allow it unless He knew with sovereign certainty that this, too, would bring joy? 

1 comment:

  1. It always feels better when you accomplish something though hard work, interesting post. Thanks.