Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy Will Come

Grief, I think, is felt more deeply at Christmas than any other season of the year.

It steals your breath and sinks like lead to the pit of your stomach.

It cries out against the sentiments that Christmas is a happy, jolly time.  It threatens the very idea of joy.

How can I find joy, it says, when my daughter's life was cut short by the hatred of another?

Where is joy for the mother who grieves the loss of her babies while she recovers in a hospital bed?

Or for the wife who sleeps alone at night instead of being held close by the arms of the man she thought would be by her side forever?  For the mother who sits across from her child at a table in a prison visitation room rather than her own dining room?

Find the joy in that, Grief challenges.

And yet, Christmas is "supposed" to be the most joyful time of the year.  We sing songs about it, we preach sermons about it, we celebrate it.

But do we experience it?  As the weight of grief, injustice, sorrow press down on us, suffocating us, do we find joy?

I think about the hundreds of parents in Israel whose children were slaughtered by a jealous and paranoid king.  Would they have found joy in that first Christmas?

Would the whisper of hope have been enough to pierce through the heavy veil of grief and spark a flicker of joy in their hearts?  Is it enough today?

Because Jesus is just as real today as He was 2000 years ago.

He still beckons us to come and find in Him everything we need to bear the weight of life, of grief.  He still promises to deliver us from the oppression of the world that surrounds us.  He promises that we do not have to carry the weight of that world by ourselves.  He promises that there IS something better, that there is a world where joy is untainted by sorrow.

Psalm 30:5 promises that our weeping may last for a night -- or a year, or a lifetime -- but joy will come.  It will not come instead of the pain, but in spite of it, maybe even in the midst of it.  It will come when we carry our grief into His presence and lay it at His feet.

It will come when we continue to fix our eyes on Him, even in the midst of turmoil (Hebrews 12).

Joy will come.

Because joy isn't feeling happy or jolly or merry, or any of those "Christmasy" feelings.  JOY is knowing that Jesus is alive and that He conquered our enemy and the grave.  JOY is knowing that Jesus is very real and that He dwells in the midst of our pain and suffering.  JOY is found in the presence of our Savior.

Yes, Joy will -- and has -- come.

My sweet friends and family who are experiencing the unbearable weight of grief this Christmas, I pray you find the Hope and Joy of Jesus in spite of your sorrow.  I pray you will let Him wrap His arms around you and hold you close.  I pray you will sob into His shoulder like you would your earthly father and find comfort in His unfathomable love.  Oh, how I pray that you will trust Him to carry you through this enormously difficult time.  Run to Him, lean on Him, rest in Him.  He loves you so.

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