Thursday, April 4, 2013

No One Will Take Your Joy From You

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"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. YOU WILL BE SORROWFUL, but your SORROW WILL TURN INTO JOY. WHEN A WOMAN IS giving birth, SHE HAS SORROW because her hour has come. BUT WHEN SHE HAS DELIVERED THE BABY, she NO LONGER REMEMBERS the anguish, for JOY that a HUMAN BEING HAS BEEN BORN into the world. SO ALSO YOU HAVE SORROW NOW, but I will see you again and your hearts will REJOICE, and NO ONE WILL TAKE YOUR JOY FROM YOU." (John 16:20-22)

The world has a way of taking over our hearts and our minds. When we're missing those we love, it’s difficult to love anyone else. When our bones are aching, our stomachs are churning, and our heads are throbbing, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. When we can't pay our bills, it's hard to think about anything else. When we turn on the news and all we hear is hatred, violence, sin, and sadness, it’s difficult to notice anything else. Our bodies are killing us day by day, wasting away before our eyes, our hearts are breaking in new ways we never dreamed possible, and the sin of the world just seems to be getting worse and worse and worse.

If in the midst of such gloomy depths, we look forward to heaven, we do well. We know God’s promise to, "wipe away every tear from our eyes," to invite us to a place where, "pain is no more." We know what paradise awaits us, what joy, and yet we ache in the here and now. Where is God now while you and I are in turmoil? While the bank takes our houses away? While you and I fight for breath, for strength to get out of bed? While we stand over our husband’s or wife’s grave, the graves of our parents, our children? Where is that promise?
Where is that salvation now??

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There is a reason why the main portion of a church is called the "Sanctuary." There, if only for a little while, you will find peace in God's Word, Sacraments, and with His people. There, you are invited to join His angels and your loved ones who've gone before you in singing and praise with hope that does not disappoint. And even when we cannot make it out the doors and to that special building to worship with God’s people as we’d like, God wipes away our tears with His Word as we read it on our own and study it, with prayers to Him, with the invitation to lament and complain to Him, to demand answers from Him, and with His everlasting promise of forgiveness for our doubt and anger, and for our continued obsession with all things worldly despite being told again and again those things don't matter (Luke 12:22-31).

Eventually we have to leave that fleeting piece of heaven on earth and walk out those church doors, close that Bible, end our prayer and face the world that hates us in these bodies we’d rather shuffle off, hopefully with a new view of our lives in the here and now.

We do not suffer only to learn lessons and to appreciate heaven more. We suffer for the sake of Christ who suffered for the sake of us. Our suffering is a taste of His. And at the height of His suffering, His Father turned away from Him because Jesus, though sinless, became the most despised of sinners for you because you were worth it. Seek those heavenly gifts of temporary moments of sanctuary where death is no more, neither mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, where the former things pass away for a little while and take that strength with you to get you by in the meantime as you endure "a little while" longer before your sorrow turns permanently to joy.

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is from John 16:22
Pain Rehab buddies, remember to breathe!
"Your hearts will rejoice -------> 5 count inhale
and no one will take your joy from you." -------> 5 count exhale

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