I cry. Like a lot, and all the time. And that’s okay. Jesus wept too. He knew he was about to rise Lazarus from the dead and he still wept because he was a human God that knew grief and pain and intense suffering. He wept and he wept bitterly. What a God.
In 1 Peter, he (Peter) writes this:
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (v6-7, NLT).
In Philippians, whilst Paul is literally in prison and about to be executed he writes:
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” (3:1)
“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.” (2:17-18)
I can’t describe to you how much these words have challenged and changed me. Before the pain that is currently a piece of my journey, these words made me almost angry. Certainly frustrated. How am I supposed to rejoice?! When life is bitter and painful and I am angry at God, how can I be expected to rejoice? I can’t just dig joy up out of nowhere, conjure up happiness and peace and sellotape it onto my soul. I cannot find what is not there.
Oh friends, how pain can be exchanged for perspective. The thing is, rejoicing is not the same as being happy. Rejoicing is being thankful for what God does in the bigger picture even if your smaller picture is painful. And it’s so radical. Honestly, my whole outlook on joy has been transformed by my understanding of this.
It’s not that we have to feel joy in hard time. It’s that we get to! Because this life, this pain, this agony is not all there is! Friends, there is such wonderful hope in Jesus! We get to go to heaven! We get a God who has already walked the path to save us and who cares about the here and now. We get to be joyful in sadness because the sadness is not all there is. We get to rejoice deep in our souls, not out of obligation or fear but because the truth of what we believe is so so much bigger and better than we can possibly imagine.
I am sad. Jesus has beaten death!
I am angry. Jesus has saved me!
I am hurting. Jesus is ALIVE!
I am confused. Jesus is Lord.
I am sad I am sad I am sad I am sad. God loves and he loves and he loves and he loves.
Pain is my reality and I am dragging my feet through the slow lane. God weeps with me. I am still saved.
Life is hard. I know that better than most at the moment. The tears come and they will keep coming. But how I am feeling does not affect who God is or what he can do. My despair does not make him less real or the realities of the saviour less important.
I am able to rejoice in this time not by conjuring up a feeling or faking something that is not there. I am able to rejoice but I am so so grateful and relieved that there is more to my existence and my identity than my pain.
My identity is Christ. I am covered by him.
So I cry. Like, a lot. I don’t want this blog to be a place where I sugarcoat that. My soul is grieving and that involves a lot of tears. I can torture myself asking questions I will never know the answers to. I grieve and the reality is often painful and ugly and persistent.
But the paradoxical truth remains. I am deeply sad and yet I am capable of deeper joy than ever before. I cry more than ever before but how sweet it is when I laugh. I do that too, loudly and often. If every tear lets a bit of a pain out then each time I laugh I am filled with more of the reality of his joy and what it can do.
I am covered by him. I am still trying to understand how to carry on when life is so much at once. I feel. Wow, I feel. In all of this though, I am endlessly grateful, intensely and persistently grateful for the cross and the hope that it represents.
Friends, rejoice! For pain is not the end. Jesus proved that when he came back to life. You are covered by the Christ who saved you.