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Friday, September 28, 2007

Thoughts on Joy and Teeth Gritting

“Joy has not to do with the trial itself, but in the use to which God intends to put it. He’s saying set your sights on what going through he trial will add up to (count) because God is in the business of making sure it adds up to our benefit and God’s glory. “

This week the team Bible study leading fell to me, and as always as the leader and preparer I’m sure I got more out of the first chapter of James than I would have just listening. It cuts right to the crux of life. Count it joy, not because life is one fun thing after another, but because suffering exercises our faith, builds our trust, refines and purifies us to be like Jesus. As a team we are plonked down here in a place where suffering abounds. Mostly it is others who suffer more than we do, so we look on with vague guilt and mixed pity, as soon as one child is discharged improved another fills the bed or spot on the floor, scabby and desperate. Sometimes it is our own kids. Savannah had malaria this week, caught early, but she looked tremblingly hot and mentally distant, a feeling I know well from a few weeks ago. Yesterday was Parents’ Day at CSB, a day that celebrates the school, but this year left me mourning the disconnect my kids feel as they try to be part of it but really aren’t fully part of anything. This morning I said goodbye to Karen and Michael on the phone, as they boarded the plane that will take them from Uganda, another hole in the fabric of our life here.

In all this the message I hear is faint, but true: HOLD ON. The lifeline image of the hovering helicopter still vivid. Because joy is not found in removing ourselves from all pain, nor do we hold on by gritting our teeth and stoically marching through. No, we hold on to Jesus’ hand, the one who walked the valley of the shadow of death and now tenderly leads us through it to, to the table of bountiful goodness. More and more I see that the springs are in the desert, the table is in the midst of enemies, the joy is in the context of suffering. Just like we can’t reach the Sabbath rest without the six days of work, we can’t fully grasp joy and peace unless we are in the context of the brokenness of the world.

So we will dance on in the dirt.

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