"To live a life of defiant joy, remain suspicious—in the midst of your circumstances—that God is up to something good."- Margaret Feinberg
A few weeks back I posted about living with the grief and suffering in the world. It was titled "Already But Not Yet, Part 1". This is Part 2.
As I have read and thought, it strikes me that we Christians should be the most mournful and joyful people, all at once, that is one of the things that makes us unique in the world. We, more than anyone else, recognize what was lost with the Fall, we see what we were made for and how tragic this broken life and world is in contrast. We recognize evil as evil, we see the depths of it in ourselves and around us more clearly with eyes enlightened and we rage against it, grieve because of it. We who believe in a final judgement and who simultaneously love those around us should be, more than anyone else, filled with sadness. We see how bad it all is. We should be people who mourn.
And we should be people of the greatest of joy and hope, too. We know that this is not all that there is. We know the redemption offered, we know He is doing something here, we see beauty and we rejoice, we see love and we sing, we well up with joy at the knowledge of a God who has pursued this broken bride, in a Jesus who is alive and holds his arms out to all who come. We sing because we see things being redeemed, we see new life, and most of all we see what's coming, the hair-raising end to all of this. We are a people of joyful hope. In the midst of the mourning.
It's a contrast I don't really understand, but I suppose that is exactly our challenge – to figure out how to live that out, day by day, through the Spirit in us. The New Testament is filled with what that life looks life, filled with goodness and love for each other.
I want to learn not to simply expect all the beauty and redemption right here, but discover what joyful hope means. That's what struck me in Romans 8. The current things are recognized as being tough. There is glory in the hope, the promise.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”
So, that is my theme this year. Joyful hope.
In a greater way I understand more than ever before the longing and expectation of the early Church that Jesus returns. So much of the New Testament talks of waiting for His return. He has come, but when He comes again is when all will be made new, when justice will truly be done, when we will truly know Him. For that, now, I do groan inwardly, and I believe, He is coming, He is coming, and hallelujah, all will be made right!
“He now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” - Hebrews 9: 26-28
As I grow older and I understand a little more the amount of suffering we wrestle with, this is a deeper, harder, but still more meaningful tension. The darkness increases. Childhood cancer, rape, depression, death, and sometimes the slog of daily life is real. In the face of that, do I believe that God is, as the quote at the top of the page references, up to something that is genuinely good? When I did some reading in the early Church fathers, one of the things that struck me most is the way they perceived suffering as honor, because in it they identified with Christ. And God is most glorified and the plans of Satan thwarted not when Job was a successful man but when Job continued to believe ins spite of all the suffering that seemed to reveal the absence of the goodness of God. There is much mystery here, much I cannot grasp and that philosophers continue to wrestle with.
Here is what I see. If I believe that there is evil at work but that God is good and working out a great plan of redemption, then my life will be one of defiant joy.
He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable.... kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith... may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
And so, on Good Friday I was brought to tears when we read Revelation and the Lamb says, "Behold, I am making all things new.... It is done."