It was a Sunday after church at our favorite lunch spot. I was staring down at my salmon salad when my husband exclaimed, “I don’t know why, but I’m so excited for the Christmas season this year….like more than normally.” Through gritted teeth and a glance down at my stomach, I responded, “I’m fighting for it.”
Like a small child tirelessly working to build a sandcastle at the end of the tide, only to be defeated by a crashing wave, I was digging for joy.
October 28, I was laying on a cold table when an ultrasound technician worked silently while my ears anxiously awaited to hear that heartbeat we had so sweetly heard just two weeks before. But it never came. I wasn’t surprised when she turned the machine off and turned to my husband and I to tell me that our sweet baby was no longer alive. In fact, as I laid there, I remember so clearly the Holy Spirit telling me “But He is still faithful”…almost warning me of the words she would say to us.
In this same season, I have also felt the wait of a friend suffering with a broken marriage and another suffering through the pain of her father passing away. While so many are building their lists of what they want, I’m writing out my list of what I want God to take away from my life and the lives of those I love
Empty arms, fear of failure, family arguments, searing loss, silent mourning.
Do you think the disciples were making lists too when Jesus told them that he was leaving? I imagine after three years of ministry with Jesus, they began to feel the pain of loss before He was even gone, but in the midst of their questions, He made them a really wonderful promise.
Let’s start midway through John 16 –
A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 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. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. – John 16:16-24
They’re stressed, they’re worried, and they’re considering the pain they may feel from His absence, but He was making them a promise that would come after the depth of their sorrow. He was promising His resurrection. He was promising His Holy Spirit. He was promising joy. Lasting joy that no human could ever take from them. He was promising that even though they would experience a depth of pain they could never imagine, something even better would be revealed.
That is the kind of promise I want to put all of my buckets of grief in so that it can be exchanged with joy.
Even when the lists grow and your voice grows quiet in the midst of a Sunday set list, will you do this with me? Will you still proclaim His truth – the very bread that gives you life? Will you let others lay hands on you and pray over you when your heart is burning and your head is spinning. Will you open up to the Holy Spirit carrying you when your feet won’t move? You may not feel like that sorrow will turn to joy, but more than anything in this entire world, I believe that Jesus is not a liar. I believe that His promises are true and that He is doing a work within you and around you.
I’m not sure what heaviness you’re carrying this season. Maybe those lights strung across the tree cause your eyes to fill with tears or maybe it’s a crowded room that makes you want to run, but I pray you know that Jesus – His coming, His going and His presence as the Holy Spirit is a gift to these weary souls. He will restore the days, months and year the locusts have eaten. He will do it again, friends.
So for now, I pray that you will stick it out on the shore. That your hands will keep digging and digging and you’ll keep proclaiming the promise He has sung over us until the tide recedes and your heart is filled with indescribable joy.