Choosing Joy in the Midst of Pain

by Clint Baldwin, Executive Director We had included this reflection in a monthly newsletter to our staff but wanted to make it available to friends of Word Made Flesh as well. Thank you for partnering with WMF and being a part of God’s work to bring healing, hope, and peace to our neighbors in need around the world.

As we recall our WMF Lifestyle Celebrations, there are of course a multitude of other characteristics to also celebrate. It is important for us to be people who consciously choose to celebrate joy, hope, love, thankfulness, etc. Especially as people who select to journey in difficult contexts for the sake of the Love of God, the discipline of celebration itself is key. It is important to consider what we celebrate, but to some extent it is also important that we take time just simply to celebrate. Of course, we all recognize that just because something is important does not mean that it is easy. Sometimes we celebrate delightedly; sometimes we celebrate with a profound sense of solemnity (for example, think of what is referred to as the celebration of the Eucharist where a celebrant leads the congregation through the mass).

Poignantly, the truest and deepest celebrations arise out of recognition of the faithful, unwavering, overcoming Goodness of God. In the midst of the tension of whatever current difficulties we are facing, having awareness of the ultimate Good that will outlast any harms and hurts and pains experienced in this world does not erase sorrow, but as the scriptures tell us, through hope death loses its sting. We can choose to see celebration as a conscious practice of thankfulness and hope. We can understand choosing celebration to be a practice of resurrection – a seeing beyond the current troubles that reek of death. In this sense, it is vital that we celebrate in an ongoing manner all kinds of “small” things as we are able to do so. Through doing this we train ourselves to be further able to see through and beyond tribulations when they are encountered; we train ourselves to be able (by God’s grace) to celebrate “deep” things even in the midst of trials.

As I write this, I know that some of you currently carry heavy burdens. My heart sorrows for you as I think of this. You are being lifted before the Lord in prayer.

Considering the above, even in the midst of your turmoil as you are praying that the Lord might take your current burdens from you, heal you, and once again make you and your circumstances whole, might you be able to find some small things to celebrate?  Might there be some current, hidden “silver linings?” Might there be something that yet remains – “Christ in you the hope of glory”? What might you be able to celebrate?

Celebration in the midst of turmoil is arguably impossible without God, but by, with, and through God’s grace it is a disciplined recognition that no hardship ultimately triumphs over Good.

Psalm 13 leads us both into our depths, but reminds us that the Lord is not absent from us even then.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The end of Psalm 30 echoes the process of Psalm 13

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

Sisters and brothers, friends, I pray that the Lord would make straight the way before you and bring you before green pastures and still waters.  But even in the valley of the shadow of death…know that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is our promise and our hope. It is why we can from the deepest core of our beings celebrate (as with the Eucharist) even in the midst of a dark night of the soul. Death does not have the final word, that honor resides with resurrected Life.

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