Sunday, October 5, 2014
31 Days of Courage: The Courage to be Glad
I wonder how many people of the tiny group that read here decided I was the consummate screwball when they appraised the title of this blog.
I mean, who needs courage to be glad?
There have been 2 serious stretches in my life that I can clearly remember when I had to pull up my bootstraps and enjoy joy…bucking the system in my head that programmed me to feel guilty for being happy.
The first time was when I was barely an adult, and 2 people I love so very dearly were suffering. If they read this post, they know who they are.
The second time started almost 5 years ago and continues to this day. Ironically, though the names have changed, there is an eerie similarity: 2 people I dearly love are suffering. If they read this post, they know who they are.
When people you love suffer, so do you. This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one.
And beside our own “local” pain, there is a world gone wrong. There are hungry people and lonely people, abused, forsaken and dying people. Isn’t it almost heartless to laugh or sing or dance in this present darkness?
No, no, a thousand times no.
On the very night Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed, destined to die a horrific death and troubled greatly in His all too human soul, He rejoiced over a meal with his very best friends. He told them He “greatly desired” to have that beautiful last time together. Knowing what He knew, how could he sit down at table and be glad in His great, broken heart?
I’m an amateur in the quest for courage, but He’s the Universe's Olympic Gold Medal Winner. He sets the example. To paraphrase a little bit from C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Great Divorce, hell can never hold Heaven hostage. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in morning. Even if the morning isn’t looking much better than the night before.
So how can a mom who recently gave birth to a child with multiple birth defects rejoice? (If she reads this post, she knows who she is). Because with courage, she can take that pain, very real and ever present, and dig down to something even deeper, something bedrock and solid and unshakable. And in that place where she knows how the story ends, she can laugh and sing to her other kids and do the jig if she wants. Because The One who is boss of all of this says to go ahead and rejoice! Not because of your heartache, but in spite of it.
This is not pie-in-the-sky avoidance of reality. Tears are just as appropriate as laughter.
My friend Martha Warner, whose daughter was murdered by her husband a number of years ago, has a loud, infectious laugh. After her Liza died, understandably she had trouble feeling glad again. There was a guilt that stifled her joy. How could she smile with her daughter buried and the memory of such a violent death? But with great courage she took a step of faith and risked being happy. Step by step she made her way to hope, and now, at an age when most people are settling down to retire, she has a brand new job at Unity House, a shelter for battered women and their children. There, she will be a lighthouse for women who wonder if they’ll ever smile again. She’ll be their living proof that they can.
Martha Warner and Liza
It takes remarkable courage to stand up against the power of guilt. It takes strength that only Strength Himself can supply to determine to live life in gladness in the face of relentless suffering everywhere. It is a defiant act to say to the enemy of our souls: “My circumstances may be thus, my world may be thus, but you cannot shackle my heart.”
Heaven cannot be held hostage to hell.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and though there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:18
Your friend on the pilgrim road,