Why is it that at the epicenter of life’s greatest joys these days I find myself being the saddest? Why, in life’s happiest moments do I find myself unable to escape the merciless reminders that all is not well? That’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days…and I think I’m making progress on an answer.
As Karla and I lay in bed very late in the evening on Christmas Eve at her parents’ home she said to me, “You looked so sad tonight….” She was right. I knew I looked that way because I was…even though I tried my best not to look that way. I am awful at this kind of hypocrisy. Some people never leave a single thought unspoken. Most of us don’t like to be around such people for long. My tendency is not to let a single emotion unexpressed on my face, no matter how hard I try. This is probably only a little bit less annoying than the one who cannot but speak every thought.
We had already been to two Christmas Eve services…one at our own church, but each special in their own right. We had experienced the joy of watching everyone open their gifts…especially the young children. And yet, all I could think about was how very sad it would be if I could not enjoy these kinds of moments in exactly the same manner as I was enjoying them that very evening. Why? On an average day the upcoming brain surgery is not constantly on my mind. However, at the times of greatest happiness and joy, sorrow seems to pursue me like a bloodhound on a fresh kill.
Here’s what I’m thinking. Everything in this life is designed by an Almighty God in such a way as to make each of us wholly unsatisfied with this world alone, or the things in it to bring us ultimate joy. The human heart longs for something more than the ephemeral things of earth. We were made for eternity not for the manifest limitations that this physical world can offer us in the here and now.
Many of you are aware of the scientific law called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I think it was Newton who figured this one out. This law states that any closed system left to itself tends toward greater randomness; that is, it breaks down. It takes an ordered input of energy to keep anything together. This law is also a big reason why I cannot be a macro-evolutionist…but that’s for another day.
The Law of Thermodynamics is designed to describe material systems but it seems to apply equally well in the spiritual realm as well. Christianity is not a momentary experience or emotion at a singular point in time. Being a follower of Jesus means that one has entered the fight of faith. Unless there is a continual input of energy…the Bible, prayer, personal spiritual disciplines and the like, there will be no vibrant faith, but rather a dormant seed that awaits an energy input. And so, when joy eludes me most in these waiting days, I must remember that this world is not my home. My family, regardless of how much I love them all, do not really belong to me as a private possession.
One other thing I also know. I really do need others. Proverbs 18:1-2 says “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinions.” A person can sit at his computer at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, like I’m doing right now, and take some pleasure in expressing his opinions. But it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all, for in five hours the sun will come up and another day will begin. And what will I do then?
Proverbs 18:10 says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” The word “name” respresents the totality of a person’s being. So, the name of the LORD means all that Scripture reveals about the person and works of God. This is the tower to which I must relentlessly run. I trust that the LORD will give me the nitro to “run” faster than the impressive speed of sorrow on the wings of joy. Knowing is not doing, but it does help. Someone told me last year that brown was the new black. I think I’m understanding something more of the new happy.
And, just so you know, I have no intention of evading joy with the family just because as of late, it also brings sorrow. The more I age the more everything about this world makes me long for the eternal joys of heaven that will never end. Loved ones get sick and die. Dreams are born and can just as quickly die. Beautiful homes can be built and then devastated by two hundred year floods and an F5 tornado in one fifteen year span, as some in Iowa can attest to. But the LORD is my rock and my fortress…the strength of my life and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25).