Even though this week was really, really hard, you survived. You kept going. And I am so proud of you.
I don’t know the exact reasons why this week was hard for you. Perhaps you are not pregnant, again, after years of trying, and were forced to sit next to that cousin: the one that got pregnant from a one-night-stand and complained about being pregnant the entire time…perhaps it was the first time without your loved one, or was expected to be the last with your loved one…perhaps you didn’t go home because you finally mustered up the courage to tell your family about the abuse that you suffered so many years ago, and you were not believed…perhaps you were finally able to share who you’re attracted to or who you’re dating and were shunned…perhaps you had to sit across from your relative who supported that candidate, the one that you feel represents everything awful in the world…or perhaps you sat at home, alone, with truly nowhere to go, and watched your friends’ insta stories…whatever caused you grief, whatever caused your heartache, I am so sorry. Families, hearts, and dreams, were never made to be broken.
We Have A God That Gets It
Christmas has been disgustingly romanticized. Christmas cards picture baby Jesus in a clean barn smiling in the lap of his beautiful mother surrounded by shepherds and tall men with expensive gifts; and neglect that Jesus was born into utter poverty, in a disgusting barn, to persecuted refugees, and that his birth caused a mass genocide of Jewish baby boys. Not really romantic, huh?
But I say this to remind you that in this Season, we can remember that God gets it. He gets it. Jesus was not born into a perfect family. His young teen mother created quite the scandal in Nazareth when she announced she was pregnant, and Joseph planned to leave her, before the politics of their day caused them to have to travel hundreds of miles. He was born into a persecuted people group that, on multiple occasions, had their children slaughtered by the reigning government. In fact, after his birth, Jesus and his parents had to flee to a foreign country to escape his execution. Throughout his life, Jesus was displaced, kicked out of his home, abandoned and betrayed by his friends, and alone. At his death, even God turned his back on him. So if you have a dysfunctional family. If you’re experiencing persecution. If you have been wronged by the government. If you have been abandoned by your friends and your family. If you’re struggling financially. If you have had a friend or family member die “too soon.” If you feel completely alone. He gets it. Jesus gets it. Because he lived it.
A Call to Joy
Not only do we have a God that understands, that can empathize, but we have a God that calls us to joy. As a Christian, we are called to be joyful, in all circumstances.
Joy is different than happiness. We are not called to be always happy. In fact, Jesus was a pretty emotional dude. For example, we know that Jesus was so overcome with grief when his friend died that he wept, like gross snot running down your face, whole body shaking wept (John 11); we know that Jesus was so overcome with rage at the misuse of the temple that he, literally, pulled a Theresa Giudice and started flipping tables (Matthew 21; Mark 11); and we know that Jesus was in such anguish over his coming torture and death that he sweated blood (Luke 22; this is an actual medical condition called hematohidrosis). So Jesus was not always happy.
And, neither were the apostles. They were tortured, martyred, beaten, and Barnabas and Paul had a pretty epic friend breakup (Acts 15). Not really happy things.
But yet, while in prison, Paul and Timothy wrote this really powerful letter to the church in Phillippi about joy:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, whihc exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. THink about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-8
And, in other places in the Bible, we’re called to be joyful. For example, in Romans we’re told to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12).
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a current feeling influenced by our current circumstances. While joy is the hope that we, as Christians, have buried deep within. It’s the hope and knowledge that things are not as they should be, but that God is restoring, and one day soon we will be with Christ in a perfect place, free from any bad thing. In fact, Jesus reminded us to hold fast to this hope, this joy:
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy becuase she has brought a new baby inot th eworld. So you have sorrow now, but I sill see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” ~Jesus, reocrded in John 16:20-24
So even while we hurt, while we’re angry, while we’re disappointed and let down, we can find joy knowing that this broken, hurtful world is not our home:
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Philippians 3:20-21.
It’s Okay To Be Angry
I want to reiterate, though, that you’re feelings are 100% okay. It’s okay to be angry, to be upset, to feel lonely. Becoming a Christian does not require you to be happy all the time. Jesus wasn’t. Any preacher that claims that as a Christian you need to walk around with this fake, euphoric happiness all the time seriously needs to re-read the New Testament because Jesus was not always happy. And neither should you be.
There should be things that make you upset. Infertility sucks. Abuse in any form is horrific. Feelings of loneliness and abandonment are suffocating. But in this chaos, friend, I sincerely hope that you hear the whisper of joy and the quiet touch of peace.
I am so proud of you for making it through this week. Keep going.