If we are looking for the "idyllic" life, it doesn't exist on this earth. There is no sheltered, undiscovered country where discouragement or sorrow is unheard of in any form. Pain lives and moves among us—no one is immune to its effects.
The other day my dear husband and I went bowling for the first time in a few years. It was fun for the both of us, but not as fun as it was for the fellow a few lanes down.
I watched with great admiration as he played—barely able to walk, his legs twisted, his arm frozen in a bent position at his side—stand sideways and send his bowling ball down the lane. He had such joy, such satisfaction on his face each time he hit a few pins. He was having a great time, a better time than anyone in the whole, crowded bowling alley, even though he never made one strike.
In the novel Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard, we read of the journey of poor little Much Afraid. She desired with all her heart to be free from the Valley of Humiliation in which she lived—to follow the Good Shepherd into the glorious high places. So He brought her up into the foothills and set her on a journey to the heights. Amazingly, He also gave her two companions to aid her in her journey, and their names were Sorrow and Suffering.
I read this today in the devotional Streams in the Desert:
The cry of man's anguish went up to God,
'Lord, take away pain:
The shadow that darkens the world Thou has made,
The close-coiling chain
That strangles the heart, the burden that weighs
On the wings that would soar,
Lord, take away pain from the world Thou hast made,
That it love Thee the more.'
Then answered the Lord to the cry of His world:
'Shall I take away pain,
And with it the power of the soul to endure,
Made strong by the strain?
Shall I take away pity, that knits heart to heart
And sacrifice high?
Will ye lose all your heroes that lift from the fire
White brows to the sky?
Shall I take away love that redeems with a price
And smiles at its loss?
Can ye spare from your lives that would climb unto Me
The Christ on His cross?'
I read this and was reminded of something I read about a Mrs. Dippolito, the mother of 20 children, some of whom were mentally challenged.
She is full of gratitude for all of the children God has given her. She has total trust in God for all things, and understands that in this life crosses always occur along with happiness. This is integral to her attitude toward family life. She has the realistic and hope-filled approach that since everyone will have crosses, why not multiply the joy as much as possible? To her, the more children, the more joy!
We all experience pain in this life—no matter how perfectly we try to prepare or live, it will always find us. And when it does, we have choices to make; will we try and shield ourselves, tightening the cloak of our own self-preservation around us, or will we let go, open our arms, and embrace it? Will we count it all joy?
Jesus opened His arms, and He let His pain cleanse and heal everyone of us. Now, no matter what the situation, there He is, in the midst of each of our circumstances.
He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried
our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities; the
chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
If we embrace the cross, as He did, a wonderful thing happens; we are released. Despair loses its power over us, and joy soon takes its place.
Just as little Much Afraid's companions, Sorrow and Suffering, finally reveal their true names, Peace and Joy, so we find that the pain we strive so desperately to avoid becomes the very vehicle which leads us to the greatest treasure of all—Jesus!
This is the Christianity that has lasted, and is eternal. Death is swallowed up in life, God's kingdom is by His Spirit, and in restful trust—His power is greater than the sum of all our earthly strength.
From Large Family Mothering
* I truly love the analogy of sorrow and suffering becoming peace and joy. That is very wise and very true! I think I'll chew on that one some more this afternoon .... D.