Category Archives: Reflections

Joy and Pain

“Joy… and pain… it’s like sunshine… and rain…” I can remember singing to the top of my lungs to this Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock song back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I always enjoyed the beat of the music in it and the, what felt to me like, upbeat idea of that chorus line. Though, I don’t think I ever really took the time to think about it for what that simple statement actually shows me.

Having my dad pass this past October I have really experienced joy and pain, the pain is probably pretty obvious. It has been sometimes hard and often confusing on what I should feel as I process the grief of him dying at a relatively young age, and unexpectedly at that. I have also wrestled with the joy and pain I have felt throughout life in my relationship with my dad, which adds to the complexities of this grieving process having now lost him.

Processing this recently with a friend, he talked about something he learned from a professor during his Master’s program that basically went like this: “to truly honor your parents, you need to learn to hold both the good and the bad together.” I think in the type of American culture that I grew up in, I have learned to hold a lot of shame over myself for noticing any of the bad in others or even myself for that matter. There was often this idea in my family, and I know it is the same in many others, that in order to respect your family you never talk about any of the shortcomings or bad things about them. “Get over it” is a phrase I’d often hear when wrestling with the bad I experience in others or myself. I know this idea comes from a desire to not tear those down that you love. To focus on the good, the positive.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29

In the Bible I think it can even stem from verses like the one above (Eph. 4:29) Or similarly here: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:6) Or the many occasions where slander is specifically called out to be far from us as believers. But I think using these verses like this is swinging the pendulum too far the other direction. I think this because when I look at scripture, as I have read through the entire Bible, it is full of stories of these “heroes of the faith” as we can tend to call them in the church. Of all places to see only the good, I think this culture would have you believe it would be in the Holy Bible as it speaks of its “heroes”, but that is not at all what we see. We get the honor of seeing the whole story, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. When we do, it somehow can make the joy feel that much more joyous, and it can also make the pain feel that much more painful. When Genesis tells us about Abraham’s horrible treatment of his wife Sarah in Egypt, or in Judges as we see how often Samson followed his own desires, speaking of following his own desires we cannot forget King David not just with Bathsheba but at other times throughout his story as well… do these stories of the bad things about these leaders in the faith ruin their story? Did it cancel out their place in history? No, it didn’t do any of these things, but instead allowed us to see that these were real people, that were not perfect just like you and me. They experienced both joy and pain, it wasn’t just roses and rainbows all the time for them, so why would it be that way for any of us today?

My dad as my soccer coach
My dad as my soccer coach.

As I continue the process of grieving the loss of my dad, I will continue to grow in allowing myself to hold the joy and the pain both of his loss, of the ups and downs of our relationship we had throughout his life, and honor him as the man he was, my dad. And I love him.

How about you? In what ways have you experienced the tension of the joy and pain in your life?

Joy in the Storm

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” – Mark 4:37-38a

This has been something I have experienced spiritually and emotionally recently, that I’m in a boat and windstorms of life have arisen, waves have been breaking into my boat so that it has Christ Asleep In His Boat by Jules Joseph Meynierbeen filling and it feels like I’m in danger of drowning.  When I call out to God, it seems at times like He is sleeping in the storm much like Jesus was in this story, and I feel like the disciples did in the boat with Jesus.  I start to freak out and ask Him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?  Um, hello, Jesus, do you see me over here?  I’m about to drown, don’t you see this?  Are you gonna do anything?” Ever experience something like this?  I have before, and I have recently.  It isn’t easy or fun when you are in the midst of it and freaking out.

What is it that I’m forgetting, just like the disciples did in this story, in the midst of the storm?  I think I could say a lot of things here, but lets look back a few verses to what was going on in this story. Just before this storm rose up and the disciples started to freak out, Jesus had finished telling some parables and told the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.”  Did you get that?  Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, let’s get in this boat and go sink out in the middle, for this is how we die today.”  No, he says, let us go across to the other side.  As in, everyone on the boat. Seems like Jesus had a plan and it included getting to the other side of this body of water without drowning.  And these were experienced fishermen – they have been in boats, most likely have even gone across this body of water before, and it is a high chance they have been in storms on the water before as well but they still freak out in this storm (must have been big).  In spite of their expertise, or maybe because of their expertise, they freak out about this storm and turn to Jesus when they don’t know what else to do.  Just like me at times, they have easily forgotten what Jesus has said and they were confused that their circumstances weren’t what they expected of their journey.

What is Jesus’ response after they wake him?  First He calms the storm with His words – which is incredibly loving of Him.  Then verse 40 says: “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?'”  Jesus had told them they were going to go across to the other side, but how quickly they lost sight of what Jesus said and were overcome by their fear in the storm.  I do this.  I have experienced this recently, and there are many aspects to this current storm for me. But I am reminded that I am not experiencing joy in this time because I am so easily distracted by the storm around me.  Someone recently said to me that joy is: looking to Jesus first, then to others, and then lastly to yourself (Jesus, others, yourself = Joy).  It is kinda silly doing acronyms, I know, but really it made some sense when you look at the great commandments – to love God (seek His Kingdom) and to love others.  Instead of looking to Jesus first, I’ve often in the storm been looking to myself, my own needs, and my own desires. Like the disciples on the boat I start freaking out and saying “God, don’t you see me? Don’t you care that I am perishing?”  I easily forget promises He has made. I forget who He is.  Please pray for me to turn from myself – repent – and look to Jesus.  The disciples had to learn this lesson, so at least I’m in good company.

When I discussed this with someone the other day, what came to my mind is the Casting Crowns song – “Praise You In This Storm”, so I have included it from Youtube below.  I think it is fitting and pray that although my heart is torn, that I will praise Him in this storm.  I am reminded also that just because we can and want to experience joy in these storms does not mean that we act like our hearts aren’t broken and just put on a happy face. We can bring our brokenness to Jesus and that is how we experience this Joy.  By coming to Him, no matter what. Lord, help me in this even now!