I would be very remiss if I didn’t mention my amazing friend and her sweet baby Joy at least once.
When my daughters wanted to name our puppy Joy, I was really hesitant to be honest. Mostly because I didn’t want to hurt my friend.
When I thought about writing this series of posts exploring JOY, I was really hesitant. Mostly because I didn’t want to hurt my friend.
For my friend and her husband and children have been missing their Joy girl for several years. Her tiny newborn self was never cuddled in her own home before she reached her heavenly home. Her first wobbly baby steps never scuffed their floors. Her happy newborn noises and toddler babbles and preschooler stories have never filled their ears. Her sweet smile will never be on their family’s Christmas cards. Joy’s mom blogged about it herself just recently. Perhaps her words will be the balm that your soul needs today if you have suffered similar pain and sorrow. And for all of those nevers, my heart just shatters. I cannot imagine.
Several other friends have experienced such excruciating, life-changing anguish through infant loss and miscarriages, incurable illnesses and unforeseen death far too young.
My heart aches for you and prays for your peace and comfort… for all of you who are missing someone who should be with you.
Any loved one who is taken before ourselves is far too early.
Any loved one who was broken by illness we could not heal.
Any loved one who has hurts that we cannot mend.
Any of you who are aching in places that no one else can touch.
JOY seems like an unreachable place.
Because we simply don’t feel that way. We just cannot call out in JOY or with JOY because we hurt too much.
But hurt springs from somewhere else too. Not just from pain caused to us, but from loving.
We cannot be hurt as much if we do not love so much.
The greatest of pain stems from the greatness of our love.
In the previous post about finding JOY, we looked at Jesus’ desire for us to remain in Him, in all things, at all times, always.
When that is all He is asking, why can it be so difficult to do?
Why is it so hard to remain steadfast?
Perhaps the reason is as simple and complex as pain. It causes us to recoil into ourselves, to shrink back from that and those who we think have caused physical wounds, mental anguish, emotional turmoil.
Perhaps it is really hard to willingly, knowingly walk back into a relationship of any sort when someone, whom you have loved deeply and whom you thought loved you similarly, has knowingly or unknowingly brought about bitterness or affliction.
Because love shouldn’t hurt. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
But in reality, even the most pure and unconditional love in all of time caused untold agony.
Jesus’ mother Mary did not know about the suffering she would have to endure for thirty-plus years and then for the rest of her earthly life when the angel approached her to tell her she was the chosen one to bear the Savior of humanity.
While Mary may have recognized that others would spread rumors about her and her pregnancy, the angel did not prepare her for how to hear and not fully absorb that damaging, gut-twisting gossip about the baby’s father.
While Mary may have predicted Joseph’s doubts about her baby and its Father, the angel did not warn her for the pain of a potential divorce before she even consummated the marriage.
While Mary may have considered the unrealistic responsibility of being the mother of the Holy Child, the most influential person to ever walk on the planet for all time, the angel did not suggest a road map for her to take to perfect her parenting skills upon the Most Perfect One.
While Mary may have questioned what it might be like to not know what God really had in store by sending Himself in human form through her very own firstborn son, nothing and no one could ever fully equip her for the desperation and torture she would feel at not being able to take His suffering and isolation and crucifixion upon herself, just so her baby would not have to do it.
While Mary may have known that she would fall head-over-heels in love with her tiny, vulnerable baby boy, born in a weathered and animal-y stable in a little town in the middle of not much else, not even a heavenly host of angels could have told her the extent of the love and pain she would grow in, day upon day, miracle upon miracle, death upon resurrection.
Sometimes I wonder if God Himself knew how impossibly difficult it would be to stand by helplessly as His only Son was whipped and beaten and mocked and nailed and bleeding and suffering,to not step in and stop it all when He certainly could have. And any parent would have.
I wonder if He knew how much He could and would love Jesus.
Because that is how much His love bleeds and hurts for us when we are in our agony.
Nothing can fully prepare anyone for pain. But love and pain coexist, however much we don’t like that they do.
If we continue in John 15, at the end of the parable of the vine and branches, we see the crux of it all. The very essence of where love and pain and JOY intertwine.
Because the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves us. To the same extent that God loves His one and only Son. Just like that. That’s a lot of loving.
But with that loving also comes a lot of sacrifice, and few of us will ever pay the same ultimate sacrifice that Jesus did for us. The depth of His love for each of us caused immense pain and suffering for Him. The extent to which He desperately wanted to show us that love in a real, tangible way brought Him to Golgotha. The greatness of His love showed us how greatly we must love each other. Even to the point of pain.
Unfortunately many of us, including my friend and her sweet baby, will sacrifice their own love for their beloved ones, just like the Father’s love of His Son. The intensity of God’s love for us caused God unbelievable anguish.
God chose pain and love to bring us complete joy.
Jesus bore agony in love to bring us complete joy.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:9-17).
We don’t ask for the pain. We don’t want to sacrifice. We didn’t choose those paths.
But we do crave love. We do desire JOY to fill our beings. We do choose to love and be loved.
Remaining in the love of God brings JOY.
Living JOY-full can bring pain.
Finding JOY through love heals pain.
It is a difficult journey. But one that is well-known and well-traveled. Into the essence of God. Into His goodness and glory. Into His grace and mercy. Into His purpose that is greater than any other.
For living JOY-full is a daily walk through pain and with pain, in love and for love.
We must overflow with love for others because of the amount of love poured into us by God the Father. Our lives must reflect that same sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, whether we want the pain or not. We love because we are loved.
We receive JOY because we know the extent of the pain and the depth of the love that went into the gift of that JOY.
May JOY be your unexpected gift, even if you’re in pain and needing love.
You are loved by God, the JOY-Giver. Today. Tomorrow. Always.
*Thank you, Beth, for allowing me to share your story and Joy’s. http://allthedaysordainedforher.blogspot.com/
Missed some of the series?
Find Part 1 here – an unexpected gift: searching for joy
Find Part 2 here – an unexpected gift: finding joy