Sad Joy

26
Feb
2015
Written by:   |  Found in: Other, Parenting  |   no Comments

Sad Joy

 

When I got the word that our son-in-law’s cancer was back, my heart sunk. It was just last year we’d watched him and our daughter walk through that dark canyon. The initial shock, the sobering implications, and then the up-hill journey through chemo and radiation—with all of their side effects—had gotten them to a place that we hoped they were going to get to enjoy for many decades … cancer free. But less than a year later, here it was. And here it is. This time, however, it was not just the two of them. God had added their firstborn to their family picture right in the midst of his initial chemo treatments. Cancer is a terrorist and one of the ways it terrorizes is the question marks it brings to center stage. If cancer is back this soon, does  this mean that they are dealing with something bigger and meaner than the strains of cancer that are adequately managed? Is this a strain that will get to have the last word? It’s hard to believe that I can experience joy in the midst of all of this, but I do. It’s a sad joy, but it’s joy. Notice that I didn’t use the word “happiness.” I can’t see how anyone could find happiness in this. I certainly don’t. And so I process real sadness for my kids … … Sadness for the fear they’ve had to manage. … Sadness for the physical pain and misery our son-in-law has had to endure. … Sadness for the tentative cloud that seems to hover over all their dreams for the future. It’s the logical reaction to what they’re going through. Sadness and happiness are the opposite ends of an emotional continuum our lives ride back and forth over. They’re not choices we make in a vacuum. They’re honest responses to the circumstances we’re given. That’s the nature of emotions. That’s why I think people are being dishonest with themselves when they try to talk themselves into a euphoric state that contradicts the reality they’re experiencing at the moment. In the process, I think they also diminish the legitimate role emotions are supposed to play in their life. I like to characterize emotions as the exhaust system God installed on our heart to accommodate all of the high and low pressures that come with experiencing a particular event in life. Joy, however, is very different. It’s a decision we can arrive at regardless of what’s happening at the moment. Its root system has far more connection to the things we know rather than the things we feel and the things we deeply believe rather than the things foisted on us by life. And that’s why, in the midst of profound sadness for the place in which my children find themselves, I’m also experiencing a secure and comforting joy for what this cancer journey represents in the bigger story of their lives. I know that God loves my kids. I know that God is not taken by surprise by this medical crises. I know that God consistently uses these chapters to do things in them, for them, to them, and through them that predictable and comfortable circumstances simply can’t. And so I take joy that in the midst of these sad and frightening days, God is using this to do a greater and eternal good in my kid’s lives. These kids are young. Their walk with Christ still has a new car smell to it. They may not be ready to embrace the word “joy” as a descriptor of where their heart is in the middle of all this. That’s why, when our kids go through deep waters, our number one prayer for them should be that they get to where  they will trust God for where He has them and where He’s taking them—regardless of how much fear, disappointment, or even anger towards Him they may have to process along the way. I think one of the best ways we can help them get to that place is by showing them what it looks like in the way we respond. My sad joy for them does not leave me with a smile on my face, just a confidence in my heart that all of this is part of a bigger plan … from an all-powerful God … who deeply loves my kids.  

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

   

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