It’s been one of those seasons, where you feel the two sides of your heart tugged hard. One side of the heart is tugged toward the joy of heaven, secured by the Resurrection, which we are soon to celebrate. And the other side of the heart is tugged toward the pain of earth and all of its manifold heartbreak.
I see it on Facebook, and across my own community — unexpected and untimely deaths, job loss, terrorism, abject hunger, another out-of-the-blue diagnosis. The world has been ripped right open, and it bleeds. I’m getting used to carrying Kleenex.
I remember how, last year, we walked into a church sanctuary on the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was a Saturday, but it felt like a Sadder-Day, because we were walking in behind Aunt Sandy’s casket. She was one of those larger- than-life people, a flesh-and-blood rock for the family. She seemed immortal, and in the truest sense, she was. And is.
But her change-of-residence left a hollow ache in all of us. Grief is this pit in the soul that yawns open, and threatens to swallow us whole.
That morning at the funeral, hundreds of lilies trumpeted the Risen King — with their fresh-bloomed faces tilted heavenward. And in that moment, I felt the tugging that I feel today — the joy of Jesus, and the pain of this humanity.
The Bible says that we don’t grieve as the world grieves, but you know what? We still grieve. My friend John Blase says it like this: “Death may have lost its sting, but it still burns.”
In times like these, all I know is that Jesus is our only hope. Apart from Him, I have nothing, and I am nothing.
I also know that Jesus is acquainted with the two-way tug of a human heart. He is familiar with tears, and He wasn’t afraid to shed them. Jesus wept, even though he knew he was mere moments away from bringing Lazarus back to life. Furthermore, the same God who created the salt in your tears, is the very God who bottles every one of them up.
I have begun to learn that the two-way tug of my heart is not a contradiction in terms — but that it represents the fullness of my experience as a human who belongs to Jesus.
Because of Jesus, I have permission to cry. I am not a hypocrite when I grieve over the pain of loss.
I am a time in my life where I am learning what it means to enter into a fuller joy, an authentic joy that allows space for lamenting. My joy doesn’t depend on my circumstances, but it doesn’t ignore my circumstances either. This is the secret to true happiness — feeling the whole of life, and feeling along the edges of our lives to find Jesus resting upon every inch of it.
Some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, have endured great loss. And they have lived to tell about it. They have walked through seasons full of Sadder-Days. But they learned along the way that Jesus, who carried the burden of the cross, also carried the burden of their own load of pain. Christ carries the cross, and every load we’ve bore, and He carries every one of us — in the name of love.
The two-way tug of our hearts intersects at the beams of the cross.
The hymn asks the question: “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?”
This is the crossroads of true joy, deep joy — this place where Christ, for the joy set before Him, took on all of our Sadder-Days.
It is okay to cry. It is okay for a Christian to grieve deeply and sorrowfully. True joy is acquainted with suffering. True happiness weeps. True happiness in this life allows space for a person to be sad. No person who is happy can really be happy if she isn’t ever sad.
Happy people know what the salt in their tears taste like. Happy people are the people who don’t fall for a superficial spirituality and a slapped-on smile. Happy people are the ones who bring the Kleenex. And they aren’t afraid to be a mess, or to sit down with someone else in their mess, and to get honest about the mess when no one else will.
Happiness weeps. And sometimes, happiness tastes like salt in tears.
A life of true joy is a heart tugged two ways. And it’s knowing that for every Sadder-Day, we have the promise of an empty-tomb Sunday.
As a child, I sang this song throughout the Lenten season: “Every morning is Easter morning from now. Every day’s Resurrection Day the past is over and gone.”
I need more Easter every day. But I also need Good Friday, to counter every bad Thursday. When I see Jesus dying on the cross to make a wretch his treasure, I can’t help but know that He’s capable of filling the hollow ache.
I mean, who does this? Jesus, that’s who. Jesus paid the enormity of my debt and my pain, surrendering his life for the incomprehensible love of us.
The world has never known another god like this — a God who loves us and rescues us. Just because He wants to — not because He has to.
I need to know He is risen, on my Sundays. And especially on my Sadder-Days.
He is Risen,
not only in April, but in June and October and December.
He is Risen
at midnight and noon — and even at 3:52 a.m.
He is Risen,
on Sunday and Sadder-Day, and Good Friday, and Bad Thursday.
He is Risen,
when we feel like singing at the top of our lungs,
and even when we don’t.
He is Risen,
when we need him most —
and also in those heels-dug-in moments
when we think we don’t Him at all.
He is Risen,
— not for a day,
but for EVER.
We need a Savior like that. A Savior who understands our tears, who collects them, who has felt the pain of grief, but who knows how this story ends. We need a Savior who holds the fullness of our humanity — with all its happiness and heartbreak — and cups it in His able hands.
And thanks be to Jesus, we have a Savior like that.