Joy and hope

Before Sean proposed, we had spent the day hanging out and celebrating having dated for one year.  We had a picnic at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.  I really think this is one of the most beautiful places in SF.  There are ducks and turtles and birds and flowers everywhere, and it’s about a mile walk around the lake so it seems like an adventure but it’s not long.  Oh I and I have to mention there is a stone bridge, paddle boat rentals, and a waterfall.  Anyway, I remember on this particular day we walked around the lake, ate a lunch I had prepared, took some pictures, and then ventured a little further out into the park.  We found a somewhat secluded area, surrounded by bushes and flowers and lush grass.  Sean and I spent some time thanking God for the year we had together.  As we were praying in this beautiful spot in a beautiful park on a beautiful day, a thought took over me.  It was one of those thoughts that you KNOW, and can almost feel it ringing in your insides.  God creates beauty.  God makes beautiful things.  Not only does he create beauty, but he somehow he molds beauty out of things that aren’t so lovely.  At that moment, I was ready to trust God with my relationship with Sean.  And I was hopeful for our future.  I finally thought, “Maybe this could go somewhere.”  Good thing, because Sean proposed that evening.

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Life is really difficult right now.  … There’s a little bit of freedom in saying it.  Cancer is rough.  Chemotherapy is not for the faint of heart.  Each round seems to get a little bit worse, and I have a feeling it’s going to get even worse before it gets better.  It’s hard to be on the sidelines, trying to do everything I can to help Sean but knowing I really can’t do anything to bring him relief.  This is difficult and scary… can I say it again?  Cancer sucks.

And I have to lean on what I know- God creates beauty.  Somehow, even with all the crap there is in the world, God turns it into something beautiful.  It’s crazy and amazing how good he is at that.  I know it is still true in this season for Sean and me.  Even though we are going through pain and hardship, God is here with us, and he is creating beauty from these ashes.

Jesus talks about joy.  This is a perplexing concept to me at the moment, and I am still working out what that tiny word really means.  Joy is evidence of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This week, I have learned that joy is NOT putting on a brave face and saying I’m okay.  That doesn’t even work for me anyway; no one believes you’re actually okay when you’re not holding back the tears very well.  I feel a little bit of pressure to have joy- that because God is working in my life, I should be joyful.  But I’m pretty sure that’s not how God works.  The prophet Isaiah wrote this sometime around the 8th century BC:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

that they may be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified”
(Isaiah 61:1-3).

These words are so beautiful, and full of hope for the future.  But something amazing came out of these words.  Centuries later, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth.

And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’”  (Luke 4:16-21).

If you have ever wondered who Jesus is, he laid it out very clearly.  He was claiming to be the Messiah that Isaiah spoke of.  He was claiming to bring good news, hope, peace, and freedom.  Renewal.  If there’s any reason to have joy, it’s because of Jesus.  But he also went through pain and suffering, as did his followers.

“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 6:22).

I’m still working out my thoughts about joy, but the more it simmers in my head, the more I am compelled to be honest about this process for Sean and me.  I don’t have a lot of joy right now… but I’m also not despairing.  I do have hope.  Because I know God is good, and with us every step.  And I know he creates beauty.

What are your thoughts about joy?  Please continue to pray for a quick recovery for Sean from this round of chemo.

3 thoughts on “Joy and hope

  1. Joy? It was sheer joy the 1st time I held you, when you could not yet even open your eyes! It was joy to cradle you, and look at this beautiful gift God had now blessed us with. It was joy being in your room praying with you as you went to bed, telling you stories (not Rusty stories either, but most often, Bible stories), all the while. In awe of God for this amazingly beautiful young lady inside and out and He had blessed us with.

    It was joy taking you to your 1st dance and your 1st date, which both happened to be at the same time. It was joy watching you make an everlasting impression on northern virginia with your White Rabbit rendition. It was joy watching you play with the bee, and also the spider. It was joy watching you becoming a Christmas reporter. It was joy as I watched you grow into a young woman of God, who faithfully wrote the Bible each night in her bed.

    It was joy having all of the heart-to-hearts with you at night after mom had already gone to bed. It was joy to be able to spend so much time with my baby in high school, as I became not only your dad, but your teach too. It was joy watching you during your college years, and always receiving the Rai-jokes on April 1 each year.

    I was joy convincing you to go on Massah, and then watching you do it again. It was joy scaring all your suitors, including the one that woud become your husband. It was joy being asked for my baby’s hand in marriage, and then being there as she walked out of my life, and into someone else’s.

    And it’s been a joy to watch my little girl grow into a strong provider and support for her husband during this most difficult time.

    Joy? Having had the privilege granted by God Almighty to experience all of these moments of joy (and many others) with you!

  2. Pingback: Chemo Round Three I Survived | Sean Trank

  3. I think Joy is the steadfastness of knowing that God is in control, and knowing that we rest in the palm of his hand. I think it means comfort in the things we can’t control. I think Joy is a lot like peace, and that they are often synonymous. Where one is the other is not far.

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