Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

by Stacey


“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those…who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing…For the present form of this world is passing away.” 1 Co 7:28–31

There are two main burdens weighing on me right now. The first and foremost being the fact that my mom has stage 3 ovarian cancer (as we have written in our previous blog posts). This is a deep sorrow that is just always there. The second burden has been the growing hardness of heart that I see in 3 out of 4 of my children towards the Lord. I know they are “just kids” and I know that kids go through stages, and yet this “stage” has been long, grievous, frustrating and exhausting. And these two deep sorrows seem to make the day-to-day stresses of missionary life a little more stressful.

And mysteriously, side by side with the tears and frustrations, is a perfect peace. I think one has to be a Christian to understand this. It is like being a little child who is weeping in her dad’s lap due to the loss of a pet. She cannot imagine a sorrow deeper than what she feels at that moment, and yet there is at the same time a perfect stillness because she knows that she is with her Dad and therefore everything is going to be OK. His kindness is always there. His love is always there. His concern for her well being is always there. He, at that moment, is like a rock to her and she begins to appreciate his constant, faithful love even more.

Even outside of God’s constant, faithful, loving character, there are always reasons to rejoice at his work in the world. For instance, this past week, I spent a good bit of time working with a language partner to do a rough translation of Romans 5 because this coming week we will be teaching the kids in our neighborhood (in Bakoum!) about how it is because of Adam that sin and death entered the world. We have been told that at every Bakoum funeral, lots are cast to see who was responsible for the death of the deceased. There must always be someone who used some type of witchcraft to cause each and every death. You can imagine the kind of suspicious and paranoia this can create. Anyway, this week we are all going to tell the kids to point the finger at Adam and then at themselves for death. Adam is the one who invited death into the world through his sin, and then all of us are guilty of following him. We are going to encourage the kids to not follow in the practices of their parents of accusing people of murder through witchcraft, but instead to put their trust in the “Second Adam” who brought righteousness into the world and promises life to all. Are these truths not reason to rejoice? Is it not thrilling that these children will be hearing these truths for the very first time? Even in a season of sorrow, these truths bring great rejoicing.

And then there is God’s work in our son Kaden. To give a little context, in our front yard there are on average 30 children there playing. We break up fights often and sometimes cannot hear one another talk in our own house because of the noise level. It is intense. We have a bike and the kids take turns riding it. But what happens is the “big boys” end up riding the bike the whole time and the little kids and girls do not even get to touch it. So Kaden, our son, said that this practice had to stop. He wrote down rules that said that little kids and girls got to ride the bike first. Now he stands outside and blows a whistle if a big kid violates this rule. He does not even ride the bike. And this is incredibly counter-cultural. Here “might makes right.” Whoever is bigger, older, and louder is the one who is “right” and can do what they want. So, here you have a little 7 year old kid standing up to 12-13 year-old-machete-carrying-not-wearing-shirts-muscles-popping-out-everywhere-boys telling them to let the 5 year old girl in a tattered skirt ride the bike. Only God can grant such courage. Even if God cannot be seen at work in the lives of all my children, it is remarkably encouraging to see his work in the life of Kaden.

And lastly, I am so encouraged by the simple faith of my parents who are content to take one day at a time and let tomorrow worry about itself. If they are at peace in the Lord in the midst of hospitalization and chemotherapy, then the rest of us have no excuse, do we?

To those who do not yet know this peace, I leave you with an invitation that Jesus gives:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11: 28-29
Come to Jesus, confess your sin, let him be the ruler of your life, and benefit from his gracious gifts, such as his peace, forever. He is the only way that in the midst of seasons of sorrow one can also be constantly rejoicing.