For today’s musical pairing, listen to this selection from Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons , with Mari Samuelsen on violin. You’ll forgive the quality of the recording when you see the quality of the performance. See video below. Listen to Richter’s original album here.
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Day 5. 398,107 confirmed cases, 17,454 deaths globally.
Is it premature to talk about joy? Countless people are suffering. Fear haunts our houses. Our cities are desolate, our schools shuttered, our hospitals overwhelmed. Fathers and mothers wonder how they will feed their children.
We mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. These are devastating times. It is not wrong to grieve, or lament, or cry out.
And yet joy is like a gem, most valuable when it is most rare. When the world can find no reason for joy, that Christians do find reason is a powerful testimony.
Christian joy is more profound than simple happiness. There is nothing shallow or glib or naive about it. Christian joy, in the face of suffering, is a hard, rugged, and defiant thing.
The apostle Paul was acquainted with suffering. He was persecuted and beaten and shipwrecked. Yet he knew that this life is filled with the opportunity to discover and to follow Jesus Christ and in the next life we will be with him. What greater cause for joy could there be? Paul knows that the same God who gave the greatest gift will not fail to give us lesser gifts. So even when we are embattled, even when we are beset with suffering, we have cause for an undefeated joy. Our sorrow is rooted in our circumstances, but circumstances are fleeting. Our joy is rooted in the love of God, and the love of God lasts forever.
I once thought wisdom wore a sorrowful face. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes expresses the ordinary, worldly view when he quotes, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (1:18).
Yet Christ turns worldly wisdom on its head. In Christ there is a deeper wisdom. The righteousness of God has overcome the sin of the world. Life has defeated death. There will come a day when hatred and strife will cease, when the tombs will open, and when all that remains will be life and love and joy.
So we do not belittle the sorrow of the pandemic when we declare the joy of God is greater. We show our neighbors we share their grief. We also show them we know a deeper joy that will endure and will prevail.
In the final analysis, joy is wiser than sorrow. In joy we bear gentle testimony to the secret that sin, suffering, and death do not have the last word. Joy knows we will outlive the mountains. Joy knows that death will die and life will live. Joy knows that suffering is for now but the love of God is for eternity.
Joy is all but extinguished around us. It cannot be extinguished within us.
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