Speaking Of Life 4051 │ Life’s Paradox
I’ve been privileged to attend the births of our four children, and as a result, I have the utmost respect for mothers everywhere. Though I haven’t experienced it in my own body, I’ve witnessed the pain and the great courage my wife Karen endured as she birthed our kids. You may have heard the saying among women that “childbirth is the worst pain you’ll ever experience and the fastest you’ll forget.” This highlights the paradox that is the birth experience: out of great suffering, a new life is born. Great pain and great joy. Two contradictory aspects of the same experience that are both true. In our case, we suffered the grief of losing our second-born daughter in the birthing process but later experienced the euphoria of welcoming our only son and later his baby sister into the world.
We weren’t the first to wrestle with this highly personal family journey nor the more common emotional tension between joy and pain that touches all people in physical, emotional and even spiritual ways. Our world is a world of paradox. Think about the seasons. We witness the beauty and new life of spring and summer followed by the decay and apparent deadness of fall and winter. Yet we have difficulty holding the tension in our lives between the pleasures and joys of living with the inevitable sorrows of disappointment, loss, and grief.
Jesus’s disciples were no different from us. They were looking for some certainty, something to hold on to when Jesus prophesied about the temple’s destruction in Luke 21:5-19. Jesus told them that the temple would be destroyed, but rather than answer their questions about when this would happen, Jesus talked about other troubles they might encounter. Things like wars, earthquakes, famines, and persecution. If the disciples were feeling overwhelmed at the thought of the temple’s destruction, they had to be completely anxious after Jesus’ list of troubles to come.
After telling them all the terrible things that might happen in the future, Jesus invited them to embrace the tension of grief with a certainty of hope when he said:
Every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.
Luke 21:18-19 (The Message)
Notice that Jesus did not tell them that their certainty would be found in knowing the exact dates or times of these troubles. Jesus didn’t tell them, “Oh, don’t worry. Nothing bad will ever happen to you.” Instead, Jesus reminded them that life is hard while reminding them that he had gone before and would never leave them.
Jesus’s solution to holding life’s paradox is to know that we are held, lovingly and tenderly by the One who knows how hard human life can be. “Staying with it” means not giving up looking for beauty and blessings in the ashes of sorrow and grief. It means trusting that our salvation will be birthed from living joyfully and participating in God’s love for others whenever we can.
Labor and birth are difficult, but a mother knows that holding the baby in her arms will be worth it. At other times, our life story requires us to endure more than we thought possible, but the Son of God, our elder brother Jesus says, “Sorrow won’t overcome you. Joy will be yours.”
The beautiful tension of life’s joys and sorrows will always be with us on this side of heaven, but we can rest assured that we are always in the care of our triune God.
I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.