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The Easter Mystery: Joy and Sorrow Mixed

04/04/2015 2 comments

This is the season of the Pascal Mystery. Palm Sunday through Easter is about life coming out of death. When we focus on the death without resurrection, our life becomes morbid. When we focus on resurrection without death, our life will be full of striving because there is no resurrection before death. Someone asked me, “How can I experience the resurrected life?” My response was simply, “Die.” We must die before we die, then we can enjoy life before death.

Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross.” As we learn to face life in this way, we will find joy and fulfillment even in the process of dying to the old man, to use Paul’s phrase, so the new man can rise to walk in a newness of life. This mixture of joy and sorrow is the mystery of the Passion of Christ.

Recently Lynda and I had time with some new friends from the Leaders Alive group in Indiana. Our time was full of joy and laughter. That reminded me of a quote from Victor Borge: “Laughing is the shortest distance between two people.” Once we have laughed together, it’s as though we have been friends forever. Medical science has discovered that laughter improves our health and strengthens our immune system. Religion without laughter is unhealthy.

There is another way to reduce the distance between two people. It’s a way no one would choose; it’s called sorrow and mourning. When people experience pain together through the loss of a loved one or through some other tragedy, it can bring a lasting relationship that’s even more bonded than that created by laughter. The bonding in hard times can be very strong. We don’t look forward to death and tragedy, but our Father can grow us and mature our relationships through such experiences.

However, in both cases the result is dependent on the persons involved. If the laughter is simply enjoying “yourself,” the experience is self-centered rather than focused on the relationship. If the sorrow is focused on what “I” could’ve done, or should’ve done differently, the sorrow turns to depression and self-flagellation. These responses tend to drive individuals into a shell and isolate them from any meaningful relationships.

This brings our attention to the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is related to what happens. If things don’t happen the way I want, I will not be happy. But, if we trust our Father to work in difficult situations to bring us into a better place, we can experience joy even when things aren’t going our way. And, if we use our losses to drive us deeper into intimacy with Father, we can even have joy in the midst of sorrow.

A life of striving to be happy will never find true fulfillment. It may have good moments but, as we all know, good moments pass as we move forward in life. No matter how good things are, we always want more of what makes us feel good. When we experience life in this way, we never have lasting joy – only moments of temporary happiness. This seems to me to be the dynamic that drives people into addictions and keeps them bound. They want more good feelings, but are unwilling to face life as it comes.

Let us commit ourselves to carry the mystery of the Easter Season into the rest of this year.

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Looking forward,
Fount Shults
President, On Word Ministries, http://www.onword.org
Academic Dean, Nation 2 Nation Christian University, http://www.N2NCU.org

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