The end of the year brings a surge of suffering souls seeking wise counsel as they try to survive this “joyous” time of year.”I always dread this time of year” are words often uttered through taunt faces accompanied by that heavy sigh of burden.
The counseling office is fragrant with a soft smell of the season and the unseen presences of prayer. Prayers are offered that these passing weary souls will be enlightened and enriched with the knowledge and felt presences of a loving Savior. This office is the landing place of numerous words that are held tightly in the heart of the counselor.
Words of the wounded express sorrow. Loss. Lostness. Confusion. Anger. Despair. Sadness. Anxiety. Brokenness. Hurt. Regret. Shame and guilt….the wound is exposed. Grief of loss. A mother murdered, decades ago on the week of Christmas. A secret is revealed of untold addictions and affairs. A child is lost to suicide leaving a vicious void. A long term relationship just ended with the revelation of lies. An illness robs a body and family of normal. A dancer looses a limb to a tumor. A promising son is killed by a suicidal driver. A job is terminate in an unfair turmoil. Sister against sister causing family tension. Resentment for years of angry and critical words…..on and on the words of the wounded released. The pain is poignant as it peaks in the midst of platitudes peace of earth and good will to man. What Joy is this?
Pain and suffering, hope and joy are the elements of a healing wound.
This same office heard a release of words as celebration and relief were raised. Through weeks of exposing the darkness of a wound to the light of the truth, new possibilities and hope have emerged. Marriages are more transparent with a deeper intimate understanding of the self and spouse. Forgiveness births a transformation of connection, releasing the burden of shame. Grief emerges into acceptance of the loss and appreciation of what was experienced. Exposure of lies and the distortion of self shame gives clarity to a soul. The work of the wounded leaving the pit of despair, gives light to inexpressible joy.
It is a our choice to be defined by our wounds or the wonder of our joy.
David express his joy as he went from the pit to praise of God’s love and provision:
Psalm 40:1-5 The Message
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God.
Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships; The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to you! I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words. Neither numbers nor words account for you.
Henri Nouwen cautions not to avoid the wounds but encourages “befriending our sorrows” to “discover the true joy”
We all must hold the cups of our lives. As we grow older and become more fully aware of the many sorrows of life – personal failures, family conflicts, disappointments in work and social life, and the many pains surrounding us on the national and international scene – everything within and around us conspires to make us ignore, avoid, suppress, or simply deny these sorrows. “Look at the sunny side of life and make the best of it,” we say to ourselves and hear others say to us. But when we want to drink the cups of our lives, we need first to holdthem, to fully acknowledge what we are living, trusting that by not avoiding but befriending our sorrows we will discover the true joy we are looking for right in the midst of our sorrows.
What do wounds of pain and wonder of joy have to do with Christmas?
The arrival of the Holy Son of God in the flesh into this domain of evil was an assault on the wound maker. His arrival was the true Joy to the world. A swaddled innocent powerless child in a cradle who grew into a suffering innocent, powerless, man on a cross is our Immanuel – God with us.
Philippians 2:7-8 NLT
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
The submission of powerlessness, in the position as a slave, highlights the powerful love of our Father. His Spirit now lives with in us, his children. To trust the truth of His presences within us profoundly changes the impact of the wound maker.
Hebrews 2:14 NLT
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.
The Christmas story does not end at the cradle it continues to the cross and lives now in the hearts of God’s children. As Jesus was about to be crucified he prayed to His father:
John 17:11 NCV
I am coming to you; I will not stay in the world any longer. But they are still in the world. Holy Father, keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they will be one, just as you and I are one.
What Joy! As a child of God we are one with Him as is Jesus. United, saved from the despair wrought by the wound maker. Focusing on the fact of the gift of unity rather than our fear of struggle brings joy in the midst of the struggle. The words written by Ann VosKamp in her recent Advent book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, brings clarity to the importance significance of focusing on the gift:
…rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now. Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, on fluid with the other. As the cold can move ou deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy.
That is the wonder that the world sees, God’s people having joy in the struggle of life, evidence of a divine presences defining the children of His love. To focus on the wonder of God’s love rather on the wounds of our struggles is the joy, the gift, that brings a profound peace to the heart. Truly Jesus is a JOY TO THE WORLD! UNSPEAKABLE JOY!!
Release the Wound, Rejoice in Wonder!