This morning, my friend Mz. B. unknowingly answered a question I’ve been pondering all week.
The thought process started during a (supposedly) daily reading.
The statement jumped off the page at me:
“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.*”
How is that even possible?
Isn’t that an oxymoron?
(Yet even as those doubts appeared, a deeper truth whispered
My heart has been aching so much lately that it feels more like an overly ripe uterus.
Heavy. Full. Sore. About to burst.
Because our family has been through a somewhat similar catastrophic experience before, there’s a part of me that thinks I should have this thing down pat. There’s also an external expectation that since “we know the ropes,” it should somehow make it easier. This ain’t our first rodeo! We got this!
Although I know from our previous experience (and many others) that miracles do happen and that God does indeed work everything for good for those who love Him, it does not negate the terrible heartache.
My heart is broken… shattered… yet again.
And it’s almost worse this time.
No, it really is worse this time.
But all during this long, hard week, I’ve been whispering that phrase, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.”
As I’ve said elsewhere,* I’ve been actively looking for joy in the external world. I find it most easily in the faces of my grandsons. But it’s there, too, in the blue skies of LA, the slender palms that sway, the cool breezes that caress in the shade, the vivid flowers that have survived the drought.
But I know that the apostle Paul was talking about a deeper kind of joy.
A secret place.
Mz. B. is a special friend who has supported and encouraged me through the tragedies of my adult life. She made me feel sane during the years I was away from home after Katherine’s stroke, not by grand gestures, but by frequent and consistent little things. She would shoot me a text or short email, or leave me a quick voicemail with news from home. A word of encouragement, a joke, a scripture.
Today, I opened her email and read these words:
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
She reminded me of the answer to the puzzling paradox in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
How can we have joy when our hearts ache?
Because the more sorely our hearts ache, the closer God comes to us.
In that place of pain and emptiness, we are stripped bare of our self-sufficiency. Finally, we stop our thrashing around. The slightest half-turn to the Source of all joy, and He comes rushing in like a white-cap wave.
No matter what is happening in the external world, I can choose to retreat to that secret place of joy. It is the sweetest spot. Corporeal, visceral, as well as spiritual.
A heart-fluttering love overwhelms.
“…in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
I am going to crawl into my Daddy’s lap and let Him love.
(*2 Corinthians 6:10, nlt)
(This was written earlier in the week. Check caringbridge for more recent updates. Also, more joy pix to appear on my instagram account at kimberlytarnold.)