Joy, Pain, and Paradox
"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:3
I sit here this morning as drops of fresh rain dance upon our aluminum rooftop. The coffee in my mug has gone nearly cold after sitting by my side for a while, but I will remedy that soon enough with a fresh cup from the French press. On the other side of our home, my family still rests. I nursed Alisa in the early hours of the morning, and she sleeps in my bed now, her stomach warmed and full. I carry my bucket to the wellspring of life, drawing the waters of eternal, soul-quenching salvation. I drink of the Living Water of Christ.
I recall the wise words of one woman, well-advanced in years, who used to visit me in my home several summers ago: “Choose joy, Kara. Every morning, before you set about to accomplish your tasks for the day, choose joy. It is your lot in life as a follower of Christ.”
And so it is that I take stock in the many blessings God has bestowed upon my family. This morning, there is peace in our home. There is a settledness that has returned to our daily rhythm as we have adjusted to the necessary give-and-take that comes with adding another life to our family. Last year at this time, Alisa Jane’s life was in the earliest stages of development. At this time one year ago, the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords was just beginning to knit her together in my womb. Was He fashioning her with an extra chromosome during this very week? I’m not sure exactly, but today I give thanks for all He has done, even down to very last chromosome in Alisa’s genetic makeup.
“And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His Name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His Name is exalted.’” Isaiah 12:4
The source of my great heartache and sorrow over the last year — Alisa’s Down syndrome — is also the very source of my deep and abiding joy today. How can that be? That is the paradox of Christianity. While the world sees suffering and calls for us to run from the sorrow, to hide from the pain, and to do everything in our power to escape the heartache, the Lord calls us to run into our sorrow, to embrace the pain, and to fully experience the heartache. For it is in our brokenness that we will see Him more completely; it is in our suffering that we will become walking oxymorons as we experience joy abundantly.
The problem of paradox to a suffering world is that it cannot comprehend two competing realities. But Christianity is filled with paradoxes, and we rely not on the foolishness of the world but on the wisdom of God to make sense of it all. Come and die, that you may live (1 Peter 2:24)! Come and serve, for the first shall be last and the last shall be first in God’s kingdom (Matthew 20:16)! Rejoice in your suffering, for the genuine follower of Christ discovers that joy and sorrow abide in a mutually-enhancing relationship (James 1:2-4). The greater our sorrow, the deeper our joy becomes as we rely fully on the eternal promises of Christ to inform our hope.
Choose joy, dear child of God. It is your lot in life as a follower of Christ.
“Sings praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:5
We are almost four months into Alisa’s life outside the womb, and my heart already bursts with pride and gratitude for the gift that is this daughter of mine. Already God has shown us that what the world sees as a limitation is actually an invitation to know Him more deeply. She smiles and coos, and we see in her the image of God. She cries for us to meet her needs, like any baby does, and we see in her an opportunity to give and to love and to be Christ to her today. She struggles and grows, and we see in her one who will not be defined by what the world says she can or cannot do. She will be defined by the One who formed her with the value of His creative hand, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.
Every day I see the beauty God is weaving into our story because of Alisa’s Down syndrome. It is not that I don’t still hurt at times from the delays she has or the struggles she will face from it. But as I recount all the good that my heavenly Father has done, in my life and in the lives of so many before me, I rejoice in His sovereign hand in our world. This is why we sing; this is why we dance. For great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel!
Drink deeply today of the Living Water from the wellspring of salvation, and choose joy, dear child of God. It is your lot in life as a follower of Christ.