. That your pain and sorrow will be turned to joy.
This sounds like the best thing I’ve prayed for so far, right? Sounds good. Well, it is… eventually. The process of turning pain and sorrow into joy can be the worst. It’s a necessary process. Seeing joy is a direct result of seeing God’s hand at work. And God’s hand can hurt.
We would rather pray, God, take your hand away from me. And in essence that’s what many people are praying without realizing it. We’re praying that God will stop working on us because we pray for things like health and wealth. But those things, more often than not, lead us away from Jesus. They lull us into false securities and a sense of sufficiency that only Jesus can truly give. When everything is going well, we pray a lot less, we kneel a lot less, we throw ourselves onto the floor a lot less, we weep a lot less, and, ultimately, we worship a lot less. Our worship is less full and complete.
Worship is painful at times. If you’ve never had an experience that wasn’t all pep rally and happy clappy tunes, I would argue you haven’t fully worshipped yet. because worship is best cultivated through the storms. Worship grows up amidst the sorrows of life and it nourishes the soil we are blossoming in. When worship is less than full – part joy/ part lament, recognizing the brokenness of the world and recognizing God’s redemption of it – our souls don’t get all the nourishment it needs to carry on. Eventually there won’t be enough sun or rain. You need both. And joy only really grows with sorrow.
Pixar does a great job of this in the movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is really good storytelling and pretty funny, if not down right incriminating at times. I thought, “Oh man, do I do that?” more than I care to admit. Through the movie’s plot, you learn that it takes both joy and sadness to save a person and I won’t give anything away, but in the end it is incredibly profound to have the two working side by side.
I don’t know a ton about sailing. I’ve been on a sailboat a dozen or so times in my life. It looks tricky. There are a lot of moving parts. I think of this like life. When it’s smooth sailing, the wind is just right and in the direction you need it to go. It all looks so effortless and graceful. You can wear hip white shorts and look all handsome. But when it’s not going so well and the storms are tossing you about, the boat can become undone, from what I understand, literally. There are so many things you have to do and adjust and ropes and levers and cranks and knots and that’s the extent of my knowledge.
Life uses every part of the boat. We exercise every part so that we know they work and so they do their job. We don’t wait for storms to check these things, but when the storms do come, we know what to do and we know how to do them. When I pray for people, I pray for every facet of life, and most importantly, I pray for the purposes of the kingdom, that Jesus will be ever closer and more real than ever before in their very souls. I pray that they will know a peace in the storms, that they will worship in a new way, a fuller way – so your joy may be full.