As we get into the Easter season I begin my yearly journey toward the cross and the tomb by reading “Reliving the Passion” by Walt Wangerin. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it as a resource to frame our hearts and minds toward Easter. It is designed to be read from Ash Wednesday (which was last week) to Easter. It is a perfect companion for those who follow Lenten traditions. This morning as I was reading I reflected back on one of his thoughts from a few days ago.
On Day 4, Saturday, Wangerin writes these words;
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope.”
As I reflect on these words I am deeply convicted about how often I strive to be happy instead of longing to have joy. No one likes to experience pain, especially over a long period of time. But out of that pain God raises those who endure to new heights to intimacy with Him. Through our pain we grow into deeper beings relying on the power of God instead of the ease of our circumstance to control our hearts.
We are a circumstance driven people. When circumstances call for celebration, we are happy. When circumstances bring pain, we cry out for mercy and seek to medicate ourselves on whatever indulgence will dull the pain. I know this is true for my life. I desire so much more.
I have encountered people dealing with all types of pain lately. And instead of medicating, we need to embrace it. We need to look for the depths of God in the midst of our circumstance. And out of the ashes will rise endurance. Out of endurance character and out of character hope.
May we strive to be people of joy, and not settle for happiness.