It’s Okay to be Happy

It’s Okay to be Happy

As we drove away from a series of four doctor appointments—all in one week, thoughts flooded my mind. Although emotionally spent, it was a very satisfied feeling. I just couldn’t believe it. This was something that seemed like it would never come: Good news!

But now I had a new, unexpected feeling brewing in my heart… GUILT.  Many know our family has had many years of health challenges with our daughter Taylor. In July, she was finally able to get surgery to repair her severely damaged shoulder.

Recovery is progressing well.  So, why the guilt? In part, it is because I have very dear people around me who are not receiving good news.  One friend is learning to live again without her husband as he went to be with Jesus last Christmas Eve. Another is facing the unknowns of brain cancer. Still another is in the grip of mental illness. These sisters are dear to me and they are suffering. I find it hard to rejoice in my good news in the midst of it all.  My heart is heavy for them but also, I feel like I have somehow betrayed my fellow suffering club members. Perhaps being in a similar position as me, you have felt the same? So, before I share the rest of my good news, I’d like to share some thoughts as I work through this struggle.

First. Press on!—Thankfully.  I am so thankful for the treasures I have found in the dark places of suffering (Is. 45:3). Suffering is part of our sanctification and there is no question that we will face it until we see Jesus face to face. If you find yourself in reprieve, love and give out of a grateful heart. Continue to stay in touch with your fellow sufferer. The walk of faith is like a hospital where the doctors are patients and the patients are doctors.  We press on playing whatever part God has for us. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good”. That is what Taylor quoted from the movie God’s Not Dead as the nurse rolled her out of the O.R. after her surgery.  It was a rough time. She was feeling sick from the anesthesia and wrapped up with bandages that made her look like a football player. Those words were true then and they are just as true now when she is recovering and feeling much better.

Second, don’t allow yourself to be the victim. It might feel easier to stay in the shadow of hard times, looking for ways that things still are not right. I have been tempted to do this myself. Victim status is not a healthy place to be. When we fall on this side of things, we lose our saltiness. Our hearts end up becoming hard and less pliable. It may be compared to a pie.  When you make a pie, one of the key elements is the crust.  It can be tricky, there is a perfect balance of mixing the ingredients and squeezing them together to make the perfectly light and flaky crust that pie-lovers drool over (trust me on this one, I am married to one such pie-lover). If you knead that dough just a little too long it gets stiff, falls apart and generally frustrates the baker.  Yes, I am speaking from experience! We do well to ensure that our hearts are staying pliable and fresh. We can only do this when we remember the gospel and stay grounded in our identity in Christ no matter what the circumstances are, good or bad.

With that said, I am going to step out in faith and share the rest of some very good news in hopes that you can rejoice with us. We are humbled to be sharing this.

Last week, I took Taylor to her annual eye doctor appointment to check on the cataract she has had since birth. The main point of this annual check-up is to ensure that it does not get bigger. This year, as in previous years, the cataract stayed the same size. But Taylor baffled the doctor by having her best exam yet.  She saw better out of that eye than she ever has her entire life! There is no rhyme or reason for it, other than God’s mercy.

Also last week, we saw the orthopedic doctor who performed her shoulder surgery.  Everything looked good and she will be starting physical therapy in September. Taylor asked the doctor once she is healed what she will not be able to do. His answer was astounding! He said, “Nothing! I expect you to have a full recovery and to be able to do everything.”

Finally, today we met with the neurologist for a follow-up.  Everything is good with her meds. He said this break of five months without any seizures is a good sign and that she may eventually be healed and therefore able to get off of the medication altogether! I am in awe of God’s goodness. Thank you for praying!

Introducing: Hope

Today’s headlines are downright scary but they might not concern you as much what is going on in your own home. Maybe you are emotionally and physically exhausted from a lifestyle that seems mostly out-of-control? Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t take it anymore!” Welcome to family life in the 21st Century. Is there any real hope?

I would like to introduce you to hope. Real hope. This is not wishful thinking but confident assurance that despite circumstances, four things can still be true of you and your family.

First, a day will come when sin, death, pain, and suffering will end. These painful challenges will not last forever (Rev. 21:4). They will come to an end. Far better days rare still ahead. Living faithfully today involves remembering this important truth in the midst of the battle and allowing it, rather than our raw emotions, to shape our response to it. I admit that I do not dwell enough upon this important truth. How about you?

Second, God is using even awful circumstances to accomplish his will in your life. In Romans 8:28-29, Paul reminds us that all things, not just the good things, work together for our good. Although we prefer it when things are going great, the truth is, we don’t grow much in those times. We grow better through challenges because they help us see how we are not like Jesus. God’s will is that we grow to live more like who we already are in Christ. This brings God glory and provides us with joy.

Many readers know that one of my children suffers with seizures. I’ll never forget what she said to me one day. “Dad. I’d rather have the seizures and have what I have with Jesus than to not have the seizures and not have what I have with Jesus.” That is 100% real, pure hope talking.

God uses even the bad things in our lives to accomplish good in us even though pain is often involved in the process.  This gives us incredible hope!

Third, there can be “joy” in the midst of suffering. In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read that even Jesus endured the unspeakable shame and suffering of the cross… with joy. How can that be possible? First of all, “Joy” can be but is not necessarily “happiness” or the euphoric feeling when everything is going our way. Jesus was not happy about the excruciating pain of crucifixion. When Peter and John went away rejoicing after being flogged it wasn’t because they enjoyed it. Rather, in each case the joy at its core was a simple yet enduring satisfaction in God alone; doing his will despite the excruciating circumstances that carried them through the suffering.

Fourth, our peace does not depend on our circumstances but on Jesus’ promise. Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let them be afraid.” Note that there is no qualification on the peace he has given. By faith, we simply need to receive it.

If Jesus has given us peace then we should live in light of that. His peace is lasting and withstands circumstances. The world’s peace is different. It depends upon circumstances and can therefore be taken away when threatening situations arise.

To be clear: we should prayerfully seek to relieve suffering. God does heal! God does restore! Our faith in Christ, built on hope, is powerful enough to do that if God wills. But circumstances don’t always change. Hard-hearted family members only grow more embittered. Financial ends do not meet. The loved one dies. These are the harsh realities of life in a fallen world that often blind us to the hope we need to shun despair or bitterness. Instead, we would do well to exercise a resilient faith that chooses hope.

This is the hope offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are losing the battle. Fear, anger, and despair have a grip on you. Have you ever considered a relationship with Jesus Christ? He holds the keys of hope! Perhaps you already know Jesus but are losing the battle. Whatever the case, it is only through the gospel’s message of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that we find the hope needed not merely to hang on but to flourish.