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“Joy in the midst of suffering” is one of those Christian paradoxes that often confound me. The suffering part is all too obvious. The joy is more sneaky, harder to spot. My daily battle with this aging body of mine is a case in point.
My body is aging and wearing out, but by the grace of God, it’s still serving me as an instrument for my callings in life, and that’s reason for joy.
For example, if it weren’t for the new generation of fancy, high tech plastic lenses, my glasses would be as thick as Coke bottles. But what a joy it is to wipe off my specs each morning and see the bright and clear dawn of a new day filled with possibilities for serving the Lord. “We also rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3, NIV).
I’ve got constant ringing in my ears which can be pretty annoying at times. It’s making it harder and harder to hear a conversation in a crowded room. But what a joy it is to hear the sound of five month old Blake as he giggles to discover his toes for the fiftieth time. “We also rejoice in our sufferings.”
My feet hurt a lot of the time, especially after standing and teaching or after a long day of travel. But what a joy it is to take a long, sweaty hike up and down the hills of our neighborhood with my best friend Carol. “We also rejoice in our sufferings.”
I have days when it seems like every cell in my body is screaming at me, “Oreos! We need Oreos here, and we want them NOW!” But what a joy it is (on my better days) to lay hold of a juicy peach or a crisp apple and feel the explosion of flavor and goodness on my taste buds. “We also rejoice in our sufferings.”
My back aches more than it used to and I have a knee that’s acting up and a shoulder that hurts and a stiff neck once in a while and some arthritis creeping into my fingers, but what a joy it is to know that one day Jesus will return and breathe life eternal into these dry bones and that I will join in the everlasting dance of joy with the angels and all who are made whole by the power of the love that saved us from death. “We also rejoice in our sufferings.”
In the meantime, I’m learning to take care of my aging body, because every day I wake up and every place I go presents another opportunity to serve, and it’s this body of mine, in remarkably good shape for my age, that gets me there.
And it’s the love of Christ, still sustaining my tired, old body that gives me reason to rejoice. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).
Thanks for reading.
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