Archive for May 27th, 2014


Working in a Christian school means each week begins with a devotional and prayer with my colleagues. There are two that have stood out to me, and their messages quite diverse.

For one, the message included the sharing of stories of really tough, bad and unfair circumstances in the lives of people dear to the one speaking.

I could relate to that devotional! Haven’t we all had times of wondering what on Earth God was thinking in allowing travesties to occur to the innocent, the unaware? Haven’t we all looked heaven-ward with more questions than answers? Haven’t we all had times of wondering where was God?

The other devotional was focused on joy, and how joy is something we can experience, on the inside, even when the circumstances of life are negative. I believe it is what the Bible refers to as “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The two, for me, fit together perfectly.

The first is representative of the reality of living in this sin-filled, imperfect world.

The second is the reminder that, though our circumstances may be bad, Christ offers joy. Not a silly, trite, just put a smile on and be happy sort of joy, but a joy that we can have because God does understand the big picture. We can cry our tears of sorrow, and sadness over unfair circumstances, while still knowing that God’s hand is on every detail of the canvas of our lives.

Henri Nouwen, in his book “Here and Now: Living in the Spirit,” said it well of joy :

“Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away.

“Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us. We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn’t easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience. Often we discover the joy in the midst of the sorrow. I remember the most painful times of my life as times in which I became aware of a spiritual reality much larger than myself, a reality that allowed me to live the pain with hope. I dare even to say: ‘My grief was a place where I found joy.’ Still, nothing happens automatically in the spiritual life. Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

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Karla Sullivan

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