“Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes with the morning.”
Sometimes the morning comes years later.
For the first time in years. Joy. Maybe that’s not what it is. But joy is the word that kept raising its hand when I asked what was going on. Who knows in this world with so much more mystery than I ever bargained for? So many questions and so few good answers.
Over the past few years, we have experienced what the Bible calls trials. But more often than not it felt like our own personal hell. A dying daily without the relief of death and a resurrection.
The belly of a whale, if you will.
The brink of financial collapse. Both parents going on ahead. Vocational failure. Does our daughter have Aspergers? Panic attacks.
Yesterday morning I was studying for a Sunday School lesson and something clicked. I’d been studying the verse in question for two weeks. I’d taught on it numerous times. I saw nothing new there. But I experienced warmth. The steady warmth of joy I once knew but had long forgotten.
And the passage was a command, not a promise. But warmth nonetheless.
This is not to say there have not been some very happy times in the last few years. Bethany and I’s marriage is the stuff of envy. We pine for time with the other. Our kids give us smiles miles wide. We have friendships we would not trade for riches untold. A home in our hometown we are always glad to return to. A loving extended family. And a church thick with kindness.
But the belly of the whale is a hard place. And the black nights seemed to never end. Sometimes. The weight of broken worlds hitherto unknown seemed to have been laid square upon our souls.
Joy was lost in a sea of dreaded days. Every day off from work was clouded by the days coming. Every Friday evening felt like a putting off of the inevitable misery of Monday morning. Sunday night was just a looking over the edge into the mouth of hell itself.
Life couldn’t be afforded with me working. Quitting sounded like freedom but no option.
I know all that sounds extreme but I swear I felt like I was primitive camping in the valley of the shadow of death. Whether I was or not is really neither nor there, now isn’t it?
But then click.
Joy. Not the hand-raising kind. But the kind of joy you know you will take into the day ahead and make the bluest sky bluer. The autumn leaves flame bright like a thousand suns. The joy demanding all moments that follow must honor the moment when it finally broke through. The kind of joy that asks nothing crazy of you but rest. Finally rest. Rest like a reverse echo of the final rest where all be made new and we will see the King for all he is. And breathe in the deep satisfaction of all our sighed-out hopes.
It is true, joy comes with morning. But more often than not, years later After the soul’s dark night mourning After the years level-best thieving After the white-knuckle grieving.