Pleasure is wiser than grief
For today's musical pairing, listen to this selection from Max Richter's new composition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Mari Samuelsen on the violin. You will forgive the quality of the recording if you see the quality of the performance. Listen to Richter's original album here.
"If God is for us, who can be against us? Who has not spared his own son, but has given him up for all of us – how will he not give us all things graciously with him? "
Romans 8: 31-32
"For me, life is Christ and death is gain."
Day 5, 398,107 confirmed cases, 17,454 deaths worldwide.
Is it premature to talk about joy? Countless people suffer. Fear haunts our homes. Our cities are deserted, our schools closed, our hospitals overwhelmed. Fathers and mothers wonder how they will feed their children.
We mourn with those who mourn and cry with those who cry. These are devastating times. It is not wrong to grieve, to complain or to scream.
And yet joy is like a jewel, the most valuable when it is the least. If the world has no reason to be happy, it is a strong testimony that Christians find reason.
Christian joy is deeper than simple happiness. There is nothing flat or glibes or naive about it. Christian joy is a hard, robust and defiant thing in the face of suffering.
The apostle Paul was familiar with suffering. He was persecuted, beaten, and destroyed. However, he knew that this life was filled with the opportunity to discover and follow Jesus Christ, and in the next life we will be with him. What bigger reason for joy could there be? Paul knows that the same God who gave the greatest gift will also give us smaller gifts. Even if we are competitive, even if we are struggling with suffering, we have reason to be undefeated in joy. Our grief is rooted in our circumstances, but the circumstances are fleeting. Our joy is rooted in God's love and God's love lasts forever.
I once thought wisdom had a sad face. The teacher in Preacher expresses the ordinary, worldly view when quoting: “Because with much wisdom comes much suffering; The more knowledge, the more grief ”(1:18).
But Christ turns worldly wisdom upside down. There is deeper wisdom in Christ. God's righteousness has overcome the world's sin. Life has conquered death. A day will come when hatred and strife will stop, the graves will open and only life, love and joy will be left.
So we are not diminishing the sadness of the pandemic by declaring that God's joy is greater. We show our neighbors that we share their grief. We also show them that we know a deeper joy that will last and win.
Ultimately, joy is smarter than grief. We joyfully testify to the mystery that sin, suffering, and death do not have the last word. Joy knows we will survive the mountains. Joy knows that death will die and life will live. Joy knows that suffering is for now, but God's love is for eternity.
The joy around us is almost gone. It cannot be erased from us.
The corridor through the sea
The Corridor through the Sea is a series of daily meditations by the President and CEO of Christianity Today, written specifically for those suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. It will address our feelings of fear and isolation, and the way we find beauty and truth and hope – and Christ Himself – in the midst of suffering. The title of the column alludes to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. We are a people who have been released from our slavery to sin, but we live between where we were and where we should be. There is danger on both sides, but our hope and belief is that God will deliver us through the sea and into the land of promise.
Timothy Dalrymple is President and CEO of Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter @TimDalrymple_.
The corridor through the sea pillars: