Joy Comes in the Morning

I lost an earring this week.

The simple, square, gold earrings were a gift from my mother a bazillion years ago. Monetarily they were probably fairly insignificant, but as far as their meaning? I could not place a value on them. I thought about her every single time I wore them, which was often.

I ran into a series of closed doors this week. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with various slow-moving bureaucracies. I cajoled people to do the jobs they were already supposed to do. A semi-threatening return address on an official letter showed up in my mailbox. My kids squabbled. Some of my people have worrisome things going on in their lives. I said something insensitive to a daughter and hurt her feelings. I got irritated by something personal on social media, and I have all these other things looming. My son is transitioning to a new phase in life, empty-nest syndrome lurks just around the corner, and there are some difficult situations lying in wait for me.

I was supposed to be contemplating all this Holy Week represents for me as a Christian, and yet my time seemed doubly spoken for and I could barely find the opportunity to brush my teeth.

I have a hangnail and a stomachache, and has my hair always been coming in this grey? Sometimes it all feels like too much. And then feeling like it is all too much feels like too much.

When we are struggling, even well-meaning Christian friends can make us feel worse—like we are failing at the holy life, failing to be grateful and not focusing on our blessings, or even like we are being self-centered. These things may all be true at different times, but it seems unbiblical to say we ought not to toil, and that sometimes those toils bring us down in spirit. A hymn from my childhood popped unbidden into my head while I was in the midst of the doldrums with this line in particular pointing at me: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.”

We find one of the most breathtaking stories from the Bible where we realize with an acuity that our Savior really does understand us, that He knew sorrows and loss and impending hardship beyond anything that we might begin to imagine. Here is one such account from the night of His betrayal:

Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.

As we watch His story expand before our eyes, we see Him rise a short time later and go to the awful-beyond-words thing that lay ahead of Him. And He did not proceed with joy, nor with faux contentment encouraged by pious friends, nor any kind of weak passivity. We only read acceptance and a desire to do His Father’s will.

So then there is this, that we who share in the joy of an Easter morning can well relate to a perfect Man who bore griefs and pain unimagined so that I . . . and you . . . might have a Savior who calls us with a gentle yoke to lay our griefs and pain at His feet! “Laying them at His feet,” though, does not mean we step away from them, or that they resolve themselves, or that our worry is somehow magically lifted. It only means that we learn that it is ok to abide in them. We learn that we, like He, must shoulder them, and carry on to do our Father’s bidding, and somehow in that process, we recognize more fully (and yet through a glass darkly) what it means that Jesus went into the dark of the night to meet with His betrayer.

And as our thoughts turn deeper and quieter and we turn the pages of our Bibles, we gasp in pain as we read through the events of an illegal trial, unfounded accusations, a weak attempt to renounce charges brought against this Man, and then, finally, a punishment we can scarcely understand. We see Him go as a lamb (“Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?”) to His undeserved death, and His receipt of that which we deserve.

We continue to read, searching the pages of the sacred text for meaning, and our hearts leap within us as we glimpse in our mind’s eye the stone rolled away from the tomb and hear as if with our own ears, “He is not here! He has risen!” For it is in this ultimate defying of the laws of the grave that we hope as a people with great hope. It is in the stone rolled away, the folded linens, the sheer emptiness of the tomb, that the weight in our hearts gives way to the single highest hope that we can have in this life: that of life beyond the grave.

So as we approach this Easter morning one earring short, it is with great anticipation that we can proclaim, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!”

And joy yet comes in the morning.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on April 20, 2019.

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