I remember, as a kid, singing from the hymnbook in church and after awhile realizing I was singing the words, but my mind was somewhere else. C’mon, I’m not the only one!!
Alright, I’ll even go a step further in the confessional. I was leading our small congregation in that song, Trading My Sorrows. (Okay, so I don’t quite sound like the guy in the video….)
I was telling our folks that the negatives in our lives actually do have trade-in value to God and that we can to give them to Him. He values our sorrows, our pain. But here’s the rub: when I say something on stage, God’s really pointing the finger at me, isn’t He? (Ouch.)
So what sorrows and fears in my life have trade-in value to God? And just as importantly, how do I “lay these down for the joy of the Lord”? What does that mean in practical terms?
For one, I know that the whole laying it down thing is on-going. Like the TV commercial, eating one stalk of celery isn’t going to fix being overweight. So there is mental, spiritual, and emotional discipline involved, as well as personal participation here, sweat-equity if you will.
It also means acknowledging that God knows (more than I do) about what’s going on, and cares (more than I do) about the outcome. That’s the Fatherhood part of the Trinity. Even the secular entertainment got it right back in the 50’s with the Father Knows Best television show. (Well, at least in this case, He really does.)
Then there’s that thing that is seemingly so antithetical to 21st century reason, which I think is simply because we have so abused and removed the definition of reason from its original roots. Historically there was no disconnect between true reason and reasonable faith. I like how the Amplified Bible defines faith:
“…the leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness.”
God’s power—His ability to make the situation right and just.
God’s wisdom—His definition of right and just, including the timing.
God’s goodness—His desire for what is right and just for all involved.
Of course, generally when we refer to power, it’s easy to think of the Holy Spirit’s interventions. I also like to think in terms of His:
- interactions, and
- interpretations in the lives of our loved ones.
He’s not limited to natural causes either; let’s not discount dreams, visions, and other miracles, unlike the “closed-universe” of our modern first-world culture. No thanks. Personally, in my universe, I need miracles.
Then there’s Jesus.
He came. He came with His own pure human blood in His veins, and with a cross to bear for the tainted human blood in mine.
I could stop there and that would be enough.
But for Him, it wasn’t. He also came with a yoke. Now, some people see that as a restriction.
I see it as a way to take my flailing self, with all those conflicting emotions and confusion and failures, and pulls that self close to Himself, locked in, safe. (Pause. Deep breath.) Hear Him say it…
“We’re going to plow this field together, honey, one row at a time; okay, one step at a time. And every rock that’s turned over, we’ll chuck it out together. Walk with Me through this, and…
“…I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!”
The “joy of the Lord” doesn’t in any way negate my sadness over untoward circumstances, at least not on this side of eternity. They’re real and they really hurt. It DOES mean that in this moment of my circumstance, this particular rock that my plow hits, I’m yoked to a greater power that sees the end of the row and, beyond that, the full harvest.
Dual focus, or (as the theologians say): already, but not yet.
“Alas, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You—”