The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears

KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR I lost my dad to cancer when I was twenty-three years old. We were close, and my dad was, in many ways, an anchor in my life, so I struggled immensely in the months following his death. One of the cards we received during this time had Nehemiah 8:10 printed on it: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” I remember staring at the words longing to understand what it meant to have joy in the midst of my pain. A few years later I sat in my sister’s living room while she battled the side effects of treatment for breast cancer. The world felt weighty. I pushed back tears as I looked through her music, hoping to find something uplifting, joyful. I saw a song entitled, “Joy,” so I played the music anticipating a fun and light tune. What filled the room were the words of the familiar childhood song: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart… But the singer sounded…sad. It was almost as if she was crying as she sang the heartfelt words. I dropped to my knees and prayed. Is this what it means to have joy in you, Lord? Can I cry while remaining joyful?

The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears2022-05-04T00:30:38+00:00

Covenant With a Cranky Woman

SUSAN TYNER|CONTRIBUTOR Do you tend to avoid cranky people? Go out of your way to avoid the teen who just got grounded or an exhausted coworker who started her day by stepping on a Lego? But what if I am the cranky one? I can’t escape me. Sure, I have tricks up my sleeve to stuff my frustrations so I can function at work. I can fix a smile during lunches with friends so I do not hint at the dark musings of my heart. However, my guard drops back at home and my crankiness is more obvious as I bang dinner dishes, yell “shut up” to the dogs, or give the silent treatment to my family. I see them avoid me, and I wish I could escape from my cranky self, too. I wonder if Naomi felt the same way. In the Book of Ruth we see Naomi’s story unfold. Her family left Bethlehem and went to Moab in search of bread, and though they found actual bread, they did not find what they really went for: health and life. Ten years later, Naomi’s husband and boys are dead, and she is left alone except for her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. A widow without male protection doesn’t have many options. She hears the famine back home is over and returns, her daughter-in-law Ruth in tow. They arrive back in Bethlehem, and Naomi tells her hometown friends, “I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Don’t call me by my old name, Naomi (“pleasant”) but call me Mara (“bitter”).” Empty. Bitter. Maybe even a little cranky? In chapter 2, Naomi comes across almost numb and depressed when Ruth goes to find work in the fields. Only when Ruth mentions the name Boaz do we see a spark as Naomi responds, “blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead” (Ruth 2:20). By the end of the story, we see Boaz taking both widows into his family and Naomi holding a grandbaby. But even though the writer does not explicitly say it, the real hero is God, not Boaz. We as the audience see what was happening all along. God was sticking close to Naomi because she was part of His family. Another way to describe His loving-kindness is with the term covenant, a solemn promise that God would never leave His children, His sheep. Covenant even with the cranky. In the flock of God, Naomi was a cranky sheep and God kept His covenant with her anyway. Sometimes you and I are cranky sheep, too. Perhaps our losses of dreams, expectations, or loved ones leave us dry and brittle. Or maybe we look up one day, and we are far from the community of God’s people and don’t like how our cynicism compares with their contentment. We wonder if God wants to avoid us because we are really not that fun to be around. Thankfully, God doesn’t keep His covenant promises only to the happy faces, the productive hands, and the hearts that sing with VBS vigor, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”  He sticks with cranky women too—the women out of energy to pray; women bitter from hard work and empty bank accounts; and women haunted by mistakes that can’t be undone. Where do I go if I’m cranky?...

Covenant With a Cranky Woman2022-05-04T22:59:31+00:00
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