Years Closer

11 years without you.

11 years closer to feeling your arms around me again.

Our son Benjamin ended a recent and heartrending tribute with those words. Eleven years since his dad went Home, and the touch of an imperfect life, honorably lived for the glory of God continues to wrap its arms around us all and hold us close.

The day he died, joy was the farthest thing from our minds and hearts and unraveled emotions. I assumed it just dissolved, left us and this earth, and arrived safely into eternity with him. I was wrong.

The writer of Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus, “…for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” I’ve never been able to get out of my head the uncomfortable truth that enduring and joy seem always to be mentioned together, like parallel rails on a train track. The natural inclination would seem to be for each to travel in direct opposition to the other. How are we to simply consider it all joy when we encounter various trials just because it produces endurance? Why is the joy of The Lord strength? Why doesn’t the strength of The Lord produce joy?

Merriam-Webster says to “endure” is to undergo something without giving in; to remain firm under suffering without yielding, flinching, or breaking. It is to successfully control the impulse to resist, avoid, or resent, and in Hebrew, to endure means “to take one’s stand; hold one’s ground.”

Joy, a “settled state of contentment, confidence and hope” * cannot be held in one’s hand or intellect, yet is warm to the touch of a frostbit and wounded soul, and cool relief to the desert-worn traveler. It is an internal acquisition of faith; immovable, unwavering, and gurgling up from an unseen but intimately known Source. Kay Warren says it is “settled assurance, quiet confidence, and a determined choice.” ** And somehow it is, without exception or alternative, what compelled our Christ to endure the cross without giving its accompanying shame the time of day.

  And so, for the joy set before him, a son endures and aches with unquenchable love for the touch of his father.

More than two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene longed to “touch” her Savior after His resurrection. The reality of the word “touch,” much like Ben’s words, means more to “cling to or lay hold of,” but Jesus had not ascended yet. He knew he had to go because the next time they met, they would never be parted again.

For her joy to be made full and her longing truly satisfied, she would
have to endure time and the limitations of what we can’t see with the assurance that sight can never see as clearly as faith.

Sons and daughters and mommas and dads and all of earth’s grieving occupants look ahead to the joy of arms around them again and finally. This is a joy we understand. A love temporarily lost but waiting at the finish line is reason enough for a son to endure past, present and future and fix his eyes ahead to what has been promised. The joy of a family reunited after life’s greatest violation is life’s greatest motivation to endure, and… it was enough motivation for our Savior too. No wonder the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Dear Reader and Friend, the Joy of The Lord isn’t going anywhere. Fix your eyes on Jesus… and run!

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1b-3 NASB


** “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough” by Kay Warren. Baker Publishing Group 2013