"Five year old boy shoots and kills a bear twelve times his size! Story after the break" announced the anchor on Fox News Sunday morning. I did not hear the story but it flooded me with memories of working with three and four year old children in the preschool where I helped teach. We used to play a game called "I'm going on a bear hunt!" Maybe you remember that game. The leader of the game would start the hunt by saying "I'm going on a bear hunt!" Echoes of children repeated "I'm going on a bear hunt". "I'm not afraid!" "I see a cave" the leader continues, followed by the quick repetition by the little ones. "I can't go over it, I can't go under it, I can't go around it, gotta go through it!" The eyes of these children would widen with excitement. They stomped their hands as they marched into the make-believe cave. "Gotta go through it!"
Being the third Sunday in Advent, we lit the joy candle yesterday. This season is full of joyous celebrations. Christmas music resounds in every car, home, or mall. Christmas parties each evening in someones home. Preparations for the annual family turkey dinner. Cards from distant family and friends with wishes of joy for the season.
But like me, you may have people in your life today who are not experiencing joy. Who, instead of hearing "Joy to the World" replaying in her mind, recalls a phone call notifying her of her young adult sons death in a motor accident. A young father who instead of rsvp'ing to a Christmas party, stands in a solemn office making his next chemo appointment. A middle-aged wife, who instead of planning her annual family Christmas dinner, soaks her pillow with tears because her husband of 20 years has left her alone. Christmas cards that won't be arriving. Music that won't be played. Loneliness. Hurt. Anger. Grief. An abundance of emotions, but for many, joy is not one of them.
I am reminded by these that sometimes we can't go "over it" or "under it" or "around it". Sometimes we just "gotta go through it". But I am comforted that I don't go through anything alone. Neither do any that know and trust HIM. Dear friend, maybe it is you that is hurting. Know that we have a God that if we "gotta go through it", He will go through it with us. Psalms 9:9-10 says "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." The Message says it this way: 9-10 God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked.
Lord, help me be mindful of those whose sorrow is great. Whose pain is deep. Whose loss is unbearable. Let me shine your light into their world. You, who came into this world to bear all our sin. All our sorrow. All our pain and loss. Father let your love penetrate to the very core of those deep emotions. I pray that the hurting amongst us may fall into your hands. Hands that are big enough, gentle enough, compassionate enough, and faithful enough to carry them "through it". There is joy in that. In knowing you are our strength! The "joy of" you O Lord "is my strength" !(Neh. 8:10)