Ellen Romer Niemiec
Our Way to Joy
It took me a few rounds with the readings today. They just weren’t landing on my heart the way I hope Scripture always will. Because everything mentioned - family strife, natural disasters, wars, persecution - are quite readily found around us. They are pervasive to the point of stoking fearfulness that is not unwarranted or irrational. Death and suffering in some form are guaranteed for us all. So in each of the readings, the promise of eternal life and gladness with God is reiterated to us. Which should be encouraging and hopeful.
For anyone sitting in the midst of death, the long game of eternal life can be difficult to focus on, let alone trust in fully. Hope and joy can be hardwon and for some, fleeting at best. How are we really expected to keep pushing through the terrible things that can happen in life with the promise of something we can’t see and can only imagine?
But we do have a penchant and capacity to believe in that which we can’t see. In this time of year in this part of the world, many are planting bulbs into ground that is going to freeze and become inhospitable to life. Yet we still trust that over the course of winter, life will still emerge from this frozen and seemingly impossible ground. When in fact some of these plants and beautiful flowers can only come to life when buried in a frigid landscape. Tiny humans grow from inconceivably small flickers and parents trust that even the tiny babies that emerge will grow into something they can’t imagine. We take on risks that have no guarantee in every part of our lives. And while these risks do not come with suffering, they are also our way to joy.
The days are darkening and the stretch of wintery days ahead is long. But spring always comes. We have plenty of cold to bear through, but the promise of spring is not empty. Eternal life may seem far away, at the end of a stretch of years. As we light candles in the dark and continue to be inundated with the sufferings of the world, may we remember our capacity to believe in what we cannot see. That the joyful things we will come to see over time remind us that the promise of eternal life - however unseen - always remains.