Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Joseph


"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body...So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal
2 Cor. 4:7-12, 18

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things...For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:31-32, 38-39

Joseph would be turning nine this year. Usually the weeks leading up to his birthday and day of death are the hardest weeks for us all year. Anticipating the heartache is usually harder than the day itself. I could hardly have imagined that we would be grieving another great loss to our family this year instead of anticipating these days. The loss of my brother David has impacted us and many, many friends in a huge way. Who knew the very great treasure of a person he was? He was such a humble, sweet, and often quiet person in our family. Little did I know the incredible leader and servant he was among his peers and for the kingdom of God.

Pondering over this I was reminded of the verse I wrote above about treasures in jars of clay. I read the note below this verse in my Bible:

"It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. Here they represent Paul's human frailty and unworthiness. The idea that the absolute insufficiency of man reveals the total sufficiency of God pervades this letter."

Thinking about both Joseph and David--children really (although David of course was older and mature beyond his years)--I was struck with how God chooses and uses the unlikeliest of people according to the world's standards---to demonstrate his great power and sufficiency in us. I'm thinking of David, the runt, in the Old Testament, Rahab the prostitute, Mary the teenager to be Jesus' mother, just to name a few. It seems God delights to surprise us with his great power in the weak, the young, and the outcasts. The only thing he requires is a heart that needs him and believes him.

My heart is breaking over David's death. Some days I think my heart might burst with sadness. I'm thankful that God has brought a lot of healing to Allen and I in the last year or so. (We were able to go on Nancy and David Guthrie's respite retreat last year for grieving parents and that began a journey of healing that we are so grateful for. Their example of hope and joy even after losing two children has been powerful in encouraging us.) Otherwise I don't think I could handle this new grief or deal with it with any hope at all. But the Bible tells us that we should grieve as those who have hope, because while death and sadness are real, those are not the ultimate reality. We don't live with only this life on earth as our hope. We should live with the view of heaven always in mind. It doesn't take the sadness or ache from our hearts immediately, but it does bring peace. And I can tell you from experience that this is true.

That first year after Joseph died I really wondered if I would ever be happy again, if I could ever enjoy being around people again, or if my life would ever feel meaningful. God did bring peace, but then he has also gradually restored those things in me that I had felt I lost along with Joseph: enjoying the company of people, real happiness, and a feeling of meaning to my life. In other words, he has rescued me (and continues to) from a life of perpetual self-pity and bitterness.

God is faithful to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine. The other verse above is from Romans: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things..." God deigned to become one of us, to take on human form and live a servant's life and endure a criminal's death. If He would go to all that trouble, won't he also graciously give us everything we need for this life, to live in a way that pleases him?

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

You are a treasure to God. He gave up his own Son so that you and I might live. You may just feel like a clay jar, but because of his Holy Spirit you are so much more. You may feel like God has forgotten or abandoned you. He has not and cannot. We are God's children (Romans 8:16-17) and heirs with Christ of an eternal treasure that outweighs all these trials we may endure on earth. He longs to give us everything we need for this life, but then we also have the promise of an eternity with Him. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

4 comments:

The Mom said...

Thank you so much for this point. I am well acquainted with someone who has never been able to move through her grief to a different place. It has been paralyzing for her and for all of us who love her and are in relationship with her. She has carried the burden for over 50 years now. I am so thankful that the Lord is restoring the barren and broken places in your heart with regard to Joseph. I am hopeful for your Momma and Daddy and each of you as you grieve the loss of your precious brother that it will be so as well for you. We also just buried my dear brother-in-law a little more than a month ago. I am going to share your words with my sister. She is hurting so. Thank you, Gillian for offering the comfort you have been given that it might comfort others. God bless you and your beautiful soul.

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Christy said...

Oh Gil, this was so beautiful! Thank you, as always, for sharing just what I need to hear when it feels like it should be the other way around. :-) Miss you my dear friend.

susan o'c said...

Your writings are wonderful. I think of you and all the family a lot. I hope that in time your burden will lessen and that again you will be able to enjoy life to the full. Wishing all the family healing.

Susan