I am writing this blog on the 23rd of Dec.  Tomorrow is Christiams Eve.  We just got word that  Judy’s Dad, Stan Seburg, who was 100 years old,  just passed away. This means that Christmas will be a time of planning for and having the funeral for Stan.  I have had to hold and comfort my wife at this “joyful time of year.”  I loved my father-in-law.  He gave me a wonderful daughter who has been my “soulmate” for 46 years.  I respected my father-in-law.  I have asked and received much good counsel over the years.  Stan Seburg was one of the most generous and kind men I have had the joy of knowing.  Now we all have to face the reality that he is gone.  The last of our four parents.

Now I mention the dilemma of my Christmas  because I got to thinking about pain and suffering and its relationship to Christmas.  Charles Colson had a very interesting blog in which he talks about how we almost force upon ourselves and one another the idea of Christmas being a time to be “joyful.”  He references Michael Knox Beran (unknown to me) regarding  the modern “dream of a painless world.”  Beran calls it the “great illusion…which regards suffering not as something inherent in the very nature of life but as an anomaly to be eradicated by reason and science and social legislation.”  “There is” says Beran a utopian delusion which “appeals to our inner egotism and self-conceit.  When something painful happens, one’s instinct is to be outraged, as though the universe has made a mistake…But there has been no mistake; we have been created to know joy, and also to know misery.”  

The older I get the more I have, by the grace of God, been able to hold together the tension between joy and suffering.  There is paradox and mystery to suffering.  But the more that I have been able to come to rest in “the arms of love” the more grace I have to accept what is before me.  Right now it is the reality that this Christmas my wife’s family is going to have to prepare for and take part in a funeral right after Christmas.  Recently, I have had to face some personal grieving, but by God’s grace have also found joy in the midst of the trial.  Peter’s word help me in this process. “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your suffering as a weaning from the old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” (I Peter 4:1-2 – The Message).  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the “weaning” process.  The weaning for me has been learning to  “let it be.”  This is what I am doing at this moment.

Remember men, Jesus came to suffer.  It is a modern illusion of a false hope that somehow we are going to get a “handle of evil.”  It will be with us till the end.  You and I will be touched by suffering and pain.  But our hope is that someday it will be taken care of.  Not by illusionary post-modern thinking, but through the victory of Jesus who came to die on a cross. “He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way.” ( I Peter 2:24 – The Message).  Listen to Paul. “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.  The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.  Everything in creation is being more or less held back.  God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead.  Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” (Romans 8:18-21 – The Message).  Stan Seburg is dancing with his bride, Doris in heaven.  Meanwhile, Judy and I live in joyful anticipation of better things to come.