Paradox = a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true
“Shall we not receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
A text message declaring God’s provision for something desired for months came within hours of receiving a text carrying some brutal, hard-to-stomach news.
Joy and sorrow.
Excitement and grief.
News that lightens and news that brings heaviness.
The paradoxes of the Christian life are complex and carefully crafted with divine intention.
Life is piercingly beautiful.
Life is painfully hard.
And grace covers all.
It seems the Lord is teaching me a deeper (more experiential) meaning of what Paul talks about when he describes servants of God as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10a).
You see, there is so much good happening. So much joy, provision, and depth of community. So many doors opening. So many opportunities to minister and be ministered to. So much love and humility and grace and kindness and care that it has made me—quite literally—cry into a plate of chicken and waffles from the mercy of it all. These scattered beams can only be explained by the Lord, who is dropping joy bombs and grace explosions all around.
But it’s not all chicken and waffles.
Running parallel to the circumstances one might label “good,” are excruciating things happening simultaneously. This is mercy in another form. Constant reminders that this world, no matter how brightly the sun shines, is not our home.
These pangs of reality are commentaries on the brokenness of remaining sin within us and the world marred by the same sin without. They are wake up calls to prevent idolatry and to push our hearts—so prone to wander to the path of least resistance—to the One unwilling to leave His children content in faux comfort devoid of the real Comforter.
There’s a reason we’re never commanded to count it all joy when we encounter various goodness. In those times, it bubbles up naturally. We can feel the joy rising and worship bursting forth for the kindness of our Savior toward our undeserving selves.
But counting it all joy in various trials is different (James 1:2). We’re never commanded to do what comes naturally, but only what, in order to carry out, requires something beyond our abilities.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” –2 Corinthians 1:9, emphasis mine
So we get “good” news and “bad” news on the same day.
We get the message we never wanted within seconds of the message we prayed for.
We get the call no one wants while someone else gets the call we longed for.
And neither is ultimate.
The really great, super exciting, want-to-throw-all-the-parties-for good news is not ultimate. It’s pointing to something greater. A God, who, in His abundant provision, has made a way for us to know a forever joy that will last far beyond parties and homes and earthly bodies and wedding bells and confetti-filled moments.
And the really hard, super excruciating, want-to-punch-a-wall-because-it-hurts-so-badly news is not ultimate either. It also points to something greater. A God, who, in His abundant provision, has made a way for us to know the end of suffering because His Son became the sacrifice we couldn’t offer.
But, while neither scenario is ultimate, both come filtered to us through the same Sovereign hands of love.
Hands that hold us fast and press us into truth when our eyes and heart betray us.
Hands that stabilize our souls in the midst of agony and victory.
Hands that provide every single thing we need for every single circumstance they bring.
“But the Lord is a refuge to His people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” -Joel 3:16a
The Lord is a refuge.
A city of peace in a world of turmoil.
Joy and trials can coexist.
Sorrow and rejoicing can coexist.
Hope and the reality of who we are apart from Christ can coexist.
Christ was broken so we can be whole.
Wounded so we can be healed.
Emptied so we can be filled.
Forsaken so we can be held.
Crushed so we can be remade.
Cursed so we can be comforted.
Cut off so we can enter in.
The life of a Christ follower isn’t an either/or situation, it’s a both/and.
Even better, it’s a “but.” We’re sorrowful but rejoicing. Grieving but hopeful. Heavy but unburdened. Uprooted but resting.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;…” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9, emphasis mine
Alive but carrying within us life and death:
“…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” -2 Corinthians 4:10
And it’s not just a “but” situation, it’s a “yet.” Look at the continued paradoxes:
“We are treated as imposters, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and behold, we live;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” -2 Corinthians 6:8b-10, emphasis mine
He has portioned our circumstances and He is our portion in the midst of them (Psalm 73:26).
We can trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will do right. He can do no other.
And that’s infinitely better than happy tears over a plate of chicken and waffles.
“What if, sometimes, there are mists and fogs so thick that I cannot see the path? ‘Tis enough that You hold my hand, and guide me in the darkness; for walking with You in the gloom–is far sweeter and safer than walking alone in the sunlight!” -Susannah Spurgeon