“What’s the worst thing that could happen?,” my counselor asked me?
“I get cancer,” I replied.
“And what’s the worst the worst thing about getting cancer?” she continued.
I paused, “It would be painful,” I replied.
Pain is something I actively avoid. As a child I decided I would do a flip on the monkey bars, which are probably outlawed by now (thank you 80s school playgrounds). Upon spinning downward, I smacked my head on the concrete above the ground holding the bar posts. Blood came pouring down, and I would never attempt a flip on the bars ever again.
There are those risk-taker types who don’t let the pain get in the way. I do not understand these people. Do ‘A’ and get painful repercussion means do not do ‘A.’ End of story.
As I sat there in the chair mulling over my fear of cancer due to the pain, and now sitting here, years removed, this is what I know. I still fear the pain itself. But, I would say that it wasn’t just the physical pain, and if anything the physical pain is only the surface level of a grief and loss much deeper.
“Okay, well what’s the worst thing that could happen with the pain in cancer?,” my counselor continued.
Half annoyed, because I thought it was obvious, I replied, “Well, I would suffer and die.”
As if she wasn’t done beating me over the head with my fears, she persisted, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you died?”
Tears began to roll down my cheeks, “My girls wouldn’t have me.”
“And what’s the worst thing that could happen?,” she repeated like the broken record she was.
I hesitated, slowly answered, “Well, then I would be with Jesus. But that’s the not the worst thing. That’s the best thing.”
This season of Christmas, Advent, is downright hard. There are opportunities to run from the grief. I can try to fill that Jesus shaped hole with buying presents or planning a party. A party to have something to look forward to and even call the party planning stress “minimal” compared to the great loss my heart is bellowing out. I can binge on Netflix, work out harder, find comfort in being able to eat my feelings, or simply lavish in the gift of time with family.
But the truth is, all of these things will never satisfy the grief, the loss, the ache, the longing to quench what I most desire.
How do I find joy amidst the grief in this season? Do I run from it with the comforts above, or do I allow myself to sink into the pain, so that I might see Immanuel, Christ with us?
I find joy, when I wait patiently, even when I cannot feel the breath of the Spirit, the touch of my Jesus, and the approval of my Father, because I cling to his promise. I cling to the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid.”
Just as light broke into darkness at the beginning of time with words spoken, so the Light broke into the Darkness that one still night decades ago. And again, the Light, who is Jesus, will once again break through the darkness once and for all, and we will be restored to him.
Our joy will never fully be complete in this here but not yet. However, in our present longing, we cling to the hope that it will be complete one day. On that day He will bestow on us a “crown of beauty, instead of ashes and the oil of joy instead of mourning.”