by David Dahl
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake . . . (Colossians 1:24a).
My middle daughter stood there unwilling to move. We stopped by the Hunger Haven, Gloria Dei’s amazing food-stop at Recreation Park, to check in. “Could you please stay,” were the first words we heard. They were short-handed with some having already completed a double shift. I and my daughters dove into the fray —except one.
One daughter was having an “identity crisis” day. To her, serving at the Haven was neither “cool” nor a way to become “popular.” So she stood there, unmoved.
Dads can only take their teen-aged daughters so far. While I and my youngest were hustling orders and engaging the crowd, I was pleading to God for mercy for the daughter that stood glaring at her dad.
I had a few “growing-up days” that weren’t so different. I thought life should be like a TV show – “cool,” full of action and impressive. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced a side of life that is deeper, grander and more resilient. The apostle Paul expressed it when he wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col. 1:24). Into Paul’s life flowed two God-given experiences: suffering and joy.
Raising kids has brought the truth of what Paul spoke of into focus. It’s suffering through sleepless nights of raising infants and toddlers; it’s experiencing the joy of watching them spread their wings as they run their first race or are awarded for their creativity in art or music. It’s the suffering with them through adolescence and the helplessness of seeing budding independence lead to poor choices. And it’s the joy of laughter and adventures and memories springing from this amazing grace called “family.”
Suffering and joy all rolled into one. This is the privilege of being a disciple of Jesus. We represent Jesus. Therefore, we serve like Jesus, lay our lives down like Jesus, and through it all, get to know Jesus more deeply and see His face in the people and organizations He has sent us to serve. We represent the One “who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Let me roll that over one more time: Jesus endured the tremendous suffering of the cross because He saw the joy on the other side of the suffering.
The joy is seeing humanity redeemed from the power of sin, self-destruction and death. It’s seeing the lights come on when someone realizes that they were made for God. It’s the excitement of hearing of a business manager changing their protocols, because God moved them to see the injustice of the current practice. It’s the awe of hearing a child sing “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so,” seeing tears well up in an adult’s eyes. The joy is experiencing broken people, families, businesses and communities made whole. And we are willing to suffer like Jesus suffered because we know the joy of being whole and connected to our Father.
Life makes sense no other way.
So what happened with my unmoved daughter? God sent an answer to prayer – a wise adult who was able to persuade my daughter to give a little and serve in the kitchen. It took a willingness to suffer a bit and take a risk —along with a smile and a bit of energy, and my daughter let down the wall and joined in. By the time evening came, my daughter was brimming with joy—the joy of being included and being part of a larger family —a family that does things that matter —a family called the Body of Christ.
This summer is going far too quickly. But I applaud parents and grandparents and all the rest who suffer that kids and grandkids may know their destiny as God’s children. May God continue to empower you to open a child’s eyes to the amazing nature of God’s creation and expand the wonder of the massive complexity with which God surrounds us.
May God give us all the vision to see the joy beyond the suffering. May we continue to serve like Jesus and give our lives like Jesus.
May we all Keep and Live the Faith!
-Pr. Dave Dahl
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