We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
A celebration in faith means that we take God at his word. We’re already in the condition of faith when we believe in him. The ongoing celebration of faith is lived out of that belief.
How do we stay attentive to the present–the place where things don’t always work out, or they change, or get difficult–while also discovering joy in the experience? It sounds like a set-up to frame an impossible dilemma. Pain and darkness get juxtaposed against the life we really want. So, does this mean we have to choose to deny the reality of pain or despair in our lives so the we can search for a place of bliss? Maybe we must trick ourselves into a sense of false security. We try to get ourselves to believe that, “Oh, everything will be OK,” when in reality the actual situation continues to deteriorate around us. We get stuck and don’t know where to go.
This is the time to pause and take a step back for a larger panoramic view. In these times, our understanding of God and our framework for functioning in the world don’t work anymore. We default to questions like: Has God left me? Is he trying to teach me something? Is God angry? It’s fearsome to come to the end of something–whether that something is a relationship, a career, a season of life, someone else’s life, our own strength, or our ability to make sense of anything.
Faith suggests a different way. Instead of thinking we can have only suffering with no joy, or mistakenly assuming that joy is never accompanied by hardship, faith asks the question if perhaps there is a balance. “Can we live fully submerged in pain and trial while at the same time finding joy?” Can we learn how to find order in the mess? Peace in the chaos? Gratitude in the suffering? Light in the darkness? Beauty in the ugliness? A reason to throw a party when no occasion for celebration exists?
I want to take some time to tell a brief story to illustrate. Growing up on the farm gave us cousins many chances to work hard and get dirty doing it. Same for my dad, uncle, and grandpa. Lots of times, after a day of working out in the field or with the livestock, grease and mud, even manure, found their way onto hands, shoes, and clothing. As devoted observers of afternoon coffee time, we’d sit on the back steps, remove our shoes, wash our hands, and go to the kitchen. Grandma would have a celebration waiting. Coffee. Cake. Cookies. Sandwiches. All of it served on her best china. Grandma knew how to create a special occasion in the midst of the ordinary toil of a workday. She met us with love and acceptance when all we brought into her house were grease-spotted jeans and odors from the barnyard. She found reasons to throw a party in spite of the fact that she’d have a table full of dirty dishes to wash afterward.
Faith. Sometimes God calls us to endure hard things. But he’s always near. When we come to the end, we can stand on the truth that God is waiting to give a new beginning. Every time. Faith. Hebrews says it’s the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction that things not seen are in fact very real. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. What is seen is temporary. What is unseen is eternal. The mess, the grief, the dark will end. That’s good news. Peace, gratitude, and joy–they remain. That’s even better news.
Faith asks us to endure the temporary because we know what really lasts. God. Who he is, who we are in him, and what we enjoy as his children living in his covenant grace and under his sovereign care will never pass away. We grow stronger and more secure in him day by day. The small gifts discovered in each of these days provides endless reasons to throw a party.