Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
December 11, 2016
The strange season of joy and sadness
Al lived in Alaska. He was a good friend. His wife had died. Hoping my voice might ease his loneliness, I called him one night.
We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes, then he jarred me with the news that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I fought back tears as he said, “I’m going home soon and I am ready to go. I’ll get to be with my wife again and I am eager to see her.”
I was speechless for several seconds. The silence was awkward. Finally, I stammered a reply, “My brother, I wish I could be with you one more time – just to let you know how much your friendship has meant to me.”
His voice was steady as he replied, “I would love to see you too. But if we don’t see each other again down here, I’ll be waiting to see you in the Father’s House.”
I sat quietly after our conversation ended, asking God to bless my friend and thanking God that I had called. I thought of earlier days, 40 years ago, when our families shared a vacation together in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota adjacent to the Canadian border. Our children think it was the best vacation we ever had.
Young and vigorous then, we had life by the tail. Our days were filled with laughter and enthusiasm. We shared stories of God’s redeeming grace and our dreams for ourselves and our children.
Now we are old. We talk more of heaven than our dreams in these days of transition, keenly aware that we are in the fourth quarter of life.
Does that mean we must live now under a cloud of sadness? No! A thousand times No! We can still rejoice in the goodness of God. We can still live, laugh and love. We can refuse to let sorrow steal our joy.
Though we are old, Christmas is still “the most wonderful time of the year.” While sickness and pain never take a holiday, I can still wear my “Joy to the world” face most of the time and refuse to allow sadness to rule my day.
Cancer still shows its ugly face. People are dying. Funerals are being planned. Nursing homes are filled with lonely people. Hospitals are crowded with hurting people. The jails are full of people whose lives are being ruined by drugs, crime and alcohol. But that is not the whole story!
Babies are being born. Some young people are eagerly learning how to live as disciples of Jesus. Many young adults are living a good life with gusto. Many in the prime of life are joyously honoring Christ in noble ways. Churches will soon be crowded with people seeking peace with God and praying for peace on earth. Many are looking for ways to bless others in generous ways.
This is the nature of life – a mixture of sadness and joy, good and evil, tough times and good times. Should we stop celebrating because others are struggling with sorrow and sadness? By no means. Never!
Happy people can care about those who are hurting – and offer tender, loving care. Caring may be offered in a hundred different ways – a card or a call, a visit, cookies or flowers, a warm smile or words of encouragement. Each of us can do something!
As we grow older our perspective is seasoned by loss and pain so that, hopefully, we understand better than the young how to cope with sadness. And guess what? Caring for others is the seed from which springs the flower of authentic joy. + + +