Aches and Joy

It’s normal to ache after a trip home from overseas. The long plane rides, confusing time changes, and complete change in environment, food, and everything else make the body go into a bit of shock. But those aches aren’t the ones that bother me as much. The ones that hurt me the most are the spiritual and emotional aches that sometimes physically hurt down deep in the bones.

I just watched the sun set out over the pond from my bedroom window. And the first thought in my delirious, jet-lagged mind was of my friends in Cambodia. The same sun will rise on them in just a few hours. The same sun. And the same grace. I already miss them, and I miss my team as well. I am so used to our patterns of interacting and being that I floundered a bit. The tears came and went, but the ache stayed in my throat. I’ve been told that this kind of ache is all part of ministry, that after a while you stop getting as attached and leaving people behind is easier. Maybe I believe it. But this ache in my throat says no.

When Paul listed all of his trials and all of the scars he bore in 2 Cor., the one he lists last, on top of everything, is his daily burden for the churches. Because of that, I am comforted. I know that I ache and cry like a leaky waterspout because I have a bit of my Father’s heart for his work among the nations. I believe that He weeps for them, as people groups, as cultures, and as individuals just as the Son wept over Jerusalem. He knows each of the people he created by name and he desires their worship and their relationship with Him. And I know that Paul, too, as calloused and seasoned as he was, still bore the burden of remembering the churches he’d left behind. Only a sorrow as deep as that could birth an anger as intense as what we see in some of his letters. He burned for the communities he’d left and was deeply angry at any who would lead them astray.

But Paul also had other emotions for the people he’d left behind. One look at Philippians shows that Paul was filled to overflowing with joy. He loved his work and the people he worked with. And because of his connection with them through Christ, he could be abundantly joyful. We share in the same grace, he said. We have the same savior, and we have the same love poured out on us like an ocean. Though we may worship in different ways or languages, and though we may be so far apart that we will never see the sun at the same time, we all look to the same Son, who died the same death to give us the same grace.

I’ve probably said this to all of you before, and it’s probably old news to you, but every time I think about it, the thought wells up in me with a fresh joy and appreciation for the Father’s faithfulness. He knew that his children would sometimes be apart from those they love, so He gave to the Body of believers one single Body, broken for all. That Holy, blessed Body unites us. We function as unit—as a body with many members working together. We aren’t perfect, but we have the grace of this provision. We all serve the same Father. And just as I can look at the sun and know the same sun will soon rise on my friends, I can look to the Father and know that He is leading us all to participate in his good and perfect will—in a beautiful and intricate Great Dance, weaving in and out between each other to accomplish his purposes and sing for his glory.

Bless the Lord, O my soul

O my soul.

Worship His holy Name;

Sing like never before,

O my soul,

I’ll worship Your holy Name.