Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
- John 16:19-22
“So often, whether for good or ill, one’s inner state seems to have so little connection with the circumstances.”
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady
I wrote a couple of days ago, in Preservatives, about an old DuPont slogan, “Better Living through Chemistry.” The full slogan was “Better things for better living … through Chemistry.” My managers when I worked for E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont for short), did not like me much, but working for them was one of my “bucket list” items, I guess you might say. I think that I might have thrived there if I could have ever transferred to the chemical side of things, working only on the government nuclear side of things, something that they do not do anymore. And I wonder if the president of the company still has the dollar bill signed by Truman on his wall. The DuPont president had said, when President Truman visited him in his office, that he’d build and operate the nuclear plant for the government for cost, plus one dollar. Just on his word at that moment and no contract, Truman pulled a dollar out of his pocket. Truman signed it and the dollar bill remained on the DuPont president’s wall ever after.
Funny how an old slogan can return, slightly modified. I read the C. S. Lewis quote and thought of the post title. Indeed, Jesus is correct in that all our grief is turned to Joy. We may lose loved ones, but if they die in Christ, they do not go away from us for long. We will see them again, and we know that they are in a better place now. We have Hope in knowing that we will go there too. No more suffering, no more pain. Yes, even in grief, we have a reason to have Joy and Hope.
Then, I don’t know about you, but I have waded through flood waters. Once, I waded to my neighbor’s house to check up on him. Our neighbors were a lot older. He was one of those meticulous neighbors who would get out the spirit level, a straight edge, and scissors to ensure his lawn was perfect. His house was also immaculate. Yet, he and I stood in nearly waste deep water in his front lawn – but maybe only a foot deep inside his house, telling jokes to one another. Okay, I mostly told jokes, and we both laughed, and he kept asking for more. We laughed for a couple of hours. Then, we noticed how some tree limbs were clogging the culvert that started between our houses and ended across two streets, dumping into a larger creek, a creek that was the same level as the water in the front yard. Everything was full and overflowing, but once the culvert was clear, the water would recede faster, once the flash flood was over. So, we got this “great – almost brilliant” idea. We pulled on one limb which basically untied the knot and the rest of the limbs flushed through the culvert at a rapid rate. As the water current shifted with more water rushing through the culvert and less rushing past us above the culvert, the change in water current nearly knocked both of us down and into the culvert. I had to grab my neighbor and hold tightly as he was much smaller, holding tight to keep him from being flushed along with the limbs.
NOTE: Warning, do not try that at home. You could be swept away and drowned.
When we saw that we had just done something stupid, we looked each other in the eye and laughed that much harder. We knew that God still had work for us to do. We each went home and went to bed. We knew we needed rest for the clean-up the next day. And that was only one of three floods that we had in a six-month period, but it was the worst of the three.
Why laugh and tell jokes when what you saved your entire life is washing down a culvert or getting water-soaked inside your house? When you know how much God loves you and you know that God is taking care of you, these disasters are mere bumps in the road.
I cannot survive the slightest flood on my own, but I can survive the monster of all storms with the inner strength that God provides. And knowing that, I must laugh, even in the face of disaster and mortal danger. After my years at DuPont, I have carried that intense safety attitude everywhere I have gone since then, but in the midst of danger, I know that God is with me. I feel His presence.
And if I don’t “survive” the next disaster? I will be with Jesus in Heaven, forever.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.