This is the Dance of Sorrow and Joy

I hope that you’re doing well, that your heart is resting in the love of our Father in each step, that rest comes easily, and that food is satisfying. The simple things in life seem to be the basis from which many joys emerge, so I hope these things are in place for you today.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy. – Psalm 16:11

Joy, though, we both know, is sometimes hard to find. I’m tired and my hand hurts from the cancer removed yesterday—the stitches pull and my skin is tight. New medication to slow my heartbeat makes me feel fatigued and weary, and a night of little sleep, thanks to fading anesthesia, heaps on that. Yes, I’m complaining today.

So I take my complaints and lay them out there, lifeless as they are, and look at them. They aren’t so bad. They don’t really do anything. Like all the other feelings I’ve put out there to observe, they just sit there. I recognize what they are, but they don’t define me. And that is a more important distinction to make than any other I can think of right now: I know pain and discouragement, but these feelings are not the sum of who I am.

I’m not defined by these trials. They’re simply part of my experience, places I visit along the way but leave behind as I keep walking. Hardship reminds me of my frailty and puts to rest (again) my faulty beliefs of invulnerability and self-sufficiency. I’m reminded of my bond with this earth and of all life and death that circles and cycles through here. And my compassion grows when I see others pained in similar ways. These are good and needed messages for my soul, if I choose to take them as such.

My complaining reminds me of my expectations of health and satisfaction, as if those are the ultimate goals of life. Really? At the end of my life, am I going to hope that above all things I lived a life of health and satisfaction? How tragic that would be!

May that not be my epitaph.

I hope instead that the words spoken at the end of my days are these: faith, hope—and most important—love. Those truths. Those sentiments and aspirations. To live a life defined in such terms would be a glorious thing! To walk in this life of pains and afflictions with faith, hope, and love is a beautiful, graceful way to step along the way.

And then the walk becomes a dance. The burdens stemming from being bound to this world become teachers of new dance steps as the Father plays the music: the pebble on the path, a skip; the chilling wind, a twirl; the heavy weight, a bow. Life’s trials bring a deeper joy than simple pleasures are capable of producing. The body may be failing, and yet its associated pains aren’t sufficient to drown out the music he plays for us or the joy of dancing in our Father’s arms.

I’m still tired and my hand still aches, but my heart is lighter now. I’m thankful for my teachers and even more thankful for the music my Father plays in my heart. Those feelings that I know but aren’t me are still there, but faith, hope, and love enliven the movements of my soul. This is simple. This is practicing the presence of the Father. This is remembering and seeing life in the depths of the gradual and daily dying.

This is the dance.


You’ve been reading from Day 14 of God in the Dark: 31 Devotions to Let the Light Back In by Sarah Van Diest. Learn more or pre-order the book here. To read an excerpt from the beginning of the book click here.

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