When You Can’t Count It All Joy

It appeared brilliantly with resplendent flashes of bright white and blue. Pink cotton candy colored petals of Sakura blossoms falling like snow covered the ground within a handful of hours.

Spring. It has arrived and I can finally see the sky.

I have been standing in the sun every chance I get and sometimes with no other reason than to just inhale the beauty and exhale incredible joy from deep inside.

I guess when you have 67 straight days of rain (I wish this was not a true statement) you appreciate the little things like the sun so much more.

And my favorite part of this season… is the Mountains.

Oh the mountains! The size of these still snowcapped beauties makes you grasp how finite you are. They jut out from behind a curtain of evergreens, jagged and majestic.

I am blessed to be on deputation in a place that is literally surrounded by these vast goliaths of stone and ice.

The Cascades in front of me. The Olympics behind me.  Mt. Rainer beside me.

Everywhere I look the mountains are there.

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These beauties are something that I honestly forget about sometimes. Being in Seattle and surrounded by mountains that are so huge people train for Everest on them. The founders of this land named them after Mount Olympus the home of the ancient Pagan gods.

Yet still… they are only visible when the weather is clear and the rain is gone.

I was talking to my dear friend Erin the other day about how it is such a blessing to see them, and how these mountains literally can make an average day crescendo toward the edge of perfection.

Yet somedays be it fog, wind, rain, snow, or location, the mountains disappear. The sky turns gray and Londonish. And you find that among the most beautiful and majestic of creation, there is a myopic sense of gloom. Darkness.

Still even on the rainy and stormy days… those mountains are still there. Those very mountains that are capable of bringing me so much joy, lay behind the shroud as if  in a mirror dimly lit.

And I just can’t see them.

It’s embarrassing when people visit, and those clouds stay. They are standing among a wonder of the world that has awed humanity for thousands of years and yet blind and unable to see, they merely know fog.

Life begins to feel dark. Then you see the occasional glimmer of a blue sky and it’s almost painful because it is so vapid and will soon be immolated by more gray. For a moment, the sun is out for two days. You grin and say, “This is it! Warmth! Sunshine! Hope!”

And then it’s cloudy again.

People on Instagram post photos that say “Count it all Joy!” as they soak up the sun on Miami beaches. With puppies. Puppies and babies and smoothies. They count it all joy when its oh so very easy to count. What happens when you can’t count it joy? When the sun has literally decided to cover itself from November to March and the world feels apocalyptic.

Erin and I talked about how this is such a spiritual picture.

The same can be said for the word of God, the presence of God, the joy of God. He and His very words are always a few steps or a prayer away. If I had the presence of mind, I could sit and soak among His spirit as if tanning before the realms of heaven.

Sometimes though, as if the soul is shrouded in clouds, my view of the heavenly is obscured and I find myself unable to remember the very God dwelling closer than the air around me.

What happens when God feels a million miles away, and people still point at you, wink, nod, and say “He’s right in your chest buckaroo! CHEER UP!!!!!”

Can you relate? It’s like walking out of church with every intention to change the world, eat right, and forgive those people who wronged you, only to find six or seven days have passed since Sunday and you forgot God even existed for much longer then you are comfortable with.

You lost the car keys and instead of praying, searched really angrily for twenty minutes. We never imagine God wouldn’t want us on the road because of danger. That if we just prayed He might answer. Instead we stew in our emotions, fears, and worries.

Ironically the full majestic powers of heaven are but moments away. And we think lifting up the couch cushion a fourteenth time will produce great treasure.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to let the clouds block the most beautiful aspects of life. Clouds and mountains are such a spiritual picture because we have this book. A book with the answers to life. A book written by the finger of God. And yet when life is hard, we can go for long stretches internally focusing on the fogginess around us, unable to think beyond the near and temporal.

Jesus once said whoever builds a tower must first reckon whether or not he has counted the cost. Otherwise he’ll create nothing more than a new pile of ruins.

There is a real tension between this world and the next and God brings it to the surface through often harsh and painful feelings. We push against this because it really is calling us to account. Those clouds, as much as we hate them, are the filter between us and a proven faith.

 

Those moments where you get a phone call that brings you to the knees and instead of reaching for anger and resentment, dig deep, and reach for the Word of God.Jesus makes us count that cost for a reason. Because one day, you will need to actually build that tower, live that true faith, do that hard thing, and it is not easy.

I love Spring. But I love it because of the clouds as much as the mountains.

The beauty underneath layers of gray is amplified by the rarity and the majesty. Spring wouldn’t feel good, if winter didn’t feel so hard to get through. Winter wouldn’t feel so hard if we had never known spring. The world tells us to celebrate the spring, grieve the winter, grieve the harvest, and fear the end of summer. It has us begging for more the second what we want arrives.

The bible talks about a different path. Of mountains that will be beyond anything we will imagine on Earth. Of cities lined with gold and pearls. Of character refined in the harshest fires that breathes life into those around them. These temporary pains are so trivial and yet so necessary in becoming who God wants us to be and seeing life in the way God wants us to see it.

When the goodness of life seems swallowed up, remember that beyond them are things so wonderful ear has not heard nor eye seen nor mind even thought of how incredible it really is. That is worth looking forward to. And we have the chance, even now, to grab for that bible, reach for the heavens, and worship instead of mourn when the clouds roll in.

This is why we count “It” ALL joy. We see the mountains behind the clouds. We see the fog as the gateway to the mountains.

We know that every trial, temptation, and hard part of life will one day be revealed to have a beautiful ending as God draws out meaning through the clouds.

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