Afraid Yet Filled

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Matthew 28:5-8

Afraid yet filled with joy. The women just had two encounters. They first encountered an empty tomb. This caused confusion and fear. Why would Jesus’s enemies desecrate His body by stealing it from the tomb? And before they could process it all, they had a second encounter, this time with an angel.

Their fear was not the sinful kind of fear that is steeped in distrust of God and worry about the future. The fear they were experiencing in this moment was the fear of the Lord. It was a holy fear of reverence and awe having just been in the presence of an angel who was dripping with the glory of the Lord. God was doing something glorious and yet so far outside of their understanding that it brought both fear and joy.

Afraid yet filled with joy.

This sums up the whole of a life walking with Jesus as He does the unexpected, the miraculous, the unthinkable. The disciples regularly experienced this mixture. When Jesus walked on water, when Jesus healed people who hadn’t been able to walk for decades, when Jesus cast out demons that no one else could, when Jesus touched people He shouldn’t have (like bleeding women and leprous men), the disciples lived in wondrous awe. They felt the fear of the Lord and the joy of the Lord all at the same time.

As followers of Jesus, we follow Him to our own cross and to our own tomb. We put to death the selfish, sinful things that hold us back from fullness of life with Christ. And we also follow Him out of that tomb, walking into new life as a new creation, a new kind of humanity that the world has never seen before.

When we believe in the impossible because of resurrection power coursing through our veins, and when we witness the impossible become possible right in front of us, we will regularly feel as the women did that day–afraid yet filled with joy. The holy fear of the Lord–the reverent awe of His holiness and power–mixes with the incredible, abundant joy of seeing heaven come to earth, and we are never the same!

He is risen!

If One Part Suffers

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:24-27

One of the interesting things about being a pastor of a church is that even when things are going great in your own life, you know at least a dozen situations in other people’s lives that are going horribly. Even when your marriage is in a great place, you know a number of marriages that are falling apart. When your family is doing well, you know many that aren’t. Even when you have one of those days that are full of life, joy, and purpose, in the back of your mind is the awareness of a number of people you care about who are having a terrible day. Now multiply this when your own life is struggling.

This is true of many of the helping professions. The main difference is that, in the helping professions, they are taught to keep a professional emotional distance from those they are helping. There is a wall of professionalism that allows the doctor or therapist to help in a way that doesn’t get too personally involved. Pastors don’t get to do this. Those we are helping are our good friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ that we’ve known personally for years.

Paul said of the church, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). In order to do this well, without being buried under the pile of pain the church is experiencing collectively, it requires the discipline to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn“(Romans 12:15). This discipline is impossible if we base our rejoicing off of circumstances.

We can’t wait for our life and everyone else’s life to be good before we are able to rejoice. It won’t happen. We have to be able to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoicing in the Lord will give us access to joy at all times. Even when we know ten people going through hard things, we’ll be able to rejoice with the person in front of us because the source of our joy is the Lord Himself.

This is true for mourning as well. Our mourning can’t be based entirely on situations in our life or the life of others. It has to come from the compassion of Christ. If the person in front of us is hurting, we can mourn with them because of the compassion of Christ, even when we know there are others who are celebrating moments of victory.

Our life circumstances and the life circumstances of people in our church community are like waves in the seas. They are constantly going up and down; they will constantly change. Our emotional state will be chaotic if our hearts churn with the waves. Instead, our hearts need to be anchored in Christ–in His joy and His compassion.

The call to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn is not a call to react to the situation in front of us. Instead, it is a call to respond to the heart of Jesus for the situation in front of us. And that difference makes all the difference. It is an invitation to tap into the joy of the Lord and the compassion of the Lord for the sake of our friend.