When is a funeral not a funeral? When a 9-year-old boy is allowed to share stories about his grandfather.
Rev. Wendall Hodges was a dedicated pastor who had touched many lives with his open heart and loving concern. A stroke did not deter him from returning to his pulpit and continuing to preach the gospel.
But that’s not what had impressed his grandson. Jonah remembered the $5.00 bills he had been given to stop fighting with his brother. He confessed that sometimes he “acted up” just to get the cash. He would miss the money.
Suddenly the funeral home was filled with a new sound: the ring of laughter. The somber tone was gone as others recalled the “real” Wendall Hodges, as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old. Jonah revealed a joyous fact: the family sense of humor was no doubt hereditary.
Life can be filled with many burdens. Tragedy and human need abound. But those who float to the top of the slough of despond are those who can find a reason to smile. Somewhere in every dark cloud there is a spark of incongruity that shines through the gloom, if only for a moment. Look for it.
Laughter can break the tension, relieve stress and lift the spirit. It is truly a gift from God to help us through the hard times. Remember: God himself sits in the heavens and laughs at those who presume to rebel against Him (Psalm 2). Trusting Him, we can join in the laughter.
Even at a funeral.
Joy versus Happiness. Are they the same?
No. Happiness usually depends on outward circumstances, people, or events. It can be short-lived. Joy, however, is an inner state of being. It is consistent. The mark of a soul at peace with itself and with God.
Jesus talked about joy when He was facing the cross and preparing His disciples for the hatred and persecution they would encounter. A strange context for joy. Yet something set this kind of inner elation apart from the ordinary. This joy was a gift that He would give, and that no one could take away. Joy that would remain in spite of torture, imprisonment, separation from loved ones, and death itself.
We can pursue happiness, but joy must be cultivated in the heart. It comes when we focus on eternal realities. It rests in the hope and promises of what lies ahead for the believer. It delights in the memories of what God has done in the past. And it flows from an indefatigable source: the Holy Spirit himself!
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with joy. This is the joy that can only come in knowing and loving God. Nothing can disturb this inner cascade of blessing. We only have to stop and enter into the quiet place where joy manifests itself. Then we can walk and live in the refreshing that it brings.
God offers us something better than momentary happiness: the joy of fellowship with Him.
Emptiness can be a scourge when we discover the fridge is empty. Or the bank account is empty. And certainly when the gas tank is empty!
There are times when emptiness is an even deeper problem. When death steals a loved one. When sin leaves the soul bruised and barren. When fear peers into a future of darkness and hopelessness.
But on the first Easter morning, emptiness was a sign of victory. The cross was empty. The shroud was empty. And the tomb was empty!
Death, sin, fear. This trio of destruction was defeated that day, and can be “emptied out” of our lives when we embrace the victory of the resurrected Christ.
Death no longer conquers us. Sin no longer destroys us. Fear no longer paralyzes us. Their threat is an empty one. Their power is gone.
This emptiness brings freedom. It releases us to discover a new fullness: Fullness of joy. Fullness of love and forgiveness. Fullness of hope.
Today we can trade our emptiness for the gifts that only Easter can bring. Rejoice in the empty shroud that no longer wraps us in fear! Rejoice in the empty cross, where sin no longer condemns us. Rejoice in the empty tomb, where death no longer has the final word. Death, sin and fear are swallowed up in victory.
Breathe the fresh air of new life. The old is gone. Our Savior lives!