These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
It was cozy warm inside the Oak Street Bible Shop, but outside a cold wind was whipping the bare tree branches and the temperature was dropping. "Another gloomy day", said a customer as she carried her bag of books to the door. Joy gave her a sympathetic smile as she closed the door behind her.
"Actually, this is about perfect for me", said Glen, "except it isn't raining."
They all knew he wasn't kidding. Glen liked what most people
called "nasty" weather. Weather was a nice, safe, topic they could discuss and it was revealing as to their individual personalities too.
"I like it, just a little chilly, but with the sun shining, sweater weather", said Gary, with a smile. He had been known to drive his father's old convertible with the top down and the heater on.
"I like to bake in the sun", said Joy, who was always dreaming of her vacations to Florida. "Not that I get the chance to do it anymore, I'm too busy watching after my boy-crazy daughter. I don't dare shut my eyes and just relax".
"I prefer Spring to any other time", said Sue, very predictably. She was a romantic. She had a locket containing a photograph on a gold chain that hung from her neck. Sometimes, when you came into the room quietly, she would be looking at the picture by the light of the window. Then she would snap it shut and drop it into her blouse. No one had ever seen whose picture it was.
Glen continued, "I guess it depends on where you are from, I mean your ancestors. Mine are Northern European. I guess that's where I get it from".
"The guys who write all that tempestuous music and tragic literature," chided Gary.
"And the guys who don't seem to enjoy life very much," added
Sue. "People from the Mediterranean write beautiful operas and paint pictures of lovely women and happy people", she added.
"Awful to say it, maybe", Glen began earnestly, "but maybe the composers of the Faustian legends and the author of Hamlet are closer to the truth. The greatest works of art are tragedies".
Joy had been taking this all in, and you could see she was in agreement with Glen. She wore a thoughtful expression when she spoke. "It's just like in the Bible, you have the Book of Lamentations, the pessimism of Ecclesiastes. But there is no book of humor, no real humor in the Bible at all."
"Our Lord, was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" , said Sue, quietly.
"Isaiah, chapter 53" added Gary, "The suffering servant".
"Yet aren't we called to be joyful, to reflect our happiness in Christ?, Isn't this a contradiction?" said Sue, genuinely troubled.
"I believe we are mixing two things", said Glen. The Bible is speaking of the nature of this fallen world and how it causes us sorrow, that is a natural response. But though the world is tragic because of how it ends, and that is what tragedy really means, how things end, we have joy because we look forward to another world, one that is a good and happy world"
"And never ends", said Joy.
"Yes," said Glen, "But I'm tired of hearing Christians in denial about the nature of this present world, the one we live in. These smiling idiots talking their damned happy talk."
Glen usually was pretty good with words, with concepts and ideas. But now he stood before us like a fighter who had been hit so many times he was stunned. He looked the part too, with his feet apart, as if for balance, he held his arms out and raised and lowered them as if hefting a weight. We all knew he was thinking about his wife, taken by cancer at a young age.
"Damn it, life's a tragedy, man, and only fools deny it. What else can you expect in a Devil's world? I mean, did Jesus smile when he saw where they buried Lazarus? No, Jesus wept, and I guess we can too".
This is the most emotion we had ever seen from Glen and we respected it because we respected him. Glen could be abrasive, but what he said was real, he did not kid, he did not pose.
We were in agreement with what Glen had just expressed. There was not one of us who did not bear the weight of sorrow or disappointment in our lives.
Joy, who could be so harsh at times, summed it up for us all. "You know, I want to confess something to all of you", she spoke slowly, "and I know you will understand me when I say this, but the hardest scripture in the whole Bible for me to understand is where Paul says,
'For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.' Romans 8:18.
"Just think of how wonderful that time will be to make us forget what it's like here and now!"