Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

James 1:2

Wow, that took a long time between posts. But it tells me exactly when it was I began to think about my new ministry. Since late November I've been totally absorbed in discussing, researching and preparing to launch NewPastors.com. Take a looks when you're done reading, and if you know someone who is the pastor of a church or a missionary or full-time minister of any kind, let them know about us! Okay, end of shameless plug.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,"

The Germans have a word for a particular kind of longing. They call it "sehnsucht". It is also often translated as "hunger". C.S. Lewis says this about sehnsucht in his book Surpised by Joy. "In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else... it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction."

Lewis worked with the idea of sehnsucht for a long time and finally concluded that when, for instance, James says "count it all joy" he is really speaking of longing or hunger -- of sehnsucht. The reason I say this is that it would be absurd and perhaps a bit masochistic for us to consider a trial as joy. "Wow, I'm really getting a lot of joy out of the loss of my job." See? But if real joy is seen as distinct from the happiness of the moment; if it is rather the longing for what is promised and not what is already our posession, then it begins to make sense.

We are incapable of sustaining joy over something we already have in our hand. The lover begins quickly to lose the flush of excitement over the beloved once they have consummated the marriage and are living together. Our culture has created a wide range of pleasure enhancers to make the next experience approximate joy. We need an ever greater dose of our drug to reach the same height we did yesterday and the day before.

James' "joy" then is not IN the trial. He is clear about this. The joy comes WHEN we meet trial. The joy is in the promise of the character of God developed in us. As I look at him... the more I look at him... the more I meditate on his beauty and character, the more I long to be like him. And when trials come and drive me closer to him and strip away the few futile props I was using to make me happy, joy comes over me: a longing for what WILL be, not a happiness in what is.

Jon

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