Six weeks ago I changed my Facebook profile picture from a photo taken last Christmas time with our grandson Caleb to the Arabic letter “nun,” a reminder of, a statement of solidarity with, our Christian brothers and sisters, the Nazari, under siege from ISIS in northern Iraq. This morning I changed my profile back to the photo of Caleb and me. It was a hard decision. Okay, it’s only social media, superficial by definition. Maybe social media is not place for social conscience and justice. Hashtags don’t change the world. Still, it was an uncomfortable decision to make.
Our world is full of injustice and pain and sorrow. From the headlines of war and oppression to the personal stories of disappointment, anguish, and woe told by friends and family members, our world is full of injustice, pain, and sorrow. And my profile is no longer that of someone wanting to remember refugee brothers and sisters; it is of a happy grandfather.
I am happy. As a grandfather, father, husband, friend, and pastor, I am happy. I am filled to overflowing with happiness. Yes, I know that joy that abides deeply regardless of circumstances, but today I am happy in circumstances that are good. Our kids and grandkids are healthy and loving life and the Author of all life. Becky is a wonderful wife. I have recently received unexpected and undeserved affirmations from colleagues in ministry. LPC is a congregation of Christ followers who follow him in remarkable ways – and I am privileged to serve as pastor at LPC.
I was talking with a good friend on the west coast the other day and we were catching up on life and family and ministry. Things are really good in his life, he is happy, and we reflected just briefly on David’s words in Psalm 16:5-6:
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
To be sure, lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. It’s not fair.
I understand volitional culpability – we are responsible for the decisions we make. Maybe I have made fewer dumb decisions than some others, but I have made my share. Karma is a false hope for salvation. I believe in the sovereignty of God and the justice of God. God will not be mocked and justice will be done even if justice must wait until the culmination of all things. I affirm the doctrine of election. God in a wisdom too high and marvelous for me to understand calls men and women to himself for his good and loving purposes.
But my lot is so good, lines fallen in such pleasant places. It is not that way for too many in our world and for too many whose lives are close to mine. It is not fair.
Happiness seems to be a respecter of persons and joy unjustly given. I don’t understand it. I can’t tell my friend whose life is in disarray or the refugee in a faraway place that they need to love God just a little more or that God loves them just a little less than he loves me.
I know, too, that my happiness, if not my joy, may vanish in a moment.
There seems to be no fairness in happiness, though. Is there justice in joy? David ends the Psalm by saying,
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
I have known and I have seen, too, the truth of this. In times of deep unhappiness I have seen the fullness of joy that abounds in the presence of God. God is just. Always just. In his presence is fullness of joy.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep,” Paul reminds the Romans (Romans 12:15).
Today for me is a day of rejoicing. The lines have fallen in pleasant places and my inheritance is beautiful. I must be ready to weep, however, at a moment’s notice – for the other and, yes, sometimes even for myself.
I feel a little guilty about the change of my Facebook profile photo. I dare not forget the plight of the Nazari. But neither do I dare deny, or feel guilty about, the happiness and joy that God has given me.