“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Embrace All of Life
At every Korean session meeting, we have training. I had to train them with a book by Henri Nouwen. The book is called “A Spirituality of Living”. Before the session meeting, for about 30 minutes, we talk about the spirituality of being an elder and leading the congregation. Hopefully I will do that with the English-speaking congregation too. And from that book, this phrase caught my attention, and this is what Henri Nouwen said, “Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate. That joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. How true that is about our life. Our life is a combination of all this. If you demand that only good things should happen in your life, then it will be pretty difficult for you to live with gratitude.
You wish that this will happen, but not all the time that happens. But if you demand that, that should happen all the time, then it will be pretty difficult, to live with gratitude. Knowingly and unknowingly, you’ll build some kind of resentment within you. So I see a lot of people living with some kind of resentment with them. They don’t really know that they have this resentment within them, but when the situation arises, then you realize, how come I have so much resentment? That resentment was unconsciously accumulated and built up within you. So if you demand that life should be in one way, whether you like it or not, you will most likely build and accumulate some kind of resentment. Life is a mixture of good memories and regrets, love and disappointments, joy and sadness. If we cannot accept this fact of life, we will have a hard time living meaningfully in this world.
Gratitude is to embrace all of life. That’s what gratitude is. Gratitude is to embrace all of life, the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the victory and the defeat. Gratitude, if you don’t embrace all of your life, gratitude is not possible. This is what Saint Paul said, “in any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry and of having plenty and of being in need.” In all circumstances. In other words, he learned the secret of embracing all of life. He had a secret of embracing all circumstances. That’s why he could say be joyful always. That’s why he said, give thanks in all circumstances because he learned the secret of being able to embrace all of life, and then right after that, after this passage, this is what he said, this is his secret. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In other words, I can embrace all of life through him who strengthens me. That was Paul’s secret. So then gratitude is not a psychological phenomena. Gratitude is a spiritual thing. If you don’t have God through whom you can do all things, then gratitude is not possible. When we have God within us, fully within us, who strengthens me, then we can embrace all of life. Not just the good things that we like to cherish, but bad things that we don’t want. That is where deep gratitude comes from. In today’s passage, Jesus promised I will not leave you orphaned. I will not leave you orphaned. He will never leave us alone. That is Jesus’ promise. In your darkest moment, Jesus will not leave you alone. That is Jesus’ promise to you. No matter what circumstances you may go through in your life, Jesus will never leave you alone. Jesus lived a very short time here on earth, and after that he left us. Thirty three years. He left us, he said, I’ll never leave you alone, and then he sent the Holy Spirit to us, and this was what Jesus said, “and I will ask the father and he will give you another advocate (that means the Holy Spirit) to be with you forever. This is the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you and he’ll be in you.” You are not alone. The spirit is within you. In your life circumstances, sometimes you’ll experience a lot of bad things that you don’t want, but even in that moment, Jesus will be with you.
You are not Alone
Often when life’s tragedy hits us, suffering hits us, difficulties hits us, you’re scared and you’re not quite sure about the uncertainties of the future. But you know what? What is the most common emotion people experience when they were hit by tragedy? Deep loneliness, that’s what they experience. When life’s hardships hits us, we feel alone. We feel like we’re abandoned. In that deep loneliness, we feel that we are abandoned, all by ourselves. When Jesus Christ was on the cross, he said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus is not crying out. Jesus is not asking why God has abandoned him, but he was expressing the deep loneliness that any human being will experience when they go through suffering and hardship.
We feel like nobody seems to care. We feel like nobody seems to understand the deep pain we go through, and we feel like nobody can walk along with me in this dark path. “I’m all alone who has to go through this.” We become sad, lonely, and later even angry. When things are good, you enjoy the companionship, but when deep darkness and pain hit us, we realized the limit of the companionship, limit of what the companionship can offer to us. Ultimately nobody can help, we realize. That’s reality, that’s when we feel alone. Not only do you feel alone, you’re all by yourself, but you know what you also experience? You understand that you’re not strong enough to be able to go through this all by yourself and you feel alone so you feel so helpless. You feel so alone, but you also know that you are not strong enough to be able to go through all that on your own.
That’s when your spirituality becomes really important, not religiousness. Spirituality, deep connectedness with God. That’s when the spirituality kicks in. Until then, you don’t even know what spirituality does, but when you experience this, then spirituality kicks in and then you realize how important it is. Depending on whether you can believe that the spirit is within you or not, the results are quite different; either you can stand tall or collapse. You know one thing good about experiencing this deep loneliness is that when you experience this deep loneliness, that’s when you can meet God. You can only meet God when you’re alone. When you’re always with other people, you cannot meet God, but when you experience that deep existential loneliness, the feeling that you’re all by yourself, that’s when God comes in. That’s God’s attribute. God is strange. When we are broken and totally vulnerable, God comes, appears to us when things are all right, somehow God disappears, but when we go through that hardship and difficulty, God’s slowly comes in and then you see God. So one thing good about feeling this deep loneliness is that you can experience and meet God in a real way.
When everything goes alright, we don’t feel alone. We feel right in with the people around us. Well, when we go through pain, we experience loneliness, and we feel like an orphan, Henri Nouwen said, “God is hidden in our pain.” So only when you go into pain, you find God. God is hidden in our pain. It is so true. When you feel like you are orphan, that’s when you realize that you’re not an orphan. When you don’t feel like an orphan, then you don’t even know that you’re not an orphan, but when you feel like I’m an orphan, that’s when you realize that you are not an orphan. You’re not alone because you meet God. You strongly feel that “I’m not an orphan. God is with me.”
Trust in God
My friends, you have two choices. When life’s tragedy and hardships hit you, are you going to respond with resentment and become cynical, or are you going to search for God who is hidden in your pain? If you hold onto your pride, then you will build resentment, but if you let go of your pride and hold onto humility, then you’ll be able to search for God, hidden in your pain. When you’re holding onto your pride, that will destroy you and your life will be diminished, but when you hold on to God within you, then you will be saved and life will be enriched. I know some of you went through tremendous suffering. You have a choice, which one are you going to hold onto? Life’s journey is not possible without feeling deep loneliness. That’s very much part of the real journey. Ultimately in that journey, you have to walk alone.
You have no choice but to do that. That’s what spiritual journey is all about. Somehow this year, you will experience difficulties, hardships, and prejudice in your life. When you encounter them, understand the theme of this year. You are on this journey, spiritual journey. In that journey, you’ll encounter both the good and bad, joy and sadness. That’s what a journey is. During that journey, you will experience some difficulties and devastation, helplessness and hopelessness, but ultimately that journey will take you to fullness. When God is with us, what is important is trust. Do you trust God is within you or not? When you trust, then it will come alive. You’ll come out of it with stronger faith and stronger character. If you hold onto your deep-rooted bitterness, you will fall and you will not be able to get up. Life will be full of complaints, but when you hold onto the spirit within you, then gratitude will start kicking in and then you can embrace all of your life.
As we experience the darkness of our lives, how do we respond to it? Maybe we experience failure, loneliness, sense of self-worthlessness. How do we respond? Let us pray that God may give us faith so that we may respond to our situation trusting that the Spirit is within us.