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Can a Weary World Rejoice?

I’m keenly aware of the gap between the way things are and the way they should be. My heart grieves how far the world, the church, and my own life are from the way God intends them to be. Despite this, I rarely find myself discouraged. On the contrary, I’m an eternal optimist—even to my own detriment (I’ve been known to put up with things far past an appropriate time). Ever hopeful of what could be, I feel compelled to do my part to bring about positive change.

But I admit that right now I’m weary. I’ve been fighting an uphill battle for months now, and every open door has slammed in my face. I’ve worked diligently to approach the problem through the right channels, only to have my concerns dismissed. I’ve struggled to do what I can to be part of a solution, only to feel as though I’m making things worse.

Even this—the process of bringing about change—is not the way it should be.

I live in this tension between the way things are and the hope I have for the way they could be. And today, I’m weary of the tension.

This Advent, the beautiful lyrics of O Holy Night speak to my soul:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

This song, a favorite of mine, names the tension I feel on a daily basis. Yes, there is hope, but the reality of that hope is only slowly unfolding. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels the tension. With every mass shooting, terrorist attack, and hate-fueled (really, ignorance-fueled) act of violence, we are reminded again how far our world is from the way it should be. With every broken relationship, insensitive comment, and harsh tone, we’re reminded that the problem isn’t just out there, but right here in our own homes.

How can we live in this tension, with eyes wide open to the knowledge that things are not as they should be, and yet keep from being constantly weary? After all, hope in the way things should be—even will be—simply isn’t enough to keep us from succumbing to the weariness of today.

For me, the best way to combat weariness is to soak in the present. To mindfully absorb every detail around me. To watch from a distance as my daughter concentrates intently on eating yogurt, clapping to herself when she gets the spoon to her mouth. To taste the flavors of a favorite meal paired with a great glass of wine. To let myself get caught up in a story. To belly laugh. To intentionally celebrate the successes of the day—getting out the door on time, meeting a work goal, or remembering to feed Lucy a vegetable. To accept a compliment and really let it sink in. To give someone my full attention, pushing all other thoughts out of my mind for the moment. To hug my husband a little longer, focusing on the closeness of his body.

Yes, the world may be burning down around us, but here in my small circle there is love and joy and laughter. Times are tough—that’s reality. And while I can’t shut out the hard things of life, I can choose to focus on the beauty of this very moment. When I do, I’m sustained to fight off the weariness for another day.

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