“You direct me on a path that leads to A BEAUTIFUL LIFE. As I walk with you, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” (Psalm 16:11, Voice)
There has been pain.
Pain when two boys we used to care for in our home were killed. Pain when a fellow student in high school died. Pain when my family shifted and changed unexpectedly after college, and the foundation of everything I thought that was suddenly wasn’t, and everything I thought I had vanished and a series of heart-bursting earthquakes left me shaking, empty and broken.
Yes, there has been pain. But there’s also been beauty.
There was beauty when I was a teenager and would sneak in the back of church on Sunday nights — when I had done something I knew I shouldn’t, or was feeling something bigger than I knew how to express, or was confused or sad or lost. I’d sneak in the side door on the far right-hand side of the sanctuary and sit right there, on the second to last row under the balcony, where the lights were dim and I felt unnoticed.
And every time — every single stinking time — God would have gotten there first, and sat there so quietly and invisible that it wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized I actually had sat on His lap, not just the pew. And for the entire service, He would just hold me tight and I would cry until there was nothing left.
There was beauty when as a young adult I reached the end of my rope — when the path of pain and shock and tears all converged right there at God — and my options were simply Will You? or Won’t You? and out of sheer desperation I fell to the side of my bed and whispered, I will.
And it wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized He had gotten there first and I had actually fell into His lap, not just the floor. And He held me tightly and I cried until there was nothing left.
And there was beauty when I a real grown-up and faced tragedy and loss and shook my fist at God asking, Why me? and He gently…oh so gently…whispered back,
Why not you?
and my pride vaporized and I again found myself in His lap, arms tightly holding me as tears fell until there were no more.
There has been pain. But there has been even more beauty.
We all know suffering. We know the question-raising, faith-doubting, back-turning pain this life brings — whether we’re affected by it, or it’s our own personal story to tell — we know it. We see it throughout the Bible, in our communities and in our world. The consequences of a fallen world mean we will have pain.
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. BUT TAKE HEART! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
And the secret to not just surviving the suffering but thriving in it is tucked right there in the end of the verse. The take heart, or be of good cheer as it’s sometimes translated. The original Greek of that phrase is wrapped up in one word — THARSEO — literally meaning ‘be of good cheer’ or ‘be of good courage.’
And that phrase — THARSEO — is either spoken by Jesus or in direct relation to Him each of the eight times used in the Bible.
THARSEO – Your sins are forgiven. (Matt 9:2)
THARSEO – Your faith has healed you. (Matt 9:22)
THARSEO – It is I. You have nothing to fear. (Matt 14:27)
THARSEO – Do you see? It is I. (Mark 6:50)
THARSEO – He calls for you. Get up and go to Him. (Mark 10:49)
THARSEO – Your faith has made you well again, daughter. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)
THARSEO – I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
THARSEO – You have successfully told your story about Me in Jerusalem, and soon you will do the same in Rome. (Acts 23:11)
Our defining moments — the moments that lead us to a life of beauty or a life of ashes — come when we’re standing facing that fork in the road deciding between the Why Me? path or the Why Not Me? path. As we stand there we hear Him call THARSEO! and we either choose to be of good cheer or we don’t.
“Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.” (Psalm 16:1)
This series is called A Beautiful Life not because it’s about how to avoid suffering, or agonizing over our pain, or asking why me. It’s named A Beautiful Life because choosing God and the joy and contentment He alone brings — regardless of our circumstances — is what makes life beautiful. Because God is in the business of making beauty out of ashes, if we first choose to Tharseo.
“God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown in exchange for ashes.” (Isaiah 61:3a)
He’s in the business of abundant futures and eternal riches, if we first choose to Tharseo.
“You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.” (Psalm 16:5)
He’s in the business of making glad hearts and joyful souls if we first choose to Tharseo.
“This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more?” (Psalm 16:9)
He’s in the business of giving us victory in life, not making victims, if we first choose to Tharseo.
“To anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow, to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise instead of depression and sadness.” (Isaiah 61:3b)
This series has been on my heart a long, long time. It is my prayer and belief that through this series God is going to raise up Victors. That He is going to bring freedom to those that have been enslaved to their circumstances for too long. That He is going to show you how beautiful life truly is and empower you to choose the Tharseo path — to give you a heart of courage and good cheer.
And the best part about this series is that I’m not doing it alone.
“The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me. They are true, and my heart is thrilled beyond measure.” (Psalm 16:3)
I’m beyond honored that some of my favorite writers are partnering with me in this series, and starting next week you’ll hear from them each Tuesday. You are going to be so blessed by their insights and wisdom and how choosing THARSEO — even as the smallest and faintest whisper — has brought beauty to their lives. We’ll hear from Missy, Katie, Allison, Sara and possibly one or two others as the Lord is leading. It’s going to be incredible. I pray you’ll pop back next Tuesday.
THARSEO! He calls for you. GET UP AND GO TO HIM. Here’s to a beautiful life, my friends.
Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)