The Dichotomy Of Things

How is it that joy can exist in the midst of sorrow?

How can we experience a desperate circumstance and still go on?

How can we encourage someone in the midst of our own discouragement?

How is it that we can be poor in the eyes of the world, yet rich in the kingdom of heaven?

There is a dichotomy of things that I have been thinking about a lot lately, probably because I have had the experience of walking through what I call “the valley of the shadow.” And the Lord knows my heart better than I know it myself. He has me in His school and is teaching me so much from His Word. He has also encouraged me through devotional photography where I go out in the desert with my cameras and capture images of His beauty.

One morning recently I went out to the desert before sunrise to walk again with the Lord. I didn’t think there would be much of a sunrise to capture because the sky seemed kind of plain with just some scattered gray clouds. It was approaching what is called in photography “the blue hour.” I set up my tripod and mounted my Nikon D810 with my 24-120mm lens. I honestly didn’t expect much because it looked like the clouds would stay dark. But then I noticed off in the distance to my left a very faint pink beginning to appear. And then, one by one, all the little bits of clouds across the sky began to light up. I started taking three bracketed exposures at 24mm, one after another, for more than an hour, and captured the entire sequence of glow as the sun rose for the day. What brought the darkness, my low expectation, together with beauty on that morning? The rising of the sun.

There is a lesson in this for us with those things that stand in apparent opposition, forming a mysterious dichotomy. The One who brings things together and makes all things possible is the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to find a way to stay close to Him when we are at our lowest points in life.

I have been thinking about the words of the Lord in the Upper Room Discourse in John 14-16. He focused so much on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our fellowship with Him, and the importance of always abiding in Him and having His Words abide in us. My favorite part of that passage is in John 15 —

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

The Lord teaches us here that there is really nothing more important in life than staying close to Him. And this is especially true when we are in the heat of spiritual battle and hardship, brokenness and difficulties.

The disciples experienced this dichotomy of things throughout their ministry. Paul described it this way —

But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10

These words from Paul encourage us, especially in the most difficult of times. In his words we understand that servants of God will face hardship, yet will be used by God in powerful ways. His conclusion to this candid description of his ministry was this and it’s found before he ever shared how difficult things can get: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). I smile to think of the words I have often heard Kay Arthur, the Founder of Precept Ministries, and author of many inductive Bible studies, “Hangeth thou in there!”

I read something recently in Streams in the Desert that greatly ministered to my heart. When I get to heaven, one of the people I can’t wait to see is Mrs. Charles Cowman, just to thank her for being faithful to write that book. In the reading, Mrs. Cowman shares an allegory of a conversation between Joy and Sorrow. In that conversation Joy and Sorrow lament that they can never be united or come together. But then, together they make an amazing discovery —

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.” “My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs—the love song of the night—shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.”
Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

“Should Sorrow lay her hand upon thy shoulder,
And walk with thee in silence on life’s way,
While Joy, thy bright companion once, grown colder,
Becomes to thee more distant day by day?
Shrink not from the companionship of Sorrow,
She is the messenger of God to thee;
And thou wilt thank Him in His great tomorrow—
For what thou knowest not now, thou then shalt see;
She is God’s angel, clad in weeds of night,
With ‘whom we walk by faith and not by sight.’ ”

Streams in the Desert

So, dear friend, when life seems to be a mystery and a dichotomy to you, and you have absolutely no answers for your difficulty, then turn your gaze to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is not worried or wondering what your life is about. And He holds the keys to the mystery in His hand and is able to bring beauty even from ashes, and light in every desert of life.

♥ Blessings and Grace to You!


myPhotoWalk Devotional

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
2 Corinthians 6:10

myPhotoWalk Technical

  • Title: Joy In The Desert
  •   Request This Image > SmugMug Image Request
  • Description: An explosion of light in clouds at sunrise in Palm Desert, California, USA.
  • Creator: Catherine Martin
  • Date Created: 08/17/16
  • Camera: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-120mm, FL 24mm, ISO 100, f/11, AEB.
  • Photoshoot: myPhotoWalk Photo Shoot in Palm Desert, California, USA.
  • Post-Processing: Photomatix Pro, Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, Topaz Software, Nik Software, OnOne Software.
  • Copyright ©2018 Catherine Martin — myPhotoWalk™ — Quiet Time Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
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