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We are experiencing “Harmolipi.” What?




Many years ago, there was a theologian named John Climacus, a Christian mystic and theologian in the early seventh century. In his attempt to articulate how the human heart works in the believer, he struggled with the Greek words available, not finding a suitable one that matched the Bible’s description. So, he made up a word! He invented a compound word using two Greek words: chara and lipi. Chara means joy, and lipi means sadness.


He came up with harmolipi or “joyful sadness.” Climacus was expressing that while believers are part of a new kingdom, where we are already seated in heavenly places, we still live in a fallen world and deal with the remnants of the old man or our lustful desires. Fr. Matthew Swelha writes:



Harmolipi is the description of our entire life within the fallen world. Because where there is God and where there is sin with all of its consequences, there is joyful sorrow, the good and the bad mixed together.

I have spent the past several months wrestling with this brutal war that we find ourselves in. God knows how many times I have looked up to heaven to ask where he is. Often, my plea is met with silence. It is not easy living with the daily knowledge that there are hostages in Gaza. I was just listening to a woman in Hebrew on the radio from one of the kibbutzim that was attacked. She was saying she can’t just get on with her shigra “routine” as long as some in her community are suffering inhumane conditions as Hamas hostages. It’s also not easy knowing how much death and destruction is taking place only a few kilometers south of where I live, while I look over the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, ride my bike in the nice weather, and take walks on the boardwalk.


Yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever been more full of hope and faith in God. I feel the Holy Spirit. I know that he loves me, and he has compassion for this broken world.


That is harmolipi. We live in a fallen, broken world. Add to that the proliferation of social media and fake news. It’s absolutely crazy! And yet, many use that same social media to communicate truth and righteousness. Harmolipi.


This week, Elana and I visited the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Netanel Elkobi. You may remember that he was the battalion leader that Hamas killed over a month ago. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to give her 18,000 shekels as she embarks on a new, Netanel-less life with her five children. We spent about 45 minutes there; Elana having tea with Sara, and me, playing with one of her two twin boys (the other one was sleeping). It was heartbreaking.


From there, we visited two dear couples with whom we have been friends for nearly 40 years. We all relocated from Maryland to Israel. One minute, we are with a dear widow, grieving with her, and the next, we are enjoying deep fellowship with old friends. Harmolipi.


Someone on our mailing list from Germany emailed me this week to say that they were struggling with depression, because of everything happening in the world—particularly in Israel. There is no question, it’s messed up. This world is broken. And yet we can experience the presence of God, in the midst of it all. Harmolipi.


In 2020, as the coronavirus was raging across the globe, I wrote a book called Birth Pangs. I felt very strongly that we had crossed over into a new area with the pandemic. Life would never be the same. I didn’t think so because of the pandemic itself, but because of an experience I had in early March 2020. I felt like the Lord led me to Matthew 24, where Jesus speaks about birth pangs and the end times. I wrote down in my journal that day something like this: “If God is speaking to me, then there will be many more things in the years following.” I believe October 7 was another birth pang. From what I’m told, birth pangs really hurt! This is what our world is suffering. How much longer can the world survive?


This is the time when we lift up our eyes to heaven. We remember the words of Yeshua: Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:27-28). While we now experience harmolipi (joy and sadness), the sadness will soon be removed.


“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

We are getting close … be encouraged!


Shabbat Shalom! 

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