I am a parent.
I have lost a parent.
I have children.
I have lost children.
Sorrow is not an unfamiliar emotion in my life.
Grief and trauma
have been woven into the story of my family
quite frequently during the last decade.
Yet, so has joy.
In Ecclesiastes 3, we read that there are different
seasons and times throughout our lives –
a circadian rhythm of reality.
We cannot hide from loss;
it will come at its appointed seasons and times.
Yet we also cannot hide from joy.
We may not be able to see joy at times,
but it is always there.
In the book of Job, which many scholars believe to be the oldest book in the Bible, we read that “God is the one who wounds and the one who heals.”
In II Corinthians 4:8-10 we see that even in the midst of suffering, we are not abandoned and that while we carry around in our body the death of Jesus, His life is also revealed in our body. There is death but there is also life. There is suffering, but there is also joy.
We feel as though there is a tension between sorrow and joy, as if we are only allowed to feel one of these emotions at a time.
I have recently heard several talks on this duality. The speakers suggest that we must give ourselves the freedom to feel both happiness and sadness at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive, and more often than not, they are interwoven with one another. We love to watch children grow, yet we are sad when they graduate and leave home. We mourn the loss of a loved one one, yet we only mourn because we have also experienced the joy of loving them.
We celebrate the gift of life,
and we mourn when that gift is no longer present.
Sorrow and joy.
God is at work in both.
God is present in both.
We are not alone.
He is with us, our Immanuel,
in the midst of the sorrow,
and in the midst of the joy.
Everything has a season. Everything has a time. Take some time to reflect on this present season. Where do you see sorrow? Where do you see joy?
This passage can be both troubling and comforting. What emotions do you experience as you read this passage?
II Corinthians 4:8-10
Take some time to write out a list from this passage, noting first the circumstance, then the promise. How might you be tempted to only see the first part of these verses without acknowledging the promise?
What are the anchors of truth that you find in this passage that can help when the storms of life hit?
Similar to Eccelsiastes 3, how do you see seasons and times in this passage? Take a look at verses 11 + 12. What are some stories from your life or the lives of those around you when you have seen the Lord turn mourning into dancing?
This verse speaks of being in the depths of sorrow and in darkness (night), yet it also speaks of waiting for the Lord to enter just as the dawn surely comes. Take a moment to reflect on this metaphor. What is God saying to you through the analogy of the faithful coming of the dawn?
On Joy and Sorrow
Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.