This may be the hardest aspect of the gospel for me to understand.
THY JOY IN MY SORROW…
What exactly does that mean? I may not have suffered the trials that some of my brothers and sisters have, but I am a human, and I have had, and do have, deep sorrow.
There are many facets of grief, are there not? The first one that comes to my mind is sorrow over losing someone close, through death. Yet, this is just one of the many sorrows we face in this life. There are other burdens and hurts and griefs that we face, and that are part of our everyday. These are as varied and unique to us individually, as they are painful and difficult to deal with.
In order to consider His Joy in my sorrow, I had to first consider what my sorrows might be. I have too many I admit, but these are the things that immediately come to mind.
My first miscarriage. How hard it is to lose a little baby. I remember this time by the long nights. The day was busy and task oriented, but when the house went to sleep, my grief would wake up. As the waves of grief would wash over me, I paced the floors each night in the dark, repeating Psalm 23 over and over, willing the words of comfort into my soul. Then time, as with much sorrow brought reprieve, yet that grief transformed and burrowed a deeper chasm into my heart, when month after month and year after year there has been no more children. Women who have lost far more than I, loved me through those dark days and continue to pray for me in my sorrow, even now.
A life not well lived. I deeply grieve the live I have lived so far. I have not lived well, or as well as I should have or was able. I am ashamed of the time I have wasted being selfish, self centered and complaining. I am so utterly grieved that I have not been a better wife to my husband. It is a sorrow that can not be changed. It is a cruel truth that time marches along, and waits for no one. While I was busy and concerned with myself, the years have quietly slipped away. In the same way, I grieve the mother I have been so far. I think we all have a vision of who we want to be as mother, and some days, I just can barely look in the mirror for shame of the mother I actually am. It is a shame I feel because my feelings haven’t matched up with my actions. Distracted, short tempered and too task oriented, I have fettered away so many precious moments with my children.
The World. My 11 year old daughter read me a passage from the missionary, Gladys Alyward’s life. While in China, this woman is surprised by the sudden and unusual request by the local magistrate, to go to the local prison to resolve a riot. Somehow, the prisoners had acquired axes and machetes, and had turned not only on the guards but also each other in a gruesome and unimaginable violent riot. This woman, unarmed, walked into the prison and by God’s grace and mercy, stopped the bloodbath. Admist the ceased battle and i’s victims, she dared to ask why. Why had this happened? They related their desperate living conditions, their hunger and random executions. These men had lost hope, and when I read the story, I sobbed. It brought to sharp reality the vast amount of pain, hunger, anger, sin and desperate hopelessness there is in this world. It is a reason for sorrow.
So my friends, where is my JOY? Where is your JOY?
Oh, the Joy. The Joy, was and is deeper than the sorrow.
The Joy is greater than the sorrow.
The sorrows are the penguins, and the joy is the iceberg.
His joy comes amidst our sorrow, they are linked.
For me, joy, is not happiness. Instead, it is a deep contentment and knowledge of knowing that God is the great, I am. He was and is, and is to come. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
His joy is resting in His plan, His will and the comfort He provides through the Holy Spirit. His joy is knowing that He has the victory. That He is interweaving our lives into a beautiful tapestry of grace. The joy is the truth of the utterly shocking gospel, that I am a desperately wicked, wretched, desperate sinner and He has covered me with His righteousness.
I had great joy those moonlit nights I haunted my own first floor. As I recited Psalm 23, deep waves of comfort and contentment and thankfulness rose up to meet the grief. It was OK to be very sad, but in those moments, I was standing on the rock of Truth. I was sad, but I am His. The Joy told my heart, that Christ is ALL and in ALL.
I still lament the time I have lost, and each day lose when I am not redeeming the time I have with my husband and children. But Joy in my sorrow, is that I am still being worked on, I am being sanctified. The changes may be microscopic, the pace may feel snail, but when I repent and hem myself in with truth and knowledge, I can walk the path of hope. His mercies are new every morning and we have access to this real hope and true life. The only real sanity. Joy doesn’t mean easy, it doesn’t mean toothy grins and shiny happy words. It means, that I can hold my head up knowing that I have been bought with a price, that my identity isn’t in my failures or the hurts I carry, it is in Christ and Christ alone. Joy is knowing that you are a daughter of the King. Joy is remembering that you are loved and known despite all the darkness.
And the world? Oh, left to our own devices, look what we do. We tear down and destroy. But He has died for all, for ALL. Where there is hope for true transformation through faith, where there is compassion in any heart, where there are willing hands and feet to bring mercy, and where there are lips to pray for relief, there is space carved, a place, to make room for His Joy.
Joy is the truth. The good strong beautiful and pure truth rising up to meet, match and swallow up, any army of grief or sorrow we have to give it.
LORD Jesus, give me Valley Vision, that in the depths, I may see you in the heights. In my sorrow, may I experience your joy because, you have given me life when I was dead, you have brought me into the light out of my darkness. Help me Lord, to remember these things when the swell of sorrow threatens to capsize my hope, let your joy and Truth be ever surging against the tides of grief and lies. More light, more life, more joy.