Thank you very much to each of the contributors that have helped give me a bit of a break this summer!
Joy & Sorrow
It was September 18, 2008 – my freshman year of Bible college – and I was driving two hours to Syracuse, NY to say my last goodbyes to the man who would become my father-in-law (though he did not live long enough for me to call him that in person). I don’t remember the trip to the hospital but I do remember walking into the room. I remember seeing this man I loved so much in the last moments of his life. I remember how loud the hospital seemed. I thought the whole world ought to be weeping. Didn’t they know who they were losing?! I remember the quiet sight of my mother-in-law as she told her beloved he could go, they would be ok, he didn’t have to fight anymore. I remember feeling like he waited for me to get there. I remember the doctor coming in and shutting off the machines. I remember the surreal feeling of stepping onto the elevator. It all seemed wrong. He should be with us. I learned a lot about sorrow in those days.
Sometimes sorrow settles for a while deep in the crevices of our hearts. It finds a home and makes itself comfortable. People hurt us, our own sin threatens to undo us, financial struggles fill us with anxiety, sickness and death come knocking at the door of a loved one’s life, and sadness creeps over us and remains. Life moves forward but the sorrow hangs in the air like a curtain separating us from the rest of the world.
On the other hand, sometimes joy is unexplainably beautiful. It comes in waves filled with gratefulness. Friendships are made or restored, babies are born, our income exceeds our need, health is revitalized and enjoyed, people are saved from their sin, and the joy feels tangible. It seems as though the whole world should jump for joy with us.
Two and half years after that awful day in the hospital, I married that man’s son and the joy hung thick in the air so that we could almost slice it. A snowstorm swirled outside but we were safe and warm, surrounded by dear ones, and making the most joy-filled covenant of my life.
Most of us have experienced both utter joy and sorrow. I have felt the amazing joy of answered prayer, real soul-deep friendship, a snowy white wedding day, and the birth of my two children. I have also felt the very tangible sorrow of grief, chronic illness, a broken heart, and a familial betrayal.
When sorrow and sadness take over my life, my temptation is to dwell on the pain and challenge of my circumstances and allow my heart to grow bitter and angry. When joy and happiness swoop in, my temptation is to find contentment in the circumstances I feel I have acquired for myself and allow pride to gain a foothold in my heart. Both are wrong.
Both sorrow and joy are supposed to make me long for home with Christ where everything will be restored. Pain will be taken away, death will no longer reign, friendships won’t face an uphill battle against miscommunication and misunderstanding, and familial ties will be written in the blood of Christ which is stronger than any bond on Earth. Heaven will be glorious.
Sorrow, like the sour taste of a beautiful lemon, reveals the utter inadequacy of everything that is beautiful here. It is all stained by sin and groaning to be made new. Joy, like a commercial for ice cream, is supposed to make me long for the lasting peace that can only come when I am home in Heaven with Christ.
Nothing here can fully satisfy. Sorrow reminds us of that. But a day is coming when our hearts will be resting fully for eternity and joy reminds us of that.
Sorrow and joy mingle together in this life, with the ultimate purpose of making me love, worship, and long for the presence of Christ eternally. It is my challenge now to not to be satisfied in the joy and not dismayed by the sorrow but to look to Christ with anxious expectation for a day that is coming when my joy will be eternal and my sorrow a distant memory.
And, won’t that be a glorious day? When all the saints from history will join together in one song, proclaiming the excellency of Christ. And our praise will be all the more amazing because we have experienced those heartbreaking sorrows that drew our hearts on Earth. And we will think how gracious it was for God to give us a tiny foretaste of this beauty through the joys He bestowed on us.
May we never think that this world is all there is. When we face joy, may our pride never cut us off from reality. When we face sorrow, may we look with longing for the day that will be so far greater than our earthly realities. And may we proclaim with the apostle John, “Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Katie is a wife, homeschooling mom to littles, and writer from New York. She spends her days perpetually picking up toys and opening the door to her home. She blogs at Hospitable Homemaker where she discusses the joys and stresses of hospitality, homemaking, adoption, and the Christian life.