Grief and Joy: Can they coexist?

A large part of the following entry comes from a devotion I read by Randy Alcorn. I have added a few personal thoughts throughout though. Please take a moment read this, including the scripture. I pray it blesses you as it has blessedme.

“When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad. Restore our captivity, O LORD, As the streams in the South. Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalms‬ ‭126:1-6‬

In this Psalm, the Psalmist rejoices in God’s deliverance from captivity with a greater joy than he could ever have experienced had there been no captivity. THIS IS THE NATURE OF JOY – IT IS ALWAYS GREATER AND DEEPER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE KNOWN REAL SORROW. Did you see the contrast? “Those who SOW in tears will REAP with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping…will return with songs of joy.”

This has been such a difficult truth for me to learn and accept. For the last three years, I have struggled with joy. I am doing much better now than I did after we initially lost Trey, but it has and continues to be a journey. I am learning what I just wrote above…joy is deeper and greater for those who have and continue to trust God in and through their suffering. I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m learning what it means to have real and true joy. True joy is based on the presence of God in all circumstances of life…nothing else. But, that doesn’t mean we will not still grieve. Believe it or not, deep grief and deep joy can coexist. Coming to this realization has been very freeing for me.

This is why we should not be surprised when God allows us to undergo sorrows that will forever deepen and broaden our worship of Him and our experience of eternal joy. Trusting in Christ, does not mean we suffer less. Rather, trusting in Christ allows us to be able to face and endure with God’s strength what He allows into our lives.

A lady named Nancy Guthrie had a disabled daughter named Hope that died after living through 199 days of seizures and other complications. Nancy wrote this: “The day after we buried Hope, my husband said to me, ‘You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn’t.’ Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had our daughter, Hope, and we are comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith KEEPS US FROM BEING SWALLOWED BY DESPAIR. But I don’t think it makes our loss hurt any less.”

Nancy and her husband’s pain didn’t decease because they believed; rather, their faith kept their pain from incapacitating them. For Nancy and her husband, God stood with them in their pain, but He did not remove it.

After Trey died, I felt a part of me died. Never in my life had I experienced such sadness and despair. I think some Christians, who have obviously never grieved deeply, just expected me to bounce back as though nothing had ever happened to me. I had one person say to me, “When Trey was alive, you exhibited a lot of faith, but after he died, I didn’t feel you had the same faith.” As hard as that was to hear, what I tried to explain to this person was that my faith in God was the only thing keeping from “jumping off the cliff.” As Nancy said, faith keeps us from being completely swallowed by despair. My faith was being tested and continues to be tested, but it has never been more real…why? Because I have and continue to learn what it means to truly trust God. It is okay to grieve, and faith doesn’t eliminate grief, but faith does give you the ability to trust God in and through all things. This kind of real faith in the midst of real grief, brings a real joy!

Think of Jesus. He wept over the death of Lazarus and for Lazarus’ bereaved sisters, Mary and Martha, not because he lost perspective but because He HAD perspective. Death is an enemy, as is suffering and disability that precedes death. God hates it. So should we. We are to REJOICE for the coming day when God promises no more death and suffering. Such rejoicing can fully coexist with mourning great loss.

We dare not wait for a time of crisis to learn how to worship God. The Guthries worshipped God IN crisis because they worshipped God BEFORE the crisis. Trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness now will sustain us when suffering comes later. Worshipping God now is the only way to ensure you will worship Him when trials come your way. Our God is worthy of all worship…worship Him today!

6 thoughts on “Grief and Joy: Can they coexist?

  1. PUTNAM, MARY C. says:

    How perfectly you described the pain of tremendous loss and the role of faith in helping us to cope. I save your postings because they are so insightful and can be referred back to as needed to help self and others.

    Thank you for sharing so openly.

    Mary Putnam

  2. rick hamilton says:

    Jeremy
    I read your articles each week and each week it seems I pick up another nugget of truth.
    I know as well as anyone the pain you are describing.
    I lost a nephew just over ten years ago and he was only 19, very hard to deal with and set me back a great deal.
    I remember as if it were yesterday when your son Trey was dealing with his illness and I was at high school gym the night he was honored by not only the basketball community but for the most part the entire Newcastle community.
    The day he was called home September 1 2013 was indeed another very dark day for me.
    A Pastors Son, so young having to deal with what he had to deal with and being called home
    at such a young age… Just shakes a persons faith.
    With all that said nothing prepared for just a few months latter December 16 2013 the day my Son Matthew died.
    Oh the PAIN is just so overwhelming putting words to it would just be an understatement!
    The day Matthew died it seems like a clear fork in the road just appeared to me on our way to New Mexico.
    Turn this way and its goanna destroy me and my family, Turn toward God and somehow he will clear a path for me and my family.
    This December will be two years and Gods path has been full of rocks, overgrown trees, a few large mountains and a lot of title waves, however God has never left mine or my family’s side. Each step every day he takes with us, its very REAL.
    Jeremy you and I come from different walks of life.. your a Baptist minister and me a Catholic lay person, However two fathers on the same path with God every day.
    Your a good man and I appreciate your encouraging words each week in the paper.
    Peace be with you and your family.
    Rick Hamilton

  3. Rosaline says:

    I think your suggestion would be useful for me. I will inform
    you if its work for me too. Thank you for sharing this amazing articles.
    thanks a lot.

  4. David says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I have gone through loss of a loved one recently. If it wasn’t for the availability and more over faith tested I am certain I would have faired much worse.

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