The seeming contradiction in being able to experience joy and sorrow simultaneously can be true because our reasons for joy and sorrow are themselves different. My life here on earth is still filled with sin and marred by the effects of our rebellion against God. There’s no denying that reality. However, as much as I cannot avoid the sorrows of this world, in Christ, I cannot ‘avoid’ the goodness and faithfulness of God. It is as I fix my eyes on Jesus, what He has done, and the promises He is bringing to fruition, that I can know the joy of the Lord, regardless of my earthly situation.
To quote John Piper, “You cannot keep the sorrow from coming but you can keep the joy from going.”
What hope we have then, as followers of Christ, to know that God isn’t just limited to working through good and comfortable situations. Through the hardest of circumstances, He is able to sanctify us, to make us more like Him and to show us his arms of everlasting love.
Going back to the start, although I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, I don’t have to do that in Christ! I don’t have to fearfully brace myself for hardship. I don’t have to avoid pain, discomfort or suffering. Not because sorrow is somehow less real… It still is. And I know that there will come incredibly dark days, where sorrow is a right and appropriate response to pain experienced. But I also know that in every single circumstance I will face in my life, the good, the bad and beyond, not only is God with me, but He is teaching me, growing me and giving me no other option but to depend on Him. Charles Spurgeon famously said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages”. When our face is pressed against that unmovable Rock, we finally realise we have nowhere else to go. Sometimes it can be the hardest situations that allow us to experience the sweet closeness of our heavenly Father.
It is not my intention to sound glib or gloss over people’s real experiences of sorrow. There are depths of sorrow that cannot be put into words. Yet I humbly put forward that the eternal God of this universe Himself experienced the deepest sorrow of all. He was separated from His Father as He died on the cross to give us His righteousness and to remove our sin and shame. It is because of His sorrow that our sorrow is never without the certain joy of knowing we have been reconciled to God. Sorrow and joy may be parallel experiences but we are assured that while our sorrow has an expiration date (Revelation 21:4), our joy will multiply each day as we walk into eternity.
What hope. Surely, Christ is enough.