Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing
It happened again today.
I received an email from friends who, through tears, were telling me that the baby they were expecting had stopped developing and that she (the mom) should expect to miscarry within the next week or so. I thought of them, and their other young kids, and prayed that they would all keenly know the nearness of Jesus and the strong and tender grip of their good and kind heavenly Father.
How does one respond without tears of grief?
Just a few hours later I received a text message from some other dear friends who have, for years, pleaded with the Lord for children and, to this point, He hasn’t answered that prayer with physical pregnancy for them. But today they were going to be standing in a court room, in front of a judge who was going to make legal their adoption of two beautiful girls—doubling the size of their forever family. When I saw the picture of them together with the judge in his fancy robe I was overcome with joy for the kindness of our heavenly Father.
How does one respond without tears of joy?
In both instances my eyes welled with tears. Why? Because this is the reality of the world in which we live, and as followers of Jesus this is no surprise. We rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
Why is this important?
I think there are two lessons we can learn from this … one from joy and one from sorrow.
From joy - Any joy we experience in this life has its root in the kindness of God, and any attempt you or I make to rejoice in something for its own sake puts us on the path of idolatry and not worship. Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17), so rejoicing in the good things God gives must necessarily roll up in praise to God. So, when I rejoice with my friends that God has heard their cries and is expanding their family, I have the privilege to worship our Great God and King for his mercy and His mighty works!
From sorrow - Any sorrow and pains we experience in this life are, at worst, temporary. Now, I don’t say that to make light of any pain. But the Apostle Paul reminds us:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
In our grief we have the privilege to cling to the promise of God’s faithfulness, not only to carry us through the trials of this life, but also carry us into the blessings of life to come.
We rejoice IN GOD for all His good work in, through, and for us, and we weep with one another BEFORE GOD that He might be the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (Psalm 73). This isn’t an easy reality, but in this mystery of sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10), we find God as all-sufficient, His grace as ever-available and His mercy as inexhaustible.
My prayer for myself and for our church is that we would be the loudest rejoicers and the deepest weepers and in doing so, continue, in joy and in sorrow, to offer up sweet worship to our gracious and loving Father together.
Let me leave you with an excerpt from a sermon by Pastor John Piper where he talks about “The Mystery of Sorrowful Rejoicing.”
"The Bible describes the servants of the Lord like this. We are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. How in the world can that be? It can be because Christ is supreme over all things forever and suffering and death remain for a while.
And, therefore, life is not simple. There is pleasure and there is pain. There is sweetness and there is bitter suffering. There is joy and there is misery. There is life and health and there is pain and disease and death. And, therefore, emotions are not simple.
For those who love others and don’t just care about maximizing their own comforts in a private little sphere, this complexity will always mean we rejoice with those who rejoice, we weep with those who weep and we always know somebody rejoicing and we always know somebody weeping. And, therefore, we will in love discover the mystery of sorrowful yet always rejoicing and rejoicing yet always sorrowful. If you haven’t found that mystery, you haven’t lived long yet or you don’t love people or you are not a Christian.
Sorrowful yet always rejoicing is the banner that flies over this church, because suffering remains for a while in this world and Christ is supreme now and forever after this world."
John Piper - The Mystery of Sorrowful Rejoicing
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