Is it possible for joy to exist at the same time as adversity and pain? How is that possible? It would seem that you are either joyful or sorrowful.
In Psalms 28:7 – “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My hearts leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”
I can only share from my own experiences. At the exact moment of bad news, my heart drops, my stomach hurts, and I start feeling anxious. I want to lay down and never get up. It’s not as if I have been planning an “In Case of Emergency Survival Guide”. I’m just like everyone else. It knocks me off of my feet. Then the reality sets in and I think, “God, what do you want me to do?”
In Galations 5:22, Paul writes that those who believe in Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit. A by product of this is we are given the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. These are the qualities that Christ possesses. Do I have these qualities? Yes. Do I have these qualities in their fullest measure 100% of the time? No. No one but Christ has these qualities in their fullest measure 100% of the time. I do have a higher percentage of these qualities as I have matured in Christ than I did when I was 20 years old. As we mature in our faith these qualities become who we are.
So back to the question, can joy exist at the same time as sorrow? I believe that it can. The example that I am going to use for myself is when my son passed away. To have a child pass away is about as sorrowful as a person can get. Honestly, all of the other things that I thought were problems prior to that don’t seem like problems anymore. However, as hard as it is to imagine I felt joy, gratitude, and thankfulness amidst the backdrop of that sorrow.
The night of the visitation, as my husband and I prepared to stand in the receiving line, as sad as I was about our loss, I had the most overwhelming sense of gratitude flood over me. I felt gratitude for the gentleness of the funeral home staff. I felt gratitude for the kindness of the minister. I felt as if they had treated my son with the utmost care and respect. I was grateful for that. As the line of visitors entered the door, one after one, nonstop for the next four hours, I felt immense gratitude for the love and kindness that all of these people had come to share with us. In the midst of what was the worst event a parent can imagine, I felt the presence of God’s spirit through the kindness, peace, and gentleness of everyone. I felt joy and love for each of these people who loved my son and our family. I would have never imagined that I could feel two opposite emotions at one time.
Joy is more than cheerfulness. I cannot say that I was cheerful on that occasion. I can say that I felt joy that my son was loved. I felt joy for the love and kindness expressed by others. Joy is the brightness that comes from the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, and peace are the results of our relationship with God. Joy is the emotion our hearts are filled with because of our love for Christ. Peace is not the absence of adversity. Peace is knowing that God is present.
I would like to share something that was so helpful for my husband and me in the first few weeks after the death. Sometimes when there is adversity, it is so easy to get into the pattern of thinking that life is only bad and nothing good is happening. That mindset can keep you stuck in the same place. I bought a journal and placed it beside the bed. That night we got into bed and I pulled out that journal. I told my husband that every night before we went to sleep we were going to think of three things each that had happened that day that were good. In the midst of our grief that seemed like an impossible task. I made my husband go first. It took him forever to think of the first thing. He finally thought of three very small things after a lot of thinking. I named my three things. We repeated this every night for about a month. In the beginning, it was so hard to come up with even one or two but as time went on it got easier. Eventually, we began to notice good things as they were actually happening to us during the day and thinking to ourselves, hey, this can be one of my three things tonight.
That was the whole point of the writing exercise. Once we became aware that there were joyful things happening at intervals during the day mixed along with the hard things, we began to realize that there were always portions of the day that we could have gratitude for.
My hope is if I am truthful to you about how I feel, maybe my experience will resonate with something you are going through and you won’t feel like you are the only one. It is so easy for us to think no one else is having a blah day. I have plenty of blah days. I just stay home on those days so you just don’t see me at my worst. Maybe you have a chronic pain issue and it feels like you are the only one. I talk to so many women of a certain age who experience some sort of pain issue as well. Many of us have financial struggles. When we see our friends go on vacations, buy new vehicles, or lake houses we think, wow, they have it made. Someone may be having a difficult time raising a child who is having trouble. Everyone has a struggle of some kind. God uses our struggles to bring us closer to Him. If everything was always perfect we would think we were doing all of this perfection on our own. But there are beautiful things that can happen along with the struggles if we are looking for them.
I challenge you to write down three things every night for at least a week that were joyful during your day, even if it was something as simple as someone giving you a cookie. I wish you joy.
Peace and love.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.