When Pure Joy No Longer Seems Possible
I recently heard a dear friend who lost her child a year ago say, "I don't know if I'll ever be able to experience joy without sorrow again."
Have you ever been there? Has grief or depression so permeated your heart that you no longer see pure joy possible?
I've thought a lot about this over the last couple years. They are far from perfect, but I'd like to share some of my thoughts. And please comment if you'd like to expound on these thoughts. I'd love to hear!
I think joy without some amount of sorrow is either immature or in denial. I realize that may seem a little harsh. Perhaps it could be also called a sobered Joy.
This Joy realizes that this moment would be different if my baby were still alive.
This Joy realizes not everyone gets to experience this good moment I'm experiencing because of the brokenness in this world (whether physical handicap, abuse, pain, lack of opportunity, or death).
This Joy doesn’t feel free to be joyful only, this Joy is always accompanied by some kind of sorrow. It might even hate the lighthearted joy others have that seemingly has no sorrow.
But that’s sobered Joy.
It still longs for sorrow and the source of that sorrow to be gone. This sobered Joy realizes that if that is to happen, it’s because there’s something that reaches deeper and fuller and wider than the brokenness it also sorrows over.
Perhaps sobered Joy should also be called mature Joy. Mature Joy has its eyes open and knows true, deep joy doesn’t happen without sorrow in this broken world. It knows there are sorrows that are worthy to be grieved for a lifetime.
But there is a Promise that this ugly, deadly brokenness will be rooted out because Someone has reached deeper and fuller and wider than it all. This Promise was sealed with Jesus’ blood and solidified with his resurrection.
Sobered Joy knows it must learn how to find joy in Jesus’ promise, and it realizes it could take years. But sobered, mature Joy asks God to teach him, because it still hates the source of sorrow and brokenness.
"Oh God, teach me how to view joy and sorrow! Teach me how to have joy again while still remembering and loving my baby and feeling the sorrow of loss. Help me to see and believe that Christ is the only thing worthy to find true joy in, and that he also gives the gift of finding joy in other things that reflect his good character. Help me to feel joy and sorrow well. Help me to see how joy and sorrow meet at the cross."
Christ drank my cup of bitter sorrow. Not so that it’d disappear. No. it’s still there... In Jesus. It’s still painful, real, and deep. But now when I see my sorrow, I see Jesus. He knows the deep pain and is himself the promise of the future reversal of this pain. It’s as good as his resurrection.
To my grieving friend:
Keep speaking truth to yourself like you’re doing. Keep seeking God in the Bible. It’s ok to not let others try to rush you through grief. It won’t end till you see your baby again, and it’s ok that sorrow won’t end on this earth because death is real and horrible. But it is possible for grief to have a slight tint of joy. Jesus made that possible. Cling to Jesus. He prays for you that your faith will not fail. (Luke 22:31-32; Heb. 7:25)
Closing thoughts on Joy and Happiness and Hope
Perhaps Joy is better defined as hope rather than happiness too. And as the years go by, as mature Joy looks to Jesus more and more, it finds itself being transformed from a simple hope to a hint of happiness until finally - when it reaches heaven - it’s transformed to unabated, beyond-imagination happiness.
Because all wrongs have been made right. The sorrows and their source are gone.
Healing does not equal moving on. It’s simply letting joy, in time, slowly tint the sorrow without guilt.