In an interview with Dr. Robert Smith, Jr., a professor of Christian Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, he shared his experience of how the murder of his son affected his life, ministry, and relationship with God. Psalms 42 and 43 were used to preach his son’s eulogy, and Dr. Smith described these texts as his “soliloquy” in dealing with what occurred to his son. He sees these two chapters as the rhythmic melodies of life. As believers, we will experience both the highs and lows. Dr. Smith calls God our Morning Star but also our Lily in the Valley. He was asked if sorrow and joy can co-exist and he assuredly responded that they will coexist supporting his answer with scripture from John 16:33.
There can be a challenge with the coexistence of joy and sorrow because in certain circumstances joy is hard to find. It can be difficult to find joy in the midst of the constant injustice of unarmed black men being killed. It can be difficult to find joy in the midst of a pastor whose church is dying and losing members. It can be difficult to find joy in the midst of a calling that is assured by God but constantly denied by men. It can be difficult to find joy in the constant behaviors of people who deny your worth. It can be difficult to find joy in the midst of not being able to visit your members or loved ones because of COVID-19 regulations. It can be difficult to find joy in the midst of disappointments, rejections, and afflictions. However, it is true that joy and sorrow will coexist.
Christ assures us of the joy that we can have in the midst of sorrow in John 16:33. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” My question to you is, during this pandemic or your time of tribulation, which one are you giving most attention to? Some will say it’s easier to be sorrowful because it’s just not fair. They don’t understand why this tribulation had to happen to them, or why God is allowing it and didn’t stop it. Some lean to the side of joy, giving the false representation that becoming a Christian means you won’t experience sorrow and you can’t show weakness, since the joy of the Lord is your strength. However, I challenge you to live in the in-betweenness of joy and sorrow because Christ is in the in-between. It is because of Him that you can have joy knowing that at times we must suffer for Christ’s sake. Not only is He the source of our joy but in your sorrow, He is present with you and brings you through it. Christ never promised that we wouldn’t experience sorrow. He knew it would be unavoidable after sin entered into the world that He created. Nonetheless, He does not leave us in our sorrow to experience it alone and without His joy.
How can Jesus Christ know anything about joy and sorrow? What Christ endured on the cross is full of sadness, sorrow, and grief, but the end result was full of joy. What He had to suffer was tough and unimaginable, but the reward of providing a way to bring the very people He created and loved back to Himself brought joy to Him then and now. I’m not saying that what you may be dealing with is easy. But I pray that you find comfort in knowing that the God you serve truly knows the sometimes hard and uneasy feelings of living in the coexistence of joy and sorrow. He will provide what’s needed and get you through it. The question is…will you trust Him to do it?
Rev. Demetrea Williams, MDiv, Staff Chaplain, Princeton Baptist Medical Center