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  • Writer's picturewondernawe

Thy Joy in My Sorrow

Updated: Feb 4



As we planned and worked to shift from monthly blog posts to quarterly newsletters, Anne and I have talked often about the importance of following the natural rhythms of life.  Just like the sabbath, we think the winter is a lovely opportunity to rest, to slow down, to “hibernate.” 


The hope for ourselves, as it is for you,  is that this "winter" rest would allow time and space for contemplating the work the Lord is doing beneath the surface.    

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

This verse reminds me of a line in the Valley of Vision prayer, “Thy Joy in my Sorrow.” I've been thinking a lot about this idea, because last year, was full of suffering. 

It was a year full of bone-crushing sorrow.  It was a year of failures and mistakes.  A year of lows in my chronic illness as well as hurts, both emotional and physical.  It was a year that we lost many precious people, including my stepfather, Martin.  Yet, it was also a year of celebration, of many firsts, of successes, of reconciliation, and Joy.


As a human, it's much easier for me to focus on the negative.  Just like the above-the-water mountain of an iceberg, our sorrow and suffering may be the easier thing for us to observe,  experience, feel, and notice. 


In this analogy, the sorrows are the ice mountains above the water’s surface, breaking the horizon line, jutting their freezing peaks out into the arctic sky, aggressively visible and most obvious.  And there are so many facets, so many rocky crags of sorrow.  There is loss, burden, hurt, and grief. They can show up often in our lives, maybe even each day. These woes are as varied and unique to us individually, as they are painful and difficult to deal with.


Here are some of mine:


Miscarriage. 

I recently had another miscarriage.  Not only was this sorrow heavy but this loss brought to the surface so much old grief as well.  How hard it is to lose a little baby.  Before I experienced it, I was completely ignorant of real grief.  My first miscarriage was very drawn out.   I was grossly unprepared for the grief that followed and that would stay with me.  This first season of grief, I remember mostly as long nights. The days were a blur and almost sepia-toned in my memory, they were quite busy and task-oriented with small children, but when my household went to sleep, my grief would wake up in vivid color.  As the waves of sorrow would wash over me, I paced the floors each night in the dark, repeating Psalm 23 over and over, willing the words of comfort into my soul.  Eventually, as with much sorrow,  time brought reprieve.  Yet that first real grief transformed me.  The wound became deeper when month after month and year after year, the desire for and the blessing of more children was never bestowed, no more children were given and two more babies went to heaven.   Women who have lost far more than I, loved me through those dark days and held my arms up in my sorrow.


A life not well lived. 

Often, I deeply grieve the life I have lived so far. More specifically,  I grieve that I have not lived as well as I should have, or as well as I can. The truth is that I struggle with feeling great shame.  It utterly grieves me, that I have not been a better wife to my husband and a better mother to my children.  Because I can not change the past, it is a sorrow that I must deal with. It is a cruel truth that time goes by quickly, and the years have quietly slipped away.  I had a vision of who I wanted to be as a wife and parent, but some days, I can barely look in the mirror for the shame I feel for the woman that I have actually been. It is a sorrow that my love for my family, my good feelings for them, too often haven't matched up with my actions.  Distracted, short-tempered, and too task-oriented, I have fettered away so many precious moments.


Discontent 

My expectations are high in life.  I often feel let down, disappointed, frustrated, unseen, unknown, and misunderstood.  Often I feel stuck in mire, in my brooding feelings, my longings and passions.  Discontentment is with me each day, and truly, its sin brings much sorrow.


But, not as evident, not as tangible, is the Lord’s joy. Where is the Joy? 

Oh, the Joy. The Joy is deeper than the sorrow.  The Joy is greater than the sorrow.

His joy, real joy, comes amidst our sorrow.


Joy is the reflected iceberg beneath the surface.

Although it can be somewhat veiled, it is much larger, more extraordinary, and holds the whole structure afloat.


I think we all understand that joy is not happiness. Instead, it is many other intangible things,  It is a deep contentment and knowledge of knowing that God is the great, I am. He was and is, and is to come. He is Emmanuel, God with us.


I had great joy on those moonlit nights when I haunted my first floor.  As I recited Psalm 23, deep waves of comfort and contentment and thankfulness rose to meet the grief. It was OK to be very sad, but in those moments, I was standing on the rock of Truth.  Yes, I was filled with soul-wrenching sorrow, but I also knew that  I was His. 


The Joy told my heart, that Christ is ALL and in ALL.


I still lament these sorrows, these burdens and griefs.  Some have lessened as time has passed,  I have also collected new ones, and I know that there will be more pain and grief on my journey ahead.  But the Joy in my sorrow is that I am still being worked on, I am being sanctified. The changes may be microscopic, and the pace may feel snail, but when I repent and hem myself in with truth and knowledge, I can walk the path of hope.


The joy is the truth of the utterly shocking gospel, that I am a desperately wicked, wretched, sinner and He has covered me with His righteousness. 


It is the only real sanity.  


But let’s be real.  Joy doesn't mean easy, it doesn't mean toothy grins and shiny happy words. It doesn’t mean that all will go well, it means that all will be well.  It means, that I can hold my head up knowing that I have been bought with a price, that my identity isn't in my failures or the hurts I carry, it is in Christ and Christ alone. My hope isn't in this world. His mercies are new every morning and my spirit can be renewed. We as His people have access to this truth along with it comes real joy, real hope and true life in Him.


Joy is knowing that I am a daughter of the King.  

Joy is remembering that you are loved and known despite all the darkness.


So today, take it slow my friend, make a comforting meal, snuggle with someone you love, savor the season, and contemplate this…Joy is the truth. The good strong beautiful and pure truth rising to meet, match, and swallow up, any army of grief or sorrow we have to give it.  


LORD Jesus, beautiful One I adore,

 

I confess that:


Often, I focused on my suffering this last year and missed the opportunity to feel your joy.      


Often, I miss other people’s sorrow and the opportunity to share your joy with them.  


Often,  I have lived dangerously, like a ship skirting an iceberg, focusing on what’s above the surface and ignoring the dangers lurking below.  I have missed many chances to deal with what’s underneath because I easily forget that I am a duality; flesh and spirit, spirit and flesh.


Help me to be close to this gospel paradox that affords me with your Joy in my sorrow.


LORD Jesus, give me Valley Vision, that in the depths, I may see you in the heights. 


In my sorrow, I may experience your joy because you have given me life when I was still dead!  You have brought me into the light, and out of my darkness.  


Help me Lord, to remember these things when the swell of sorrow threatens to capsize my hope.  Let your Joy and Truth be ever surging against the tides of circumstances, suffering, grief and lies. 


Thank you for these gifts. Amen.





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