I’ve been reading a book recently by Matt Chandler called Joy in the Sorrow, and it’s from there that I pulled many of today’s thoughts. None of us are immune to sadness. If you are in the middle of a challenging time or want to be proactive and prepare for a difficult season, I highly recommend this book.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.
— 2 Corinthians 4:8
I am guilty of rushing to the “not crushed” part of this verse. I like to think that, as a believer, I am invincible, that I won’t be shaken by life’s curveballs, but that is simply not true. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we rush past words like “afflicted” and “perplexed.” These words serve to remind us that, even as believers, we are not above suffering. Paul had seen God’s hand at work in huge ways. He is a hero of our faith and author of much of the New Testament, but even he felt confused and knew what it was to suffer deeply. Matt Chandler puts it this way:
If Paul can be confused, then certainly there’s space for us to be confused. But, as with Paul, joy and sorrow can co-exist for the Christian. We can be totally confused, and yet at peace, at the same time. It’s a paradox.
— Matt Chandler, Joy in the Sorrow
Have you ever been there? In a space where the pain of life is suffocating and the confusion overwhelming, yet you know at your core that God’s got you? I’ve been there recently and I have to say, though it is a hard place to be, it is in that place that I feel like God draws me to him and I learn more about him than any most any other season of life.
The thing is, apart from Christ, I don’t believe that it is possible to experience real joy or peace in the midst of sorrow. My hope, Paul’s hope, it comes only from Jesus. This life is hard. To do it apart from Christ is something that I cannot fathom.
Here is the good news: While God never promises an easy life for Christians, he does promise to be with us always and to provide the strength that we need to endure the hard times. He also promises an eternal joy that none of us can truly fathom! If you are reading this today and you’re not sure that you are a Christian, I would encourage you to email firstname.lastname@example.org so that someone can set up a time to talk with you.
“God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
— C.S. Lewis