When is it Ok not be joyful? When is the right time to weep?
It says in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything. So, are there times in life when we can let the pain in and just cry? Is the weeping that lasts for the night necessary in order for the joy to come in the morning?
Am I wrong to think that God uses pain and hurt so we can fully know and experience joy? Is joy attainable even after walking over hot coals and climbing over painful, unbeatable mountains? I know that in the good times it seems that joy is easy to come by. It can appear without even being invited. You open the door and let joy join the party.
But, I have experienced something even more amazing. I have had joy announce itself uninvited: At a time when I was hurting and not wanting to celebrate. It seemed that it was knocking at the wrong door-had the wrong address perhaps. I wanted to shoo it away, tell joy that it had horrible timing and was rude for turning up the way it did. Don’t you know I’m upset, for Pete’s sake? I don’t want joy here. This is a painful time and crying is the only answer. Yet, even when I refused to open the door to let joy in; it waited. It stood calmly and expectantly at the door. But why?
Well, I think I may have found out:
My husband and I are building a house. It has been one of the most trying times I have experienced. More tears have been shed in this past year than I can count: Tears of frustration, tears of hurt, tears of doubt and tears of fear. Is God using all these tears and turning them into something beautiful? Or are they wasteful tears that I shed in my own self-pity?
I know that the pain in building this house will produce a beautiful home for us in the end. It will be a place of joy and comfort for us. A place of rest. We would not end up with a beautiful house without going through all the hard work it requires. Yet, I must admit, I wish God didn’t lead us into this process. (The good things in life that God has for us may require more character building than we would like. It may require a lot more pain than we like but we must go through it if we wish to move forward in the will God has for us.)
One night, when I was in a terrible state, I cried out to God and told Him I was sorry for not being more joyful through the whole house building ordeal. I felt weak, pitiful, and I frankly did not like myself. I wanted to be stronger and felt like I was letting God down by not being the woman of strength He wished me to be.
You know what I heard Him say, “It’s Ok to be sad and to not like the process. Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. He accepted the pain of the cross for the glory that would come from it. He did not find joy in the pain. In fact, he asked to be delivered from it for he knew how agonizing it would be….I’m not expecting beautiful smiles and bubbly charm all the time. The tears are meant to be shed for a purpose. Because after the tears, comes the joy. And sometimes, in the tears there is joy.”
Through that, I was able to rise up in the hurt and cling onto joy. Was I still in pain? Yes. Was life suddenly all better and the sun came out and birds chirped happily? No. But I was able to look ahead to the joy that was set before me. I would have a home at the end of this. A home that I could be proud of. So in the midst of the trying time I would grip tightly to that joy and wait in hope.
Joy is a powerful witness. When we have experienced heartache and trying times, people don’t expect joy. The world expects us to let the hurt consume us. It’s the way it is. That’s what people do. You get hurt and then you wallow in it. Others will allow you act rudely, be stand offish and even down right mean if you are going through a trying time. They are trying to show you grace.
But, what if our response was different? What if after the time of mourning we were able to get back up and respond with joy? People would be able to see a powerful miracle through us. They would see the fruit of the spirit being manifested. I think that is one of a the many ways God uses ‘all things for the good of those who love him.’ (Romans 8:28)
So, if joy comes knocking let us rise up and open the door to it. May we not let the pain overtake us. Mourn, cry, maybe punch a pillow, but never sit down in the mire of despair and take up residency there. If you do, then you will miss out on a great gift that God has for you. He wants you to have the power of joy to overcome. Now, let joy do it’s work.
Joy is waiting.
*Margaret Feinberg wrote a book called, ‘Fight back with Joy‘. I just recently finished it and was so happy that she wrote a whole chapter on the joy found through hard times. She put into words that which I have such a hard time trying to articulate upon. Diagnosed with cancer, Feinberg went on a journey to fight back with joy in hopes to get through her painful experience. She can write so much more wisdom on joy than I ever could and I highly recommend it.