Where Joy and Sorrow Meet
A new development is going in near us. As I walked past what until quite recently had been a wooded area, I was saddened at the loss of trees, but the pile of bulldozed broken and bruised trees was giving off a fragrance from its resins which delighted me. I was met with a mixture of this sorrow and joy welling up in my soul.
It got me thinking how often that happens in life. Whenever there is change there is loss (even in changes for good), and whenever there is loss there is grief. We see people cry at weddings even when they are happy, but there is this underlying understanding that things won’t be the same. Good things are being exchanged for better, but there’s loss in that. There is a sweet sadness in knowing one dream fulfilled is the loss of the good that was found in what is being left behind. Joy and sorrow meet.
In Ezra 3 we read of a different kind of meeting of these two emotions: at the dedication of the foundation of new temple after the exiles had returned from Babylon. The people who knew the splendor of the old temple wept at what was lost, while others were just excited that God had restored them from exile, and was reestablishing covenantal worship represented by this new building. The passage tells us that the sounds of the weeping and the sounds of the shouts of joy mingled and created a noise that was heard from afar. Joy and sorrow met mightily that day. It must have been amazing to be there.
In Nehemiah 8 we see Ezra reading and explaining the Scripture to the people, many of whom had perhaps not even heard the word of God in their lifetimes. The words pierced their hearts because they realized how much they and their forefathers had sinned against God, and they began to weep. But Ezra told them not to weep, that it was a holy day to God, and that instead of crying they should go home, have a feast and rejoice, because despite their sin, they had a forgiving, loving, restoring God. The passage tells us that the people went home and rejoiced because they understood—not only their sin, but God’s grace. Again we see this tandem of joy and sorrow.
The word of God does pierce our hearts with an understanding of how far our sin separates us from a holy God. But it also tells us how far our holy, loving God has gone to provide a way to bring us back to Himself. We do need to recognize, acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins, mourning for how we have grieved our God by our rebellion. But we must also learn to joyfully dwell in the love, forgiveness, grace and mercy our Savior/Redeemer has provided for us. We are right to feel both. We need to feel both. We need to become comfortable with the dynamic tension of sorrow over the cost of our sin and thrill over the provision of God for our union with Himself. Our daily worship of Him can become a beautiful place where joy and sorrow meet, to the praise of His glorious grace.