They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This sentiment held its truth as I gazed upon a photograph capturing a family member, their infectious smile stretching from ear to ear. Yet, behind that smile lay a narrative of struggle — one of worry, sadness, sickness, and rejection. The path leading to that climatic moment had been fraught with immense efforts. Though the outcome was positive, the journey resembled a turbulent roller coaster, a truth obscured by the photograph.
As I ponder about this occasion of encapsulated joy, my mind wanders to a house I pass on my daily walks. Our cordial exchanges of hellos lead me to believe all is well in both our worlds, yet I am privy to the tragic narrative hidden under those pleasant exchanges. Even though there may be a grin of happiness on our faces; there is often more to our story than the snapshot of jubilation or the pleasant greetings.
These reflections highlight two poignant truths. First, we can never entirely grasp the complexities of someone’s life, even when their demeanor exudes happiness, or the photographs radiate joy. Secondly, it is permissible to hold onto the paradox of discovering joy and hope even while overshadowed by the looming clouds of grief and worry. It is amid the stream of tears the seeds of future joy are sown.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, caring seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6
Reading a current Bible Study, Praying Through the Psalms by She Reads Truth, the psalmists unveil a beautiful spectrum of emotions as they pour out their hearts to God. Their cries encompass sadness, joy, love, anger, fear, surprise, and all tentacles in between. Even in the depths of anguish, the psalmist’s cries interweave joy and hope to the Creator.
God does not deny us our emotions; in fact, he acknowledges the inevitability of our suffering in this earthly existence. He extends an invitation to us, welcoming us into his presence with all our feelings as we wait for the fulfillment of eventual relief – a promise awaiting us in the tearless realms of heaven. Until then, we must sow seeds into our tears while keeping a vigilant eye out for the sprouting of joy.
Throughout the sowing of these life experiences, God guides us on the path of sanctification. He calls upon us to wait patiently and to look earnestly for joy amidst our laments. His ultimate objective is to draw us closer to him, to find comfort and guidance in him alone rather than our circumstances. In our moments of despair and jubilation, the reflection in the mirror gradually begins to look more like him.
When darkness knocks on the door, we can still find joy. It does not have to be a choice between one emotion or the other; both can coexist together in tandem. We can relish the smiles regardless of the trials we face.
“Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5
This paradox challenges us to turn to God in our struggles, seeking refuge in him. Our focus should center on what we know to be true about him and our situations. We can still be angry yet grateful, crying ourselves to sleep while still discovering joy in the morning.
Though worry, grief and anxiety might attempt to pull the rug out from under us, we can trust in a God who prevents us from falling into the pit and lifts us from our depths when we turn to him. The journey through suffering and joy requires us to have faith in God’s promise. We can find strength knowing God will use all the life experiences for our growth, even if some are painful. We can search for and embrace happiness amidst the tears.