Here are two true things: We must learn to be comfortable with both deep lament and deep joy. Recently, I’ve felt wounds healing and grief dimming. There is a day to lament and a day to rejoice, and this week I’m choosing to rejoice.
Before I get to joy, a few words on grief.
We can be very uncomfortable with grief and pain. We want everything to be better. We are tempted to gloss over the difficulties of life. Sometimes a prosperity gospel comes into play with our tender stories, a belief that “if you only did things right, you wouldn’t experience this pain.” In our deep grief, sometimes we wonder to ourselves, or others wonder for us, “What did they do wrong, to experience such pain.”
The Bible has a lot to say about our suffering, and a prosperity gospel is not the good news it shares. Job was a righteous man and suffered much loss. The Apostle Paul experienced torture, loss, natural disasters, and more as he pursued his calling. Jesus was a man of sorrows who wept at the grave of a friend he was about to raise from the dead and who went on to sweat blood and cry out in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before enduring the cross.
We are not alone in our suffering. We can openly acknowledge the pain and suffering we experience without shame. Churches need to create a safe place of comfort and help for those experiencing trauma and pain. The Psalms can give us words here for our experience.
There are days for all who walk this earth when loss haunts, trauma scars, and suffering lasts.
But here is what I also know, we need to embrace both lament and joy. Both are experiences that burrow deep within us, and both are parts of our stories. If we only become good at lamenting, we will never lift our eyes to see the beauty of what we do have. There is a time to grieve deeply, and there is a time to look up with awe and wonder at the goodness we see.
So here is what that looks like for me: When my youngest was six months old, we moved out of a house with significant water damage. My health hasn’t been the same since. While it wasn’t the only factor for my ill-health, it was the catalyst for much further suffering. I have lost much because of this experience, and my family has as well. There was a time that we had to simply endure great suffering. There was a time when we had to grieve those losses. There was a time when each birthday of my daughter, I would be reminded of how sick I had been for all of her life, even as I clasped her with thankfulness for the joy she has brought us through those sick years. Allowing myself to acknowledge those losses, the tremendous pain and suffering I’ve experienced, and the ripple effect of that suffering, has been healing in itself.
But that doesn’t mean I grieve forever or wallow in it. We have always sought to bring hope and joy into the dark moments. We have tried to laugh every single day, no matter what. But we did so, knowing that there were difficulties that were overwhelming to our human bodies and minds.
This week, my youngest turns six. Yes, I still acknowledge the suffering we’ve experienced in her short life, but new joy is blooming. For today. For this moment. For the strength and endurance God has given us. For the beautiful blessing of her God-breathed soul found in her little but growing body. For the beautiful moments we’ve sucked out of the hardness of life, like marrow from the bones.
In that thankfulness, I am experiencing great joy. A joy that seeps down into my soul and touches the place that suffering has scarred. I find I can truly say, “Lord, you have been with us through the shadow of the valley of death, and you have laid a table for us in the presence of our enemies. You have brought us to still waters and green pastures. Amen.”