For most of us, happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow are the opposites of each other. We think it almost impossible to be happy and sad or full of joy and sorrow at one and the same time.
But is this really as impossible as we believe? An old friend of mine, who I consider to be one of the godliest people I have ever known, came to faith in Jesus many years ago at the bedside of his dying wife. So filled was he with joy, as well as sorrow, when he stood at her graveside a few days later, he was concerned people might have though he was going mad – or at least not showing the level of obvious sorrow they might have expected. Even today, as an old man coping with loneliness and ill health that joy is still manifest.
The possibility of such an experience is in fact borne out in the life of Jesus. The scriptures which predicted his coming spoke of him as being a ‘man of sorrows’ (Isaiah 53) and yet also as one upon whom ‘the oil of joy’ had been poured out ‘more than on anyone else’ (Psalm 45).
There is also a very interesting incident recorded in the Old Testament where, as a result of years lost in ignorance of their God, the people were in deep mourning accompanied by much weeping. In the middle of their distress, Nehemiah, the governor, said – ‘Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ (Nehemiah 8)
The inference here is very clear. In our times of distress, sorrow, loss and pain – there is a joy which will sustain us if we are willing to surrender to it. And at times, as in the experience of my friend, that joy is so overwhelming that it is impossible to resist.
This truth is, of course, borne out in many other places in the Bible. One example is of King David at a time in his life when everything seemed to be going wrong. His reputation was under attack, false allegations had been made against him – and there seemed to be no end to it. Yet he could write in the middle of it all –
‘You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.’
Perhaps someone reading this post today is in distress – feeling down, lonely or in pain. I pray, at this moment as I write, that the supernatural joy of the Lord will be your strength. It is possible to dance even in the hour of tears!