Life is not easy. Sometimes it doesn’t really make sense. Sometimes it feels like everything is just too much. For some it is the loss of a pet, family member, friend. Broken relationships. Hopes that have not come to fruition. Jobs that are in flux. Some people face tremendous and ongoing health struggles. A confronting diagnosis, uncertain pathways forward. Some are just tired, be it a busy week or kids that don’t know that when it is dark outside means that you should be asleep. For some it is too much going on, trying to juggle too many things. For others, it is the frustration of limited capacity. When we look around us, there is so much hurt in the world, on our own back doors and further afield. What are we to do in the face of everything that life throws at us?
Sometimes it just makes me want to curl up and hope that when I look up again everything will be ok, comfortable, and peaceful. But that is not the reality. On this side of heaven, as we await the day that God will make all things new, there is brokenness. There are challenges. We are in a land that is not yet our home.
My past week has been full of challenging emotions. Resignation. Hopelessness. Frustration. Confusion. Despair. Numbness. There have been moments of celebration, laughter, and happiness, but they have not been predominant. It is not especially fun, but it is important that we allow ourselves to feel the feelings. We need to allow ourselves time and space to grieve with God, who created us with the capacity for both lament and joy.
When facing these hard feelings, I wished they would go away. I wanted to feel a tangible sense of joy and excitement about all the good things that are happening in my life and the lives of those around me. In these moments, Nehemiah 8:10 has repeatedly come to mind, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I was encouraged to learn that this was a petition from Nehemiah to the Israelites when they were in a time of mourning. They had strayed and were in exile, and now, as they returned to their homeland, they encountered the reality of their decisions and the brokenness of their world. Yet, they were to take time to put aside their grief (not to disregard or reject it entirely), and to remember that their joy was in the Lord. We cannot, by our own strength, have joy. Joy is from the Lord. It is not merely happiness, but is a deep and profound sense of gratitude and hope even in the face of hard things, because we know that we are held by the one who created the universe, who sustains it, and who loves us despite everything that we do (here is a great short video about Joy in the Bible).
Today I want to encourage you that it is ok to grieve. It is ok to feel the emotions that come with the challenging circumstances that we face in the world today. But I also want to remind you—as much as I need to remind myself—that we can have joy in the Lord. It is this joy in God and what he has done throughout history that gives us hope and strengthens us for the day ahead. When we have joy in the Lord, we are enabled to grieve without being overcome and paralysed by pain. We are able to mourn the reality of brokenness while looking forward and participating in the restoration that Christ is bringing (and will one day bring in all its fullness) to the world.