“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Paradox of “Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing”

4. Joy Can Be Found in Sorrow

A similar paradox, or perhaps, the same paradox described with different language, is this: sorrow gives birth to joy.

Pastor and theologian John Piper has noted that “Joy in God is never unmixed with sorrow. Never. Love won’t allow that” (Spectacular Sins, p. 29). One of the strange qualities of living in a fallen world is that our deepest joys are marked by tears – great sadness and great happiness are expressed in the same way. Tolkien captured this well in The Lord of the Rings:

“Their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Joy in this world is tainted with sorrow, yet in the same way, sorrow is weakened by the joy that can be found in the midst of it. As we saw in the last post, it is sorrow that has a tendency to give birth to joy even as new life tends to rise from the dead and desolate ground:
“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” – John 16:20-21, see also Jeremiah 31:13, Isaiah 35:1

“Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings…If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed” – 1 Peter 4:13-14, see also Colossians 1:24, James 1:2, Matthew 5:12

“In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” – 2 Corinthians 7:4

“…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” – 2 Corinthians 6:10
How strange it is that the authors of Scripture should speak so plainly of both joy happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain being present at the same time – what a paradox! Yet this is the nature of life in a fallen world (see “The Paradox of a Fallen World”) – a dying world, filled with grief, yet still God’s world, and therefore a world in which hope and joy will never be fully lost – indeed, a world in which hope must triumph in the end. For more thoughts on finding joy in sorrow, joy that is a foretaste of a greater joy to come, see this meditation by John Piper.

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