Advent Week 3: Joy in Sorrow
Written by Tim Moroz, Leader’s Collective Church Planter
Text: Read 1 Peter 4:12-13
When I was sixteen years old my dad went home to be with the Lord. He had late-stage brain cancer and had battled it for over a year and a half before it finally took him. I remember walking into my classroom after his funeral and my classmates, upon seeing a smile on my face, immediately thought that I was going through the stage of grief known as “denial.”
What my friends around me didn’t understand yet was that the reason I was smiling was not because I was in denial, but rather because I had learned that joy is not something that is found in my circumstances. It was deeper than that.
For most of us, the Christmas season is a positive experience full of nostalgia and good feelings that we eagerly look forward to all year. But this isn’t the case for everyone, and for many people this season bitterly reminds them of their brokenness, hurt, loneliness, and all around difficult circumstances. For them, life is hard, and life at Christmas time is even harder.
This is where we find many of God’s people in Luke 2. For over 500 years their lives have been bitter and difficult, their nation in captivity, and their God silent. Into this bleak picture God bursts forth in the most unexpected yet wonderful way, as a helpless baby. One day soon, He would change the world. For now, all they needed to know could be found in Luke 2:10, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
their salvation secured, before anything changed. They could find their joy in something that was beyond their circumstances. One author put it this way, “joy is more a state of being than an emotion; [it is] a result of choice.” To take it one step further, the NT teaches us that joy is actually a fruit of the Spirit and should therefore be the natural result of those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
Are you one of those people who experiences a great sense of grief or despair during the Christmas season? Do you have unresolved hurt, unmet expectations, or broken relationships? Are you in an impossible situation? Scripture goes so far as to command us to rejoice at all times (Phil 4:4). How in the world are we to do that?
Living a life of joy does not mean that you should put on a fake smile and pretend like everything is great when it’s not. It doesn’t even mean that you are wrong to experience sorrow or feel grief; even Jesus experienced sorrow and grief. A simple look at Scripture will show us that sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive.
In 1 Peter 4:12-13 we read, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” We see the same theme in Jn. 16:22, Col. 1:24, 2 Cor. 6:10, 1 Pt. 4:13 and throughout many of the Psalms. Sorrow and joy in the same breath.
God’s people are able to rejoice despite their circumstances because their joy is grounded in their God, not in their circumstances. We can experience joy because of the good news: Jesus is here. And He makes all things new in His time.
Prayer: Father, in our hearts we long to be a people that exudes great joy despite our circumstances. We want our joy to be grounded in our relationship with you and yet we confess that this is not always the case for us. We allow the difficulties around us to cause us to take our eyes off of you and turn us instead to despair. Remind us, O Lord, that in You we can find the fullness of joy. Teach us to find our joy in the unchanging goodness of your nature. Teach us to choose joy despite our lot.