A Celebration of Joyful Sorrow
“So...is your joy back?” her far away voice asks me over the phone. Silence.
I blink. And blink again.
“Well, is your joy back, or what?” my dear friend persists.
“Ummm...not sure how to answer that. I guess so?”
“If you don’t know, your joy probably isn’t back,” she concludes succinctly.
Perhaps I have lost my joy. Nearly five years ago on a frigid Wisconsin day I stared at the back of my husband’s head as he walked calmly from the sterile, cold courtroom. Five years since God did not perceivably step in and change a hardened heart.
Reeling from the blow of this inconceivable divorce from my once youth-pastoring, Bible-believing, God-fearing husband, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees anymore. The light at the end of the tunnel was extinguished, and I was trapped in a dark space somewhere between God’s shelter and Satan’s brutal attacks.
Shouldn’t my joy be back by now? Joy in what? Joy in whom? Clearly not in circumstances, because those haven’t changed.
Setting out to reclaim lost pieces of my joy, and faced with the impending doom of my divorce-a-versary I planned a monumental girls’ night. Not to mourn, but to gather powerful women and share joy, laughter, and God’s faithful love.
My stubborn will clamors to transform this day from one of grief and loss, to one of praise and gain.
Praise God for holding our hands through the valley of the shadow of death.
Praise God for navigating us through more grief than we have ever known and guiding each uncertain step.
Praise God that we are not stumbling through every day clinging to His robe just to stay vertical, but joyfully growing and thriving and surviving by His grace alone.
No matter the circumstance.
The bitter December wind swirls around my tights-wearing legs. A new dress. A red dress. A departure from my usual boring shades of blue. Inside the cozy Italian restaurant cheerful chatter warms my heart. Tight hugs and bright eyes reflect unity of heart and deep fellowship.
We devour huge platters of manicotti, carbonara, and pasta purses bursting with cheesy goodness. With flushed faces and full stomachs, my kindred spirits turn to listen to my prepared speech.
Voice shaking, heart racing, hesitation. Are my words vital to the success of this celebration? Maybe I don’t need to do this…
But…praising God for who He is, and all He’s done brings our joy back better than any new dress or platter of pasta.
In John 16 Jesus perplexes the disciples by saying he would be leaving soon. They will weep and lament, as a woman in labor but joy comes with deliverance and no one can steal your Jesus joy:
John 16:22- So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (ESV)
Give God’s joy, Amy. Speak truth. Deep breath.
“My husband’s deliberate putting aside made me feel like the smallest speck of useless life imaginable. But our faithful God reveals little pieces of our TRUE identity. This is where our JOY truly lives.
Not a wife, but always a daughter.
No longer loved by one, but always BE-loved.
No longer cherished, but always pursued by our Father.
Not joined in marriage, but joined by blood to our Savior.
No longer supported, but forever protected by our Rock, Refuge, and High Tower.
I moved back to Michigan with the sincerest prayer for God to bring sojourners. Women who get this imperfect life. Women who understand WHO God is, and HOW we travel this path with sincerity and purpose. Not in perfection, but in willingness to grow and change.
To brave life’s sufferings because we know they’ll come. Not only to brave them, but to LIVE them. To WALK them in JOY. To FAITH those sufferings with so much FAITH and so much trust in our God that He knows we mean business.
We are women of the Word. Ladies of intellect, and passion, and depth. My soul dwells in the space between lamenting and healing, but by God’s infinite, unmatchless grace I’m not who I was and together we journey God’s sure path towards our Heavenly home.”
As I look around the table at the teary eyes of my sister-friends, I know this joyful sorrow has come as a result of my changed heart and not changed circumstances. My pursuance of an ever-present God. My walking-on-water with Jesus moments have led me right into a semi-contented era of joyful sorrow.
Growing. Changing. Living. Loving.
To my faithful God I say YES, YES God, and AMEN.