What Happens When Joy and Sorrow Meet

What happens when joy and sorrow meet?  Do they embrace like old friends?  Or are they repulsed by each other — a more awkward sort of greeting — uncomfortable for all who are watching? Or perhaps they greet like casual friends with small talk and surface conversation, not getting too deep or too personal.  Do they even want to meet?  Are they afraid  to be in the same house? Are they afraid they’ll influence the other, changing the DNA of who they really are and making them less of a power  to be reckoned with?  Because if either are diminished — joy empties a bit …becomes less passionate — or sorrow becomes a little less painful … a bit more blurred — then their definition has no real meaning .  They’re both thrown in with the bland spices — who don’t really add or take away anything of the flavor of life — and would  you be able to  really feel anything ?

Through our recent “big move” from Connecticut to Alabama, I’ve been living with joy and with sorrow and I’ve pondered this co-habitation long and hard. Because,  you see, I was beginning to wonder how on earth my heart and mind could continue to function in a healthy way when all that was within me was stretched between joy and sorrow.  Would I just break into pieces one day under the pulling back and forth of the two?  Would I survive this tug of war in my soul?  Could such extremes live inside me without fracturing something?

There was sorrow …sorrow in leaving  our adult children  and grandchildren … sorrow in leaving people who had become like family to us … sorrow in leaving a church family who stretched us and grew us and made us more like Jesus … sorrow in leaving an area of the country we dearly loved (I still haven’t found that waterfall spot for my soul space here in Alabama ).

There was joy … joy in joining our adult children and grandchild in Alabama  and getting to do life with them and other family and friends we love so much … joy in embracing a new church family that already is capturing our hearts with their  love … joy in the new adventure of living out the love of Jesus  in our new neighborhood with the least of these always knocking at our front door …joy of living more simply — that minimalist kind of living  — getting rid of  stuff so that what really matters has more room.

I was beginning to think my little heart couldn’t take  this strong pull between joy and sorrow and that I would truly break into a thousand little pieces on the floor from the extreme pressure of the two … until I realized … joy and sorrow need each other .  Joy and sorrow are like old friends — worn and comfortable in each other’s presence.  You see, you can’t have that full, wild and crazy joy if you haven’t known true sorrow and you can’t experience that deep sorrow of your soul needed to deepen you and draw out compassion in your spirit unless you know what passionate joy is all about.  These two actually live together.  Some days sorrow gets up off the couch of my living room and does the work; other days, sorrow rests and joy gets up and does the work that only she can do.  And some days, as in the days of our moving , it seems both joy and sorrow get up and work together to produce in me a heart more like my Father’s … a heart with a deeper passion and love for others … a deeper dependence on my Father to carry me through …these opposites — joy and sorrow– pull in different directions to do the work of stretching my soul and producing a greater thing in me. After all, didn’t Jesus know this tension well? — “…Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross...” (Hebrews 12:2)     This tension of the two pushes out the sides of my perspective, my love for God and for others  until  more space is created in my heart to be filled with  what really matters. 

We dug up the hydrangea … uprooted it  for transplanting … you know, my Grandma’s hydrangea … planted in memory of our little one in heaven.   It was somewhere in this process I began to understand joy and sorrow and the friendship they have and the work they do in tandem.  As I looked out the window and saw the empty spot in the yard where the hydrangea once bloomed beautifully — my heart felt so empty, so incredibly sad — fresh grieving all over again and fighting the urge to go out there and dig as deep as I could until I found something — anything– of the memories my mind had left behind.  In that moment, sorrow got up off the couch and surrounded me with a deep ache — one I didn’t want , but needed.  But just as sorrow had done her best work in my heart, joy got up in the form of a daughter and a grandson who, with loving arms and a knowing heart, wrapped around me with such love and compassion that I thought my heart would explode with this joy.  And in this moment of raw emotion, God, in a way that  only He can do,  cued up a song in the background …

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find 

Bless the Lord oh my soul …

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

(“10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”  by Matt Redman)

In a moment of pure worship, my daughter and I spontaneously began singing this song   while holding my  grandson and holding each other cheek to cheek —  glued together by  tears streaming down my face.  It was then that I noticed sorrow got up off the couch and embraced our little threesome  but  amazingly, joy got up as well and joined hands with sorrow and together, they surrounded us — stretching our hearts a little wider … a little deeper …. making room for more compassion and love to fill this wide open space .

Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

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  1. Karen Hall

    I so needed this,Joy! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Deb

    soooo very true!!! Life is such a roller coaster ride…God whispers (sometimes not so quietly) into our hearts, but He is always there to make it all work out – in HIS time! I admire you so much for your ability to follow His requests so faithfully!! Keep up the blog!! Miss you!! xoxo

    1. Joy Waters Martin

      Thanks Deb … the roller coaster continued after this post (more on that later) 🙂 I miss you too ! Would love your prayers ! Every day — walking by faith!

  3. Roger

    beautiful thoughts. Well said.

  4. fiztrainer

    I LOVE your blog. This was such an amazing post. This song is absolutely my favorite at the moment. Thanks so much for your encouragement and inspiration!! 😀

    1. thank you so much ! I love how God weaves all of us together !

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