Sorrow for Joy

Our life is but a vapor and we want God to work very quickly. He is eternal and prefers to work things out slowly.

I find in my imagination it is easy to think of the great exchanges in Isaiah 61 as if they were a trip to Target: “Hi, yes, I have these ashes and sorrows; they don’t really fit me and I would like to exchange them for beauty and joy now.” Done. In and out in 5 minutes. You could even stop and get some Starbucks on your way out the door. I would like to posit a theory that it doesn’t quite work that way. I suspect it’s more like Jacob who exchanged seven years of labor for Rachael, faced a cruel and devastating setback, and then had to work seven more years in exchange for what he had originally hoped.

At least, that’s been closer to my experience. Irony of ironies, it’s my turn up to write for the blog this week on joy, and to be transparent I’ve been in counseling for depression for the last six months. So yeah, I’m not going to pretend that this sorrow for joy trade is a quick, one-time thing that happens and then you’re good. Say a quick prayer, sing an upbeat song and then – bam! – it’s #blessed.

So, what then does the trade look like? For me, it’s been taking the time for a long quiet walk in the woods of an old monastery to try to clear my head when bleak and negative thoughts have been intruding, invading and tormenting my soul all week and I’m exhausted from combating them. It’s the late evenings opening up and sharing my heart over a hot cup of tea with longsuffering friends. It’s writing out the same prayers on page after page of my journal that haven’t been answered yet. It’s being careful with what I eat and exercising and trying to get good sleep because those things are all necessary albeit insufficient. It’s having a good day get tripped up because the wrong song came on Apple music when I hit shuffle and building a new playlist instead to better guard my heart. It’s digging for new insight from old truths and finding enough to get me through to the next day. And sometimes I step back and wonder if any of what I have always believed is really true, but where else would I go? He has the words of life (John 6:68).

When Luke records Jesus launching his public ministry after being tested and tempted by the devil in the wilderness, we find Jesus reading the scroll from none other than Isaiah 61: “He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” And over the coming years, the Man of Sorrows would fulfill it. Like Jacob toiling long for his bride Rachael, Jesus would do all that was required to receive his bride, the Church. He would accomplish our redemption, driven by the joy set before him. Jesus knows fully the price of this trade he is offering. He knows what it is to weep at the sight of the heaving ache left behind by death. He knows what it is to have his final pleading hopes crushed. He had his physical body give out under the strain of a burden that was too heavy to carry after a sleepless night. He knows what it was to feel abandoned by everyone, even by God. That was the cost of the trade. This was what was paid by the One who offers you his sustaining joy. Don’t reject the offer, even if it takes time to fully receive it. Take heart; the joy of our wedding day is approaching.

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.

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