I love the phrase "sorrowful yet always rejoicing". It speaks to me so clearly of the nature of the Christian life and I'd like it as a banner across my own life and the life of my church. As we walk through this broken, fallen world, where we only see the first fruits of the age to come breaking in from time to time (O that we would see more of the "now" in the midst of the "not yet") - there is sorrow. There just is. There is pain and sadness and you have to perform all manner of interpretive gymnastics with the Bible in order to be able to say otherwise. And yet....and yet there is another reality - there is rejoicing. We rejoice because God in Christ has come to us to hold us, lift us and ultimately save us. So we rejoice even in the midst of the trials because of the Good News that God is for us and that He has delivered us, He is delievering us and He will deliver is.
This blog post from Trillia Newbell describes her perspective on this twin theme of joy and pain.
I have walked this earth a short 34 years, but in that time I have experienced a wide range of various trials. As a young child my parents struggled financially resulting in the occasional electricity being shut off and visits to a relative’s home. During my freshman year of college I was the victim of sexual assault (not rape thankfully). A few months later my father passed away from his battle with cancer. As a young adult I have experienced four miscarriages, general health issues, and recently the sudden loss of my oldest sister.
And yet, I am joyful; but not without sorrow.
Trials of any kind bring a rush of emotions and potentially pain. The pain is real. The sorrow is real. Trials are hard to endure at times. God never once promised this Christian life would be without trials. On the contrary, as it has been said before, all one needs to do is live long enough and surely trials will arrive.
Thankfully we have a Savior who relates to our suffering. Jesus is aware of and acquainted with the grief of man. He is acquainted with my grief and your grief. The God-Man endured trials and temptation but is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He faced agony to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44).
On his way to the cross Jesus sat and prayed to his Father, if it were God’s will, to take the cup of His wrath away. And yet we know that Jesus willingly drank that cup and he hung on the cross. And in his final moments on the cross, Mark records him saying, “’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).
His pain and suffering was for a purpose — the redemption of the world. He endured great pain. Pain I can only imagine, pain and wrath on my behalf.
Like Jesus — our pain has a purpose. The believer knows that there’s a great and glorious purpose in trials. Suffering is designed to purify our faith. Peter comforted the Christians in Asia Minor by reminding them (thus reminding me) of the great purpose of suffering. He writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).
Any trial or suffering I endure is a testing of the genuineness of my faith. And in The Suffering of Man and the Sovereignty of God, Charles Spurgeon addresses the genuine faith of Job tested by fire and how his faith only reflects the faith that we all desire to have. He writes, “In what better way can the believer reveal his loyalty to his Lord? He evidently follows his Master, not in fair weather only, but in the foulest and roughest ways” (121).
The beauty of faith is that it isn’t derived from me. God graciously gives me faith to believe his promises to sustain me to the end. He gives me faith to trust that he is with me in my days of trouble. All good things, including the faith to endure trails is from him (James 1:17). So though trials may come, I can be confident that he will give me the sustaining grace for them.
And I Rejoice
I can rejoice in suffering because I know I have a living hope. I know that my hope will bring me to an eternal glory. I will one day rise and be with Christ forever. I can rejoice in suffering today because I know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put me to shame, because God's love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me (Romans 5:3–5).
So though I have experienced various trials, my hope is in Christ. I rejoice during these trials in my living hope, knowing that nothing — no great trial, no pain or sorrow, and no one — shall separate me from the love of God.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35–39)