I have a grandmother I never knew and a granddaughter that never knew me.
My grandmother passed away 25 years before I was born and my granddaughter passed away three hours after she was born–grief and joy both flood my soul. Grief that I missed living life with them and, yet, joy that they both lived.
God made us to experience these emotions that we tend to think are opposite of each other and cannot be practiced at the same time. But grief and joy are not mutually exclusive; we can celebrate and grieve at the same time.
Jesus ran his race experiencing the duality of both grief and joy. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” His joy was our redemption; his grief was the price he paid. And yet, paying the ultimate price of his life was his joy. What a paradox!
The tension of grief and joy run on parallel tracks. It is “both and” not “either or.” This fallen life we live is bittersweet. Bitter in the pain of loss, betrayal, separation and unfulfilled longing; yet it is sweet in that we live, we love and we have a sure expectation of all things being made right.
C. S. Lewis observed, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” His point is that because we love deeply then we will hurt deeply. Like multiple instruments in harmony make beautiful melodies, God takes the good and bad, the sorrows and the joys, the bitter and the sweet to make our life songs. In our 10,000 stabs of grief, we can know the joy of restoration and redemption. “Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise; we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, June 9th morning).
So this time of year, as you anticipate the holidays and the possibility of the mingling of grief and joy, remember Christ. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The lingering losses we experience now are echoes of the joys once shared and, in the experience of the glad reunion to come a glorious melody of notes, once out of tune and misplaced, will be perfected in harmony and in praise of our Lord for all eternity.