Tear Stained Joy

water dew on gray surface

Dear Reader,

It’s taken me a long time to learn that joy and sorrow aren’t mutually exclusive. The truth is, we never know either fully. I’m sure we couldn’t handle it if we did, either way. We can’t, in this world, know one without the other. Life is a mixture of both, and to hope to fully enjoy the one and avoid the other is wishful thinking of the worst sort.

What brings you joy? Is it your faith, your family, your friends? Think about these few categories and how they come to us mingled with both pleasure and pain. I don’t know a faith that is devoid of all doubt or disappointment. Sorry if that offends anyone — jus trying to keep it real. I also cannot fathom what life would look like without my faith, so there’s that.

Have family members ever hurt you? Yeah, probably not a great time to ask, since we’re smack dab in the middle of the season of family gatherings. And what about friends, how much pleasure and pain do friends bring into our lives. Have you overestimated a friendship? That’ll leave a mark.

Here’s my point, the blessings of life come to us as a mixed package of joy and pain. That’s just how it goes. The Bible, if true, as I believe it is, describes a day God will wipe every tear from every eye (Revelation 21:4). But even that vision, if you study it in context, shows the depth of sorrow from which our hope will finally emerge. So, between now and then tear stained joy is the best we can hope for. But hope is never a thing to be pitied or dismissed. Sometimes it just takes a little while for hope to float to the surface (to borrow from an old movie line).

We share in our tear stained joy. In this world we are afforded the opportunity to offer hope and healing to others. What a wonderful privilege! But anytime you give, it means there is something in you that is lessened (hence the idea of giving). That’s worth thinking about for a hot minute.

If I give you a dollar out of my ten dollars, I will have only nine left. I’m sure the same is true for what we give of other resources like our attention, our love, our emotion, our counsel, et cetera. We may give out of an abundance, but that will only mean the decrease will be less perceptible. It still costs us something. And sometimes we give out of a deficit, it would seem, so that we feel the gift leaving us more strongly and deeply than others may ever realize or recognize. And that’s okay. As Jesus said, it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

James Taylor once described a feeling that is “like the clenching of a fist.” But surely, there is also the opposite feeling like the opening of the arms for an embrace. Both feelings are common, angst and acceptance, but, as much as we are able, we should work to bless and not hinder our fellow human beings, to encourage rather than harm them. In other words, we should seek to enhance joy and lessen tears, even though there surely is a time for both. But when tears must fall, let us be quick to offer a shoulder and a quiet ministry of presence. We need not cry alone.

I believe that in our giving of ourselves, we will find a quiet joy growing in us. We’ll still have tears. That’s part of the package. But they can be joy-infused tears that reflect both our sorrow and our hope. They go together.

The poet Francis Thompson once said “old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow.” I think that’s right. And I hope it’s true for you, whomever you are, reading this, that you can see your new grief through the lens of your old joy.

While tears are certainly in our future, so is joy. And we need not ever be without hope. C.S. Lewis believed we never really get to see joy face to face, but, rather, always in our peripheral vision. When we turn to fix our gaze, joy eludes us. Maybe he’s right. If that’s true, joy is like flower seeds planted in fertile soil. Though it’s hidden from view, we can still walk in its garden. I hope you’ll stop and smell the flowers and let joy, even amidst sorrow, invade your heart this Christmas season.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sincerely Yours,