Holding the Tension between Joy and Suffering

Holding the tension between joy and suffering is one of life's greatest challenges.  It's not by choice that we make our way into this world.  At times, we will bring suffering on ourselves, and at other times suffering will be visited upon us despite our best efforts to be safe and sound.  

The apostle Paul wrote about this tension, to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction.  To rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.  In other words, the Christian life includes both joy and suffering.  The good news is that neither are meant to be experienced alone, but rather within the trusted community in Christ.

One of the steps toward finding this balance is in understanding the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness is based on what "happens" (notice the word similarity!).  While joy transcends circumstances and is rooted in the goodness of God.  

Unfortunately, our culture too often flees from suffering, or worse, even shames it.  Some even believe suffering is an illusion!  But no one who takes the gospel seriously, or the prophets who foretold it, can ignore the reality of suffering, as the Christ would become (and still is) God's chosen "suffering servant."  

As a pastor, Martha shared that over the years she has been with people undergoing awful suffering.  At the same time, by sharing in the suffering together, the suffering is somewhat alleviated.  Also, sharing suffering together creates deeper friendships and community.  In what must seem like a great irony to many, sharing suffering together actually becomes a source of joy.

Balancing joy and suffering means developing the capacity to set aside one's joy to hear about another's pain, or to set aside one's pain to hear about another's joy.  In this effort, we experience the beauty of life and love in Christ Jesus.  

- What has been a source of joy in your life story?
- What has been a source of pain in your life story?
- Have you ever had an experience of balancing joy and suffering?

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