When Sorrows Come - The mystery of suffering and joy

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

There are verses in the Bible I love that are, to be honest, also a bit of a mystery. One of them is 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, where Paul writes:

"Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

How can we be sorrowful yet still rejoice? How can we have nothing and yet possess everything? They seem to be on the surface irreconcilable contradictions, don’t they?

Joni Eareckson Tada - who, in addition to living with quadriplegia for more than 5 decades and more recently, chronic pain, is now going through round #2 of cancer - discusses this juxtaposition in her devotional titled “When Sorrows Come.” As an American Christian it is easy to believe our faith somehow magically shields us from the hardships and sufferings so many around the world face every day. Yet the reality is much different; of this Joni says, “The fact is, sorrow, tears, and disappointment are written into God’s plan for us. Yes, He lightens and brightens our days with glimpses of paradise; He gives foretastes of the great joys to come through a thousand blessings, large and small. But we’re not in heaven yet. And here on this side of life we—along with everyone else—will experience a measure of sorrow."

Maybe that sounds depressing or bleak; “Where’s the hope?” one might ask. Joni provides the answer to that question by pointing to the one person who can both understand our sorrows and provide hope - our Savior. She wraps up her thoughts with this statement:

When those sad times come, however, we turn our gaze to Jesus—remembering that He carried our sorrows on the cross and will walk with us through all of our troubles.”

When the hard times come, remember the words of that old classic hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace