There’s a common thread weaving its way through the fabric of my community; that is this question, how can we celebrate and be sad in one breath? How can we rejoice over a new relationship when we know its mere existence presses into the wounded heart of a single friend? How can we be excited about a positive pregnancy test in the presence of a friend who lost her baby at 9 weeks? How can we be wrecked by news of the hateful behavior in Charlottesville and still praise God for the beauty we see in our neighborhood?
When I got engaged, my sweet sister, 2 years my elder, was not married or even dating at the time. As excited as she was for me, my engagement was a painful period for her because her desire to be married ran deep. And thus, it was difficult for me too. It was tempting to hide my excitement around her to protect her wounded heart but at the same time I knew that wasn’t fair to me either; balancing my joy about being a fiancée with sensitivity about her sadness was like walking a tight rope.
We tend to believe that we shouldn’t express joy in the midst of someone else’s sadness for fear that they might feel neglected. But what I’ve learned is, celebration and sadness can co-exist. In fact, as believers, it’s something we have to practice every single day.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death and defeated the evil one. But, until He comes for a second time, the reality is that evil still exists in our world today. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus acknowledges that in our world there is going to be trouble. He does not neglect the fact that it will be hard, there will be hatred, brokenness and death. BUT, in the same breath He gives us hope saying – take heart! I have overcome the world. As we wait for Jesus to come again, we have the incredible responsibility of seeing the ick that goes on in our world and feeling sadness, and yet at the same time, proclaiming the celebration that Christ has the victory.
Last week, people flocked from all over the world to parts of the United States where they could view the epic, natural phenomenon where the moon blocked the sun in totality. As soon as the moon crossed in front of the sun, the world below was blanketed in darkness; eclipse goers went wild as nighttime arrived in the middle of the day. Animals went into their holes, cicadas chirped as if night. But here’s what got me- even though the moon completely blocked the sun, its light could not be contained; blasting around the edges of the moon, the corona, the sun's wispy outer atmosphere formed an ethereal ring in the darkness. I can’t get over this image (huge props to my Uncle for capturing it) because it so beautifully represents life with Jesus. No matter how dark our world gets, or how heavy our circumstances, because of His victory on the cross, there will always be light.
Friends, this is tender territory. I wish I had the magical answer of how to navigate spaces, like those I posed earlier, where utter joy and complete destruction exist synonymously. But, no matter how hard it is, I believe that celebration and sadness must coexist - that we must acknowledge the good and the bad in the same breath and here’s why:
One – We need to support each other despite our differences. It was really hard to be excited about my engagement when I knew it hurt my sister’s heart, but I knew that shielding her from my excitement wasn’t going to help her (or me). By acknowledging our emotions and being honest with each other, we met in the middle – we supported one another regardless of contrasting emotional states and our bond grew deeper because of it.
Two – It gives us the opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus. As followers of Christ, we need to be the ring of light in the solar eclipse – when the rest of the world is burdened with darkness we need to proclaim His victory over the evil one.
Three – It prepares us for our darkest hours when we desperately need to remember that even when the worst happens, God is still good. We can build up our habitual muscles so that if/when the seemingly worst happens our first reaction is to remember that God is still good, that Christ still has the victory.
This is something that I am currently wrestling with; and I’d love to know if you are too. Have any tips or just want to say “me too!” leave me a note in the comments below.
**This epic photo was taken by my Uncle Tom - thank you Uncle Tom for sharing this experience with me, and allowing me to share the beauty you captured!**