Why Is There No Joy Without Sorrow?

Why is There No Joy without Sorrow?

By Paul R. Blake



            (A brother wrote to me of wonderful news that was followed the next day with a message of sorrow that seemed to undo all of the good from the day before. A couple had decided to obey the gospel, truly a cause for rejoicing. But before they were baptized, it came to light that he was involved in an unscriptural divorce. They chose to remain together in adultery rather than obey the gospel. The preacher was troubled by the activities of Satan that caused so much pain. I wrote what follows in response.)

            The Adversary is truly the god of this world ruling in the hearts of men and spreading sorrow everywhere his slimy influence extends. Hell will be particularly hard on him, as he had aspirations of ruling and instead will find himself living eternally in Perdition paying for his activity in this world. As one brother put it: "The Devil is not going to spend eternity laughing in hell."

            The truly tragic aspect of all of this is the sorrow of the billions of souls he hurts in this world. Please understand that he could not do any of this without human cooperation. Everyone can say "NO" to him, but they often choose to do otherwise. The great irony they must be taught to face is this: they are choosing to spend eternity with the very being who led them into the choices that are causing them pain in this world.

            There is no joy experienced in this world that the Adversary does not try to undo with sorrow. There will be no lasting joy in this life without sorrow, at some point, following soon after. In Ohio, a young couple is rejoicing in the birth of their second child, when the first one is taken this life by an unexpected illness. A teenaged boy in Pittsburgh with a brilliant mind and a full scholarship to a prestigious university is assaulted and beaten to death in a subway restroom. A beloved evangelist spends a lifetime influencing others for Christ, and then destroys his work with an act of adultery. A local church experiences growth and peace, then seemingly out of nowhere, a trusted elder embraces error and leads away a faction. Why!? What beneficial lesson for us comes of all this evil activity of our Adversary!?

            Joy teaches us to press for heaven; sorrow reminds us that if we do not, hell will not be a tolerable alternative. Created in the image of God and knowing good from evil, we strongly desire to hold onto joy and make it last, and we strive to avoid sorrow, fending it off with all of our limited power. And yet, it is not about how long we make the joy last or how strongly we fight off the sorrow; it is about the grace with which we conduct ourselves in our joy or sorrow. Paul knew how to live with the jolting extremes of joy and sorrow: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12).

            Joy does not stay for long and sorrow comes and goes, but what will remain in this world and for all of eternity is the honor and grace we manifested in both states. I recently learned of a WWII B29 bomber pilot who survived 32 missions only to be stricken in his old age with neuropathy. He conducted himself with the same honor in his disease as he did in the skies over Berlin. There is a reason why such a man would face his sorrow with grace: God gave him a long life when the rest of his squadron was killed over Germany. He was not going complain to Him when he goes the way of all flesh. Clearly, it’s not about how much life we get to live; it's about how we live the life we are given.

            Solomon told us that everything has a season, and joy and sorrow are not excluded from this. By definition, “seasons” come and go. Joy will not linger in this world, and sorrow will pass on as something else replaces it. There is only one place designed to maintain a state of unending joy -- heaven. There is only one place of eternal sorrow -- hell. Doing the will of God leads to the first; yielding to the tempting lies of our Adversary leads to the second. We cannot choose to have lasting joy in this world, but in this world we can choose to have lasting joy in the world to come.

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