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Joy in the Midst of Grief

Written by Sydnie Thomas

For many people including myself, the summer of 2020 was intense. Our nation was dealing with a worldwide pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement was illuminating racial injustice, and the divisive presidential race was picking up steam. Amidst these titanic movements there were a couple extra factors weighing on in my life. I had just graduated college and my wedding was scheduled for July. This summer was supposed to be the best summer of my life, but I spent much of it in tears. Graduation was canceled, the end of my senior year was cut short, and my wedding was moved from the venue of my dreams where all my friends and family could come to celebrate with me, to my parent’s backyard where not even all of my immediate family could come. However, what made it all worse, was the death of my housemate.

I should’ve been elated after graduating college and eager while preparing for my wedding, but the reality was that I was absolutely full of grief. While celebrating the joy of finishing college, I couldn’t help but think about my friend who didn’t get to graduate. Minutes before my bridal shower, excited to see my friends and daydream about the future with my husband was when I found out she passed away. I was overcome with agony. July 10, the day of my rehearsal, the day I was supposed to wear white, became the day I was supposed to wear black. It was the day of her funeral. It was in this season when I began biblical counseling. I was experiencing grief, yet in the midst of my grief there was joy also and I didn’t know what to think.

As I was reflecting on this season, I couldn’t help but think about the disciples after Jesus died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. We see in the gospels that the disciples endured great anguish during the death of Jesus, jubilee when he returned victorious, and then we are left questioning what they felt after the ascension of Jesus. Isn’t the death and resurrection of Jesus the most joyful thing to happen in the lives of Christians? Shouldn’t they only experience joy? Immense joy that drowns out any feelings of despair? I would say absolutely not. The disciples had every right to mourn. Even though we now know this as the greatest gift of salvation and they knew it as the beginning of the Christian church, they lost their friend, their teacher, their Messiah in earthly form.

We often like to separate the moments that bring us grief from the moments that bring us joy, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Sometimes we are sitting in the middle of both and that’s okay, that is to be human. God gave us emotions for a reason, to experience His joy, but also to experience the hurt of His heart. By experiencing the weight of such events, we resonate with our maker and we’re reminded that our God too felt these same emotions when he walked the earth. Both in the summer of 2020 and now, I find great comfort knowing that our God has the empathy to suffer and celebrate with us, His children. I’m thankful the Bible gives us examples of rejoicing and lament, sometimes even at the same time.

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