A note from Kelly King: During the season of “joy,” we can often miss the true meaning of joy. We can also miss the opportunity to experience joy in the midst of pain—whether it is ourselves or someone else experiencing it. I’m grateful for Kaye Hurta’s article today as we navigate being empathetic toward others and accepting joy even in the midst of our own personal struggles.
The theme for this week of Advent on the church calendar is joy, and I just heard the familiar Christmas carol, “Joy to the World” on the radio. I’m singing along, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come…” and thinking about all the friends I know who are walking a very dark and painful road right now. Joy? What does joy look like when you are in a season of pain? When everyone around you is celebrating a joy-filled season, where do you go with your pain? Do you hide it? Stuff it? Deny it? In his book, Every Step an Arrival, Eugene Peterson wrote, “Sadness, grief, lament—the occasions when humanity is most aware of its transience and its glory—are shunned.” He goes on to say that when we, as a culture, avoid intense feelings of pain, “we become less than the full persons we are created to be.” I agree. I see this avoidance at work all the time. However, it seems more pronounced during the holidays. Perhaps it is because pain looks and feels more painful against the backdrop of tinsel and lights, Christmas parties and pageants.
I believe we can embrace joy even when we are hurting. The biblical view of joy has nothing to do with the condition of our circumstances but has everything to do with the position of our hearts. The apostle Paul was imprisoned when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, also known as the “epistle of joy.” He speaks about joy in every and all circumstances.
What does joy-filled pain look like?
I saw it this weekend in the home of friends whose 21-year-old son died in a sporting accident in July. They set a beautiful table of seasonal celebration for our church ministry team. I asked her how her heart felt approaching the holidays. She said these beautiful, honest words, “I’m angry at God and feel far away from Him.” Then she smiled and said, “But I know He’ll wait for me.” That is joy-filled pain.
I saw it on the face of another woman I know whose daughter tried to kill herself two weeks ago. I sat behind her in church. Yes, she was in church. I looked at her, tears streaming down her face but arms lifted in worship. That is joy-filled pain.
I saw it on the face and in the hands of a friend who recently lost her job but still showed up to serve our children’s ministry. She wiped tables, held babies, and sang songs. That is joy-filled pain.
The constant in the stories of people who display joy-filled pain is other people. Let’s circle back to our epistle of joy, Philippians. Following the familiar Philippians 4:13, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me ” is verse 14: “Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship.” Isn’t that beautiful?
If you are ministering to someone in pain, will you share with them in their affliction? Will you give them space this season to share their story, their grief, and their sorrow? Will you also invite them to sit with you, serve with you, or eat with you? Pain is isolating enough; let’s be conduits of joy by being invitational to those who are in pain.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.