Joy and Sorrow

Read: Psalm 126

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (v. 5)

During Advent, we are deeply aware that we live in between Christ’s coming for the first time and his coming again. In this “already, not yet” time, we know that Jesus Christ came to begin his reign and invite all to become children of God, even as the world does not yet fully reflect his kingdom and many do not recognize God as Father. How do we hold these two realities—one of which leads to joy and the other to sorrow—together, in Advent and beyond?

Psalm 126 shows a way. God’s people had experienced great loss and tribulation when they went into exile, but when they returned to their Promised Land, their mouths were filled with laughter and their tongues with shouts of joy. This did not erase the suffering they had experienced, but it points to the enduring truth that life this side of Christ’s return combines both sorrow and joy.

Eugene Peterson, reflecting on this psalm, says that “laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow.” And he points to the Advent hope we cling to when we are confronted with sorrow: “The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away tears, and, in his resurrection work, create the smile of new life” (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, pp. 94, 96). May God’s grace help us find the smiles, laughter, and joy that God extends even in the world’s sorrow. —Kristen Deede Johnson

As you pray, ask God to give those in sorrow hope that joy and laughter might also be theirs.

About the Author

Kristen Johnson
Kristen Deede Johnson

Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson is the Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Western Theological Seminary, and the Professor of Theology and Christian Formation.