Joy and Sorrow: A Beautiful Dance

Stirred anew by the beauty of the gospel, an overwhelming sense of illumination spread like fire in my heart. Joy and sorrow intermingled, two cords of the same braid. I call it a beautiful crushing.

It’s the place where God reminds me of my desperate need for Him, and just how much I’ve been given in Jesus. The worship gathering continued, but I lingered, astonished by a singular concept.

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:2-4 

  • I no longer belong to my husband.
  • One day I may belong to another.
  • I already belong to Jesus.

I’ve read this passage countless times since Jon died, but never have its contents seemed so radical.

Sorrow and joy wove an intricate dance, somehow moving harmoniously together. I still miss belonging to Jon, but joy swelled at thoughts of renewal, reversal, and redemption. Joy blossomed at the idea of belonging to another. A year ago, sorrow would have vastly outweighed joy, but now they feel more compatible.

joy and sorrowI’ve long since realized that counter to cultural expectations, joy and sorrow may be equally present. The ultimate oxymoron, one does not necessarily exclude the other. For Christ had deep sorrow over the weight of sin, but also deep abiding joy to do the Father’s will. Joy and sorrow mingled at the cross, and learned they could dwell together.  And if I didn’t know death, I wouldn’t understand their harmony.

Joy and sorrow: a profound illustration of the gospel, yet death and remarriage exemplify it further. While Jon was here, we were bound to each other by a covenant made before God and man. And of course, I cherished that covenant. As hard as it is to process, at his death, we were no longer bound together.

Clearly the analogy breaks down, for marriage to Jon was not sin, nor was I captive to him. But the application is clear.

“Before receiving the gospel, we are ‘married’ to sin because we have broken God’s law and are chained to its verdict and mastery.” (Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible)

I once was bound to sin. But now I belong to Another. I belong to “Him who has been raised from the dead,” free from the law’s condemnation and sin’s inescapable vice.

I belong to Someone. 

In marriage Jon was mine and I was his. How I loved belonging to him and miss belonging to him! And how I long to belong to another again someday. However, infinitely more precious than belonging to a husband, I belong to Jesus. I am Christ’s and He is mine. I’m not guaranteed remarriage, but I already belong.

Joy and Sorrow. Death and thoughts of remarriage: an intermingling I wouldn’t have chosen, but I marvel at such a beautiful dance.

Lord, no longer belonging to a husband is a hard thing to grapple. Sorrow. But to belong to You is inestimably better! Joy. In Jesus, I belong. And I always will belong! Oh, God, use the intermingling of sorrow and joy to draw me ever closer to you; through them I see all that Jesus accomplished. I marvel that Jesus embraced sorrow, so I would have joy.

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Go ahead paparazzi. Take your pictures.

When I read the final paragraphs of Romans 7, I imagine paparazzi camped outside my house drooling like hyenas, waiting to pounce on some indecency or incriminating action. The chapter leaves me feeling exposed. It’s like the Holy Spirit simulcasts live feed from my mind to the pages of Scripture. “Next on E! News, the real Ami Atkins. Sweet and gentle on the outside. Savage war raging within.” I don’t do what I want to do. I do do what I don’t want to do. I delight in God, but evil lurks close beside. There’s a war in my mind, and sometimes the enemy holds me captive with his lies. Oddly, these thoughts cause great hope. For in God’s omniscient wisdom, Paul as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded this very struggle within the infallible Word. It’s like music to my ears. The guy who wrote most of the New Testament and took the gospel to the known world struggled the same way I do. I’m not crazy. Like all believers I’m caught between the already and the not yet. I’m already a new creature, but I am not yet glorified. Sin still wages war in my physical body. I’ve experienced grace upon grace, yet I struggle. Ok, so let me unpack a few reasons to hope. In Christ I am free to struggle. Whereas I could only submit to sin, now I can stand up and fight! Taking that a step further, the presence of my inner battle reaffirms that I truly belong to Jesus. Taking one step more, the raging war in my mind is already won. Christ is already the victor. The one who rescued me once and for all, rescues me from the war within. It reminds me of a song we sing sometimes at worship gathering.

“There’s a peace to settle your soul There is a peace that is calling you home Youʼve been tempted and shaken, tested and failed Youʼve been so far from Jesus, too close to hell Your visionʼs been clouded by this worldʼs delight But I tell you youʼre not of this world so stand up and fight Youʼre not of this world so stand up and fight There is a peace to settle your soul There is a peace that is calling you home There is a peace to settle your soul There is a peace perfect and true The Prince of Peace is calling for you…”

There is a Peace, Sojourn

The Prince of Peace. He is my true delight. In him I stand and face the battle of the “not yet.” In him I find refuge from the war within. So paparazzi, take all the pictures you want. There’s nothing to hide.