joy and painLately, my life has been joyfully full. Full hands. Full heart.

Our oldest daughter had her second son in April. I had the blessing of staying with them almost three weeks to help with the baby and my 4-year-old grandson.

Our second daughter had her first child last week! Little Josiah is 8 days old today. In fact, I am with them now – days are filled with cooking, diapers, rocking, and loving.

Next month our family adds a daughter. Our son is getting married to a wonderful young woman we already love.

Full, happy times. Joyful times.

But life has also been hard recently. Death and grief. Struggle and sadness.

My father-in-law, who lived with us for the last five years, passed away at home on March 1st after weeks of severe health issues, hospital stays, and rehab.

My own parents currently face significant health struggles of their own. Life is changing dramatically for them. Hard, difficult decisions lie ahead.

The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster. Rejoicing one moment, grieving the next. Some days these feelings overlap. Cries of joy mingle with tears of pain.

Joy and pain. Loss and gain.

I’ve wondered what to do with this. How do I handle these contradictions? How do I move with this weird ebb and flow? I want to understand this from God’s point of view.

First, I recognize that everything precious and wonderful in my life comes from God. He is the generous Giver of all good gifts.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17, NIV

Second, I realize that pain is part of life. God does not promise us good times. He never said our lives would be pain free. In fact, His Word tells us we will have trouble in this world. On the night Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples – and us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

We live in a world broken by sin. Until Jesus returns, illness, death, and evil still impact our lives. We also suffer the consequences of our own sin. Yet even when God does not choose to remove our trials and sufferings, He promises to walk with us through them.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2, NIV

In the joyful times I thankfully acknowledge God’s good gifts and in the painful times I am more keenly aware of God’s gracious, comforting presence. My life must be a constant mingling of gratitude and grasping. Thankful for His gifts and His presence, yet ever reaching for more of Him. Leaning into His strength and grace in the joyful times and the painful times.

Gratitude and grasping. Juggling joy and pain. Hallelujah!

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