The Tension of Joy & Pain

The Tension of Joy and Pain

Our son died on April 7, 1979. Kyle’s death was totally unforeseen. Never in my life would I have thought Kyle’s time on earth would last for only five and a half years.

My joy fled when Kyle was gone. But James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Joy? With Kyle dead and my heart broken? How could I ever be joyful again? It didn’t make any sense at all.

Before losing Kyle, I would have been more likely to define joy as the lack of pain. How could these two apparent opposites be reconciled? But James understood a truth that I desperately needed to understand: pain and joy can coexist. In fact, they go hand-in-hand.

When we use the word consider today, we usually mean “to think about” or “regard” something. But when James says to “consider it pure joy,” he means to account it as joy. It is a function of the mind rather than the heart.

Joy is the emotion you experience when you have been set free. It is the lifting of your soul in the midst of pain. It is far more than just being happy; it is the excitement that comes with being liberated. It is the enthusiastic spirit that results from receiving an unexpectedly pleasant surprise.

James doesn’t say we should experience joy “because of” the painful trials we are going through. Rather, he says we need to use every opportunity to experience pure joy because our Father is sending us something that will set us free from pain’s downward pull. We need to have the eyes of our heart open so we don’t miss His surprises.

Many people think that if they can accumulate enough things and avoid enough pain, they will experience joy. But that is not how it works. Only as we learn to live in faith, in a relationship built on trust and dependence on God, are we able to experience His joy and blessing. Only then can we discover all that He has designed us to be.

I knew it in my head, but I had not put it into practice in my life on a daily basis. I simply had not given it enough time to sink into my heart. The more I understood that truth, the more God was and is able to be all He wants to be in my life.

One of the many things God wanted to do for me was give me a greater freedom in the expression of my personality. I now laugh more, cry more, love more and feel more anger when I see injustice.

I still miss my son’s presence and aliveness with our family. Dealing with the loss of our father-son relationship has proved to be a difficult journey. But going through that process has brought me so much closer in my Father-son relationship with my heavenly Father. As I’ve come to know the Father better, and as our relationship has become more alive and intimate, I’ve come to enjoy my wife, my family and my own aliveness in a richer, fuller way.

I am freer to live without worrying about “what if” and “what might have been” that used to stifle me. I have a greater sense that God is in charge. And when new circumstances come into my life unexpectedly, instead of being overwhelmed, I know God has a way to help me through every one of them.



(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

Dr. Rick Taylor

Dr. Rick Taylor

Equipping Director at The Well Community Church, international speaker, and author of The Anatomy of a Disciple.

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