Joy Comes Through the Mourning
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
There have been many nights (and mornings and afternoons and evenings if we're just being honest) in my lifetime that have been filled with weeping. I hope I'm not alone in that (but I have a feeling I'm not!)
Sorrow or sadness, sickness or silly arguments, even sleepiness can quickly steal our happiness and bring moments filled with tears and sleepless nights. But we're told by the Psalmist that joy comes in the morning. While this verse is full of hope and light for the morning time, it has always caused me to pause and ask, but what about the night? What about in the mourning - is there no joy until that time is complete?
As we look at the word Joy this week in Flourish, there have been so many beautiful images conjured in my memories of joy-filled moments where I could almost feel the love of God tangibly. His presence was so evident in my life in those moments - like the day my boyfriend got down on one knee, or the day he became my husband. The moment I held my precious baby niece, then nephew, then my other nephew. The time in seventh grade where I felt the Lord leading me to ministry. These moments have marked my heart with joy and I will forever remember them with a smile.
But what about those less-than thrilling moments, where the breath gets knocked out of you so fast you have to sit down? What about the seasons where anxiety hits you like a ton of bricks and the fear of simply facing another day weighs you down every single moment? What about when your mom passes away, you suffer a miscarriage, or your husband gets diagnosed with cancer? These moments, months, and seasons where loss or sickness carry on longer than one night are inevitable in our lifetime. We live in this fallen, broken world where the enemy prowls around, eager to devour, destroy and kill. So how do we rejoice always?
I think our answer can be found in the life of Jehoshaphat. Ashlee Proffitt shared about this story in the Old Testament at the Charlotte Influence Network Conference earlier this year, and I will never forget the encouragement it provided. His story can be read in 2 Chronicles 20 where we find him as king of Judah and facing a terrible fate. He's been told by a group of men that a great multitude of armies are coming against him and it would be too much for the people to handle. In 2 Chronicles 20:3 we see the king's response: "Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD."
Jehoshaphat has recently experienced a mountaintop moment of victory just a chapter before, and now he finds himself facing a battle he's powerless against. In fear, he finds himself in the darkness - the moments before the morning has come. His immediate response is to set his face to seek the LORD. He knew that His God was bigger than the inevitable doom he faced. He invited his community to seek God alongside of him, and his prayer over his people is something I want to stamp on my eyeballs for every situation.
He stands before the assembly of people and prays to God with honest words, reminding God (and himself) of God's promises and faithfulness, proclaiming God's power and might. The end of his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:12 is beautiful: "For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."
The people stand before God with their little ones, their families, their loved ones (vs.13) and they wait for an answer. God speaks through His Spirit (vs.14) and gives them this hope: "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's... Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you." (vs.15-17)
Jehoshaphat cried out to God in the midst of his mourning, before the outcome had been predicted. He was afraid. But He was also trusting God. He rallied his people to pray and to fast and together they sought the Lord. They STOOD - they didn't crumble into a hot mess and cry on the couch watching Netflix while eating cookie dough - they came to their Lord, proclaimed His strength, and opened their eyes to see what He would do on their behalf.
That's the secret. That's the magic formula. The battle was still impending and the doom seemed inevitable - just like we will inevitably face challenges today, next week, or in years to come. Yet they worshiped God after He tells them to march forward into battle (vs.18). He didn't remove them from the situation - He told them to go forward into the impending fight. They march forward singing PRAISE (vs.22) because they trusted the outcome of their circumstance to the God of Heaven. They chose outward joy in the midst of inward mourning because they believed that the God who holds the morning could also hold them in the darkness.
And what happened? God handled it. The men that were coming against Jehoshaphat attack one another before they even make it to the Israelites. They were routed (vs.22-23) and destroy one another, because God was faithful to His word.
Your situation may not have the tidy, happy ending we read in 2 Chronicles, but your circumstance is in the hands of the exact same faithful God. The Israelites could have lost this battle, and God would still have been a good God. Our understanding of the situation does not change the character of our Heavenly Father. Our joy is the realization of His grace and the promise of salvation. Our joy is permanently placed on a God who does not change, no matter how real or uncertain our story may be in our current chapter.
We do not know what to do nine times out of ten, but our eyes remain on God. We stop looking left and right and we start looking up to the creator and sustainer of our lives. In His Spirit there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)! Let's believe that the mourning is a time for us to fully know and rely on God, rather than rushing through the nighttime to see the morning joy. His presence and joy is extended to us in the darkness and He always come near when we call to Him from the pit (Lamentations 3:55-58). Rejoice always, sisters, for this is the Good News of the Gospel!