Joy and lament are not two separate things but rather part of the same journey. The path to joy is one that is rooted in the honesty and the connection with God that is found through lament.
This book is an invitation to explore the interconnectivity of lament and joy, the discovery that not only can we rarely have one without the other, but that finding a rhythm of lament in our lives is part of the pathway to joy. I have chosen to cover the liturgical seasons because they so clearly demonstrate the ebbs and flows we are to expect in the spiritual life. We begin with Advent (the beginning of the Church year) and end with the second period of Ordinary Time, which takes up the best part of the year from May to December. The six chapters can be read at any time, but it might be especially helpful as a book to guide you through Lent or Advent as together we explore the Scriptures and explore God’s gift of lament to face up to our pain and difficulties, so that we may inhabit the joy he made us for.Page 6
Real joy doesn’t seek to eliminate discomfort or pain, but faces it with honesty. In the Bible, we see a number of different words used to mean ‘joy’. In the New Testament, words which represent joy occur 326 times, which is strange considering how much death and suffering is contained within its stories! Some of the more common expressions used are ‘agalliasis’ which represents exultant joy, ‘euthymein’ which is similar to optimism, ‘makarios’ which means blessed, and the most common, ‘chara’, meaning inward joy and rejoicing. They represent a whole spectrum of joyful feelings rooted in who God is and what he has done for his people.Page 30
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Romans 12:15
This scripture is a key calling for the church today. We live in a society of extremes. On one hand we have Instagram life, where every joy is found in a perfect picture that is shared for the world to see on social media; but on the other hand, we are also faced each day with the reality of loss as we are living in a fallen and broken world. We need to learn to hold faith and trust in God that He IS good, even when life is challenging.
When Paul wrote the words of the key scripture he was in prison, living a persecuted life and trying to reconcile his life to the new way of living, presented to him on the road to Damascus. He was not writing from an ivory tower. Maybe we overlook the huge toll this complete change of life had on Paul.
The reason ‘Ordinary Times’ were included in the book and indeed in this study was to show the God is not just here for the highlight, Instagram reel – He is here for every minute detail. He’s the God of the Universe and the God of our square inch of real estate, both physically and in our minds.
Do humans seem to find it easier to reach out to God when we are in the struggle and in the valley rather than the mountain top. We need to remember to thank God when we are in the heights as well as cry out in the lows.
In lament seasons, God does not abandon us to our brokenness, nor does he coddle us, but rather he comes and meets with us in the depths of our pain and brokenness through Jesus. God is with us in the waiting – when we don’t know what will happen next. The good news of Jesus is not that we will never face situations that cause pain and discomfort, but that we will not be alone in these emotions.