I recently rewatched Disney’s “Inside Out,” with its message of the need for both joy and sadness in our lives for a healthy state of mind. You can browse articles upon articles from counselors, therapists and psychologists about how sadness is needed to learn empathy and compassion and how it helps us take a moment to reflect on events in our lives. They laud the movie for making Sadness the hero, along with Joy.
But if sadness and sorrow are so needed, what will happen in the next life, and when Jesus comes back, when sorrow will be no more? Will we mourn the loss of mourning?
Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (CSB).
Purpose trumps feelings
When Adam and Eve took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge and good and evil, because of their disobedience, the world became broken. Sin, guilt, shame, fear and sorrow entered the world. But because of God’s goodness, He had a plan. A plan to make it alright again. A plan for only joy to be the hero because of God’s great love for us. Because joy was supposed to be the hero all along.
But we must remember, our feelings and our emotions are the result and the side effect, not the main goal. I believe purpose trumps feelings. When we are being and doing what we are supposed to, joy is the result. And we see in the beginning of the creation of the world, God’s purposes for us:
“So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:27-28 CSB).
God didn’t say, let’s make man in our image, according to our likeness, and make him joyful. God had a purpose for us – to rule, to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, all for His glory, and all in His presence. We were meant to rule the earth in the presence of God, but because of humanity’s sin and the fall, we have lost our way.
Redemptive purpose brings joy
But in the end times, when the New Earth is established, John tells us that “I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (Revelation 21:3 CSB). This verse leads into verse 4, where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” revealing that His full presence will be the reason why there will be no more sorrow.
God will be with us because we are His people. And at these end times, “there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5 CSB).
In these verses we see that perfect joy will be sustained because we will be who we were meant to be and do what we were meant to do – worship Him, see Him and reign. But we don’t have to wait until the end times to experience part of this.
In God’s graciousness, in His already/not-yet kingdom, we can get a glimpse of this perfect joy as we are reminded of Emmanuel, “God with us,” Jesus Himself. Even in this broken world, fulfilling our purposes in Christ – in being His children and understanding that relationship and living in obedience to His calling – brings us a glimpse of that permanent joy we long for. Though the world was broken, God set out a plan to redeem mankind through the sacrifice of His Son, from the humility of His incarnation to the suffering of His crucifixion. Because of Jesus Christ, through knowing Him and following Him, we experience a glimpse of this eternal joy waiting for us. And we can persevere until the day when sorrow will be no more, when we will see Him fully, face to face.
This Advent, as we light the candle of joy, we know joy and sorrow come hand in hand in this life. Many of us have had a difficult couple of years, and trials and suffering will continue in our lifetime. But joy comes when we remember who we are and whose we are. We are not alone. We have a God who is with us, is for us, is in us, and works through us. And our joy is perfected when we endure and remember that in the end, we will be fully present before God. Perfect joy comes when we anticipate the day when we can reign fully with God, as His people, His children, His heirs.
As we light the candle of joy this year, let’s look forward to the time when only joy will be the hero, when “night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5 CSB). Joy will follow sorrow one last time, and then sorrow will be no more. And that time will come only because of Christ, only because of Emmanuel, God with us, now and forevermore.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Y Bonesteele is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway Christian Resources.)