A few years ago, a beautiful song was written that has been the music of my soul ever since. This incredible creation is by Rend Collective, simply called “Simplicity”. It is all of slow, contemplative, sorrowful, deep, and yet joyful. It is honest, heartfelt, and vulnerable. There is a tension between what should be and what is not. And yet, in the pain, hope is found.
Jesus has faithfully used this song to hold my heart together and remind me that he is worthy of all worship—even when it is broken and torn. Over the years, I have come to realize that if we wait to worship God until the happiness returns and the joy overflows in our souls, it is very possible we will be waiting a tremendously long time. While I fully believe that there is a deep, full joy in Jesus, I wonder if it isn’t nearly always walking hand-in-hand with sorrow. When Paul said that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”, I think he had a better grasp on how these two things can be so closely entwined to be inseparable for much of our lives (2 Cor. 6:12).
Before Jesus went to the cross, he told his disciples to remain in his love, followed by telling them, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Abiding in Jesus’ deep love brings a full joy, but that does not mean it is a joy absent of all sorrow. In fact, in this same conversation with his disciples, Jesus goes on to tell them that they are going to be deeply sorrowful—sorrowful to the point of tears—but that it will all go away when he returns (John 16:20-23).
Jesus does not tell his followers to simply be “happy” and paste a smiley face sticker over their hearts. Rather, he acknowledges that the sadness they feel is real—and in a sense, right. Our hearts were made for Jesus—and though his Spirit lives in us, we long for the day when we will be physically at home with him. Jesus also knows that all the pain this earth brings will be forgotten when he returns as the fully reigning King, with he himself being the one to wipe away all tears and forever remove the mourning, crying, and pain that is associated with this sin-soaked earth (Rev. 21:3-4).
Going back to Jesus’ conversation with the disciples before his death, he ends his conversation by telling them that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is heartening to hear Jesus tell them to “take heart” instead of “be happy”. In both Greek and English, this word/phrase means to be courageous or be comforted. How grateful I am for the vast difference between the comfort of Christ making one courageous amidst tremendous difficulties and the superficial obligation to find some semblance of happy in order to appear a certain way.
Sometimes, Christians are unsure with what to do with sorrowful, suffering people. Sadness can make us uncomfortable. Brokenness needs to be fixed and fast. Sometimes, we even unintentionally nudge people to some form of outward wholeness so we can quit feeling awkward around the pain and wounds they carry. We remind them that Christians should be the most joyful people around. And yes, because of the gospel, that is absolutely true, but the deep joy that characterizes the lives of many believers is often wrapped in sorrow and suffering.
We are broken, wounded souls who come to Jesus with broken worship. And while we have an unshakable hope and joy in Jesus, that does not mean we are absent of all sorrow and pain. The afflictions in our lives are at work to prepare us for a weight of glory that will surpass any sorrow we experience down here (2 Cor. 4).
The past years of my life have helped me more clearly see that it is possible and right to worship King Jesus—even (and maybe especially) when our souls are completely broken in the dust at his feet. We will again praise God with full joy, but part of hoping in God is going to him when our souls are crushed, knowing he alone is healer (Ps. 42:5). And knowing that he is worthy of our worship.
Jesus, receive our adoration. May our wounded hearts and broken lives give you the praise, honor, and glory that is due to your beautiful name.