Joy And Pain

At the last funeral I was presiding over, the co-celebrant made a great statement about joy and pain. He said, “Without the depth of pain we could never celebrate the fullness of joy.”

This has been one of those weeks where pain seems to be around our lives. There have been some unexpected deaths in our community, and this weekend marks the eighth funeral of a church member that I’ll be participating in since coming to the church six months ago.

It has left me pondering the meaning of the co-celebrant’s statement, and the implications of his words in my own life. I know that joy and pain can both live separately. I can have joy without any pain, and vice versa. The two aren’t co-dependent on each other in order to exist in someone’s life.

However, I am beginning to wonder if pain doesn’t serve as an amplifier for joy. For example, losing Grandpa George was painful. He was a great man who taught me so many things (pinochle being one of them). His loss is something that I feel and probably will feel for quite some time. That pain is real thing in my life. His loss allows me to look at the things he has taught me from a different perspective. The joy I have in pinochle is now a different kind of joy. It is as if the pain from his loss gives me the ability to enjoy everything he taught me at a deeper level.

What I am learning is that maybe in those areas of our life where we experience much pain our ability to experience joy increases. For example, no one will appreciate sober living like the addict who battled for years to attain it. The pain of the addiction has now amplified the joy of sobriety. Does anyone have more joy with food than the person who was hungry?

Pain is a part of life; if you live on this earth long enough you will experience some sort of emotional pain. This season is opening my eyes that we all have a choice on how we respond to pain. We can do nothing and just wrestle through the experience. Or, we can decide that we are thankful for the pain, because it leads us to a deeper appreciation for the joy.