By Les Henson.
Why is it that whatever we attempted to do in life that is real, meaningful and worthwhile always comes at a cost? The truth is that so many things that we seek to accomplish are only ever realised through struggle and conflict. Nothing meaningful ever comes easy. When Jesus called us to follow him, he told us that we needed to take up our cross and die to ourselves to follow him and be his disciple. Thus, following Jesus always involves a cost. It always consists of carrying crosses. It would be wonderful if everything went smoothly, and life was always full of joy. But it rarely is for wherever we find joy it is usually mingled with pain and sorrow. It is not that following Jesus does not involve joy. It certainly does in abundance, but sorrow and pain are never too far away. The truth is that joy and pain and sorrow are mingled together, and the people who experience the most profound joy are those who have experienced great sorrow and pain in their lives. Billy Graham wisely stated that “Without dark clouds in our lives, we would never know the joy of sunshine. We can become callous and unteachable if we do not learn from pain.” In a similar vein, Henri Nouwen points out that, “Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth.”
Whenever we experience pain and sorrow, weeping and mourning over it, it is then that we discover Christ anew in all his overflowing comfort, hope and peace. Yet there is no corner of reality where joy and pain are not related. However, in Christ, there is no place where pain and sorrow cannot be gloriously transformed into overflowing joy. Conversely, there is a parallel truth, which Jurgen Moltmann alludes to in writing, “Hope is lived when it comes alive, when we go outside of ourselves and in joy and pain take part in the lives of others.”