Christians can experience joy even in loss—provided they don’t confuse joy with happiness but accept it as a gift from God, several pastors noted.
“Joy is not the same as happiness. It is a deeper contentment that sustains us whether we are happy or not,” said Van Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Comanche.
He pointed to the example of the Apostle Paul, who was able to write in Philippians 4:11-13 about how he learned to be content in all circumstances.
“Joy can be experienced in loss through the absolute certainty that Christ is with you, empowering you to make it through all things,” Christian said. “Joy provides the security needed when every-thing else crumbles beneath you.”
Matt Snowden, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, defined joy quite simply as “belonging to Jesus Christ.” He also pointed to the New Testament book of Philippians.
“Philippians is Paul’s epistle of joy. He wrote it in jail. How can joy and jail live together? Paul counted on the ‘help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,’” Snowden said.
“Jesus has not changed. He understands. When he experienced the loss of his friend Lazarus he wept. We need to be honest about our pain. Jesus also called forth life. We experience joy when we serve others.”
Phil Christopher, pastor of First Baptist Church in Abilene, reflected on how joy enters the life of a person who has experienced loss.
“Joy comes through the healing of and leaving the regrets of the past. Joy comes in the combined gifts of hope and peace as we have hope for the future and peace in the promise of ‘God with us’ in everything. Joy is a gift of grace and often comes as a surprise we never expected,” Christopher said.
“Joy is experienced in loss through the gift of memory. Even though the memories might still be tender and bring tears, the memories bring an abiding joy. We might lose something or someone of significance, but the loss cannot take away the relationship, the shared experiences and the deep memories.”
Joy can be a byproduct of endurance for Christians who persevere through life’s valleys—even “the valley of the shadow of death,” said Mark Bumpus, pastor of First Baptist Church in San Angelo. God provides sufficient light to walk out of the valley, he stressed.
“Not run out of the valley, … not stand paralyzed in the valley, but walk—some-times one methodical footstep placed in front of the other … through and out of the valley,” he said.
“It may be more perseverance that leads you out of the valley than joy, but ultimately there is joy because of the confidence we have in our faith in the resurrection and the fact that the shadow of death ultimately cannot harm us. … And ultimately, there is a way out. ‘Through’ implies movement and a way out. Maybe there is some joy in that.”