“Hear this, nations! God’s Message! Broadcast this all over the world!Jeremiah 31:10-14 MSG
Tell them, ‘The One who scattered Israel
will gather them together again.
From now on he’ll keep a careful eye on them,
like a shepherd with his flock.’
I, God, will pay a stiff ransom price for Jacob;
I’ll free him from the grip of the Babylonian bully.
Grain and wine and oil,
The people will climb up Zion’s slopes shouting with joy,
their faces beaming because of God’s bounty—
flocks of sheep, herds of cattle.
Their lives will be like a well-watered garden,
never again left to dry up.
Young women will dance and be happy,
young men and old men will join in.
I’ll convert their weeping into laughter,
lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.
I’ll make sure that their priests get three square meals a day
and that my people have more than enough.’” God’s Decree.
In the third week of advent, we celebrate the promise of joy. The prophet Jeremiah addressed the whole population of Israel, people who had been scattered from their homeland into other nations, under the thumb of a ruler who did not recognize their God. Earlier in the book, Jeremiah assures the people that this isn’t going to last just a couple of years, no, this exile from their land will last 70 years.
No doubt this brought great sorrow. When I hear news of new COVID variants, when I hear news of stock market drops and supply chain shortages, when I hear news of earthquakes and famines and floods, when I hear news of angry and violent people blasting their anger and violence on others, it feels as if this kingdom of injustice and sorrow will never end.
But Jeremiah is not so short-sighted. In the midst of our sorrow and grief, he calls us to look forward to a brighter day when our weeping will be turned into laughter, when God will “invade our grief with joy.”
This seems impossible, especially in this particular moment, especially when we are engulfed in grief.
But I have been on the other side of sorrow, have you? Have you sat around a table with your loved ones and wept with joy and gratitude just to be with the ones you love? Have you caught a sunrise and caught your voice stuck in your throat, overwhelmed with the beauty of just this one more day?
When we lose someone or something important to us, the gaping hole left behind aches with emptiness. I don’t know if it ever closes. But God seems to enter through that dark space grief opens. If we let him move, he does ferocious work to excavate fallow fields, to knock down walls and renovate dilapidated spaces, to “invade with joy.” The gaping hole grief leaves can brim over with his blessing.
This is the promise God gives through Jeremiah, an invasion of joy. Jesus is the incarnation of this ongoing transformation, from weeping to laughing, thoroughly with us, for both the sorrow and the joy. Look how many times he shows up at death beds. Look how many times he interrupts his day to find the broken, the lost, the dying. He holds us in our mourning. He leads us into our rejoicing.
This sorrow may last for the night, but hold on. Look up. Joy comes in the morning(Psalm 30:5 MSG).
Points of Reflection
- Have you ever experienced your sorrow turned into joy?
- What sorrow, if any, are you guarding right now? What might it look like to loosen your grip on that grief and invite God in?
Watch the Pixar movie, Inside Out and consider how our sorrow can turn into joy through the love of God.
For the Kids
- When Joy finally allows Sadness to do her job, how does the sad memory change?
- When you feel sad, what helps? How can sadness turn into joy?
Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir of the first year after her husband’s death. It is a double-helix of joy and sorrow, remembering their life and navigating the first early days of that fresh grief. It is a beautiful book about marriage, love, and the complicated nature of mourning.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.