Tidings of Comfort and Joy

The Great Sadness Overshadowed by The Great Hope

Christmas carols are one of my favourite things about the Advent season. I love sitting and contemplating the words of these ancient ballads.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” floated through my consciousness the other day and I stopped to consider the lyrics.

God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day

To Save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray

Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Many years ago I read that there is a difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness depends on “happenings” or circumstances in your life, but joy is rooted in something much more powerful and cannot be swayed by the ups and downs of life. Joy can still be had even amidst the greatest of sorrows. Joy comes from God. From His eternal wellspring of hope.

We have the joy of the Lord that goes with us into even the darkest of circumstances, but for months I couldn’t sense happiness. Now, I realize that happiness is a little more superficial than joy because happiness depends on your “happennings” or the circumstances I’m facing. However, after months of surviving and just making it by, I was desperate to feel happy. I called out to the Lord time and time again.  Now don’t get me wrong, the joy of the Lord was definitely with me. I could sense His peace and His joy, but my daily life was missing that final touch, happiness. I felt a little foolish praying about feeling more happy, but I knew that God would understand my heart and so I prayed. And then one day, I woke up and for no apparent reason, I felt happy!  God had answered my prayers! Now, happiness comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the waves on the seashore, but I was so excited to finally sense happiness returning to my body.

As I was walking to the car after dropping the kids off one day, I got this sense that I should be downcast and depressed. Sometimes the waves of self-loathing wash over me and I am tempted to believe the lies that I am no good, that no one could ever love me, that I am ugly and overweight and that I will always struggle with my self-esteem so why even try to work at overcoming it?  And as I wrestled with these thoughts, the verse of the day came up on my phone and I read it. I stopped dead in my tracks. How could a verse be so timely ordained to bring the needed encouragement to my wounded soul? Zephaniah 3:17 spoke richly to my tormented mind:

“…The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” NKJV

I don’t need any ‘one’ to be impressed with me or to think I’m beautiful or to tell me that I’m great and wonderful. I have God and He delights in me. It brought a smile to my face, like the scripture had entrusted me with a little secret that I could cherish forever in my heart. Like Mary, who “pondered all these things and hid them in her heart”, the little nuggets of truth that God gives us can be our own secret weapons to fight back the darkness.

Did you catch the magnitude of this?

My God will rejoice over me with gladness. 

My God will quiet me with His love. 

My God will rejoice over me with singing! 

God literally sings for joy over my simply being alive! I didn’t have to earn His favour, or do anything for Him to delight in me. He simply delights in me because I am His.

When you suffer abuse at the hands of the man who is supposed to honour and cherish you, who is supposed to forsake all others and provide an environment of safety and security for you and your children, it’s like all the things that are supposed to be normal aren’t.  Your world becomes the opposite reflection of what it should be or was intended to be. In other words, you live in a world of opposites.

So, when I broke my silence and started sharing my story, I finally realized that what I had experienced wasn’t normal at all. And I knew what I went through wasn’t normal, but it had become my normal. The reactions on people’s faces when I shared what I had endured, made me realize the gravity of what I had gone through. It made me take stock of what really went on. With this realization comes the gamut of emotions and The Great Sadness becomes an unwelcome friend.

In William P. Young’s novel, The Shack, his main character struggles with carrying the weight of grief that accompanies losing a child. He calls this burden “The Great Sadness”.  Time and time again I have used this phrase to describe the blanket of sorrow that covers me, that weighs me down, that causes me to stop and consider where these deep emotions are buried.

The beauty of humanity is that we all carry some form of this “Great Sadness”, whether it be a frightening health diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one, or a tragic accident.  Every single one of us walking this earth has a loss or pain so great that it overwhelms us at times.  Sometimes it takes me by surprise and other times, I know the Great Sadness will envelop me, like at holiday times. As I stand and watch parents out shopping for their children, I wonder, do they know how blessed they are to be able to do that together?  And then the loneliness sets in and I feel the effects of abandonment rage within me.  I wasn’t meant to do this parenting thing alone! I am not equipped to make all the decisions about children, and schooling and Christmas presents, and extra-curriculars alone! How could this be happening? This is not at all what I intended for my life.

Then, the words of the famous Christmas carol ring in my ears….let NOTHING you dismay….I have to stop and ponder. What about abandonment? Should that not cause me dismay? What about other precious people that are suffering at this time of year? What about the woman who miscarried?  What about the family whose child was just diagnosed with cancer? What about the parent who just found out they have Alzheimers?  I could go on an on, fill in your great sadness here……….should we not have a reason to be dismayed?

But God knew, in His infinite wisdom, that this life would be devastatingly difficult. He knew that the burden of sin would be too much for us to bear, and so He sent Jesus, His own son, to save us, so that we wouldn’t have to walk through our Great Sadness alone.

Oh tidings of comfort and joy.

Jesus, born in a manger, became flesh to dwell among us.

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

But He was pierced for our transgressions,

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

He was crushed for our iniquities;

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

The punishment that brought us peace was on Him,

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

and by His wounds we are healed.

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

There must be a reason that God calls it a “wellspring”.  It’s like the more trials I endure the more this hope just keeps rising up within me.  It’s like a bubbling brook that started out as a small trickle, barely conceivable, but now, 14 months into my healing journey, it has become a swiftly flowing creek that cannot be stifled.

When the pain of our circumstances is excruciating and too much for us to bear, we can take comfort in our Great Hope.  It is more powerful and more potent than our Great Sadness. It is the wellspring that rises up within us at times when we feel nothing but sorrow and pain and suffering. We have hope!  We have a Saviour! We have a Divine Helper to hold our hand and carry us through the most difficult of days!

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NIV)


2 thoughts on “Tidings of Comfort and Joy

  1. Oh, Kathleen , like my girl, you have such a way with words. Your post touched me deeply, resonated with me greatly, stirred my heart to praise once again for our sovereign all sufficient One
    May God continue to bless you in your journey. Merry Christmas
    Love in Christ. Barb


  2. Such a beautiful way to see that Christmas Carol!
    Thank you for continuing to share with us in your healing journey and be an arrow to God’s grace and love!


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